Opuntia stricta (Erect Prickly Pear)

Opuntia stricta (Erect Prickly Pear)

Scientific Name

Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw.

Common Names

Coastal Prickly Pear, Common Pest Pear, Erect Prickly Pear, Pest Prickly Pear


Cactus chinensis, Cactus dillenii, Cactus indicus, Cactus opuntia, Cactus strictus, Consolea bahamana, Opuntia anahuacensis, Opuntia atrocapensis, Opuntia bahamana, Opuntia bentonii, Opuntia chinensis, Opuntia dillenii, Opuntia inermis, Opuntia macrantha, Opuntia magnifica, Opuntia melanosperma, Opuntia nitens, Opuntia subsphaerocarpa, Opuntia tunoidea, Opuntia zebrina, Pilocereus flavispinus

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe: Opuntieae
Genus: Opuntia


Opuntia stricta is a cactus that grows as erect or spreading shrub, up 6.6 feet (2 m) tall, with fleshy, dull green to grey-green stem segments. The basal stem segments sometimes thicken and form a trunk. The upper segments are flattened, elliptic to obovate, up to 14 inches (35 cm) long, up to 8 inches (20 cm) wide and up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) thick. The areoles are scattered, spineless, or with often one or more, yellowish, up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long spines and numerous short, yellow glochids. The solitary flowers are yellow to yellowish-orange and appear in spring and summer. They are up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) long and about the same in diameter. The edible fruits are purplish-red, egg-shaped, up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) long, and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter.


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 40 °F (+4.4 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Though the large variety of species within the Opuntia genus means different types of Prickly Pears may need slightly different care. All are desert cacti that need lots of sun, lots of light and very little water. If you live in a hot, arid area, these plants can generally be planted outside, left alone, and enjoyed.

These cacti will grow just fine in a garden, but they can be grown in pots as well. To repot, ensure the soil is dry, then remove the pot and knock away the old soil. After treating any cuts with fungicide, place the cactus in a new pot and backfill it with potting soil. As with a new cutting, make sure not to water a newly repotting Prickly Pear for a brief period to avoid rotting its roots.

Opuntia can propagate either by cuttings or by seed. To propagate by cuttings, sever pads from a plant and let them dry so that the wounds heal. Then place the plants in dry soil and refrain from watering them until they begin to grow to avoid rotting them.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Opuntia.


Opuntia stricta is endemic to the subtropical and tropical coastal areas of the Americas and the Caribbean.


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Opuntia Species, Coastal Prickly Pear, Erect Pricklypear Cactus, Yaaxpakan


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:


Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gardeners' Notes:

On Feb 23, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

The World Conservation Union has included this species in their list of 100 of the world's worst invasive species, one of only 32 terrestrial species so singled out. [ [email protected] ]

In the US, its native range is widely scattered from Texas to Virginia and coastal Florida. In Florida, it has been declared "Threatened".

It is also native to eastern Mexico, central America, northern South America, and the islands of the Caribbean.
Outside its native range, it has often proved invasive, as in Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Australia. In Australia, this has been a classic success story, as its invasiveness there was tamed through biological contr. read more ol strategies.

On Aug 26, 2008, urgrace from New Braunfels, TX wrote:

Opuntia stricta, commonly known as Erect Prickly Pear, is a nearly spineless form of prickly pear cactus. We call it Unprickly Pear. It doesn't even have to be planted, but can make new growths just from a cutting of a flat, rounded platyclade laid on top of the ground. It has lemon yellow flowers in the spring and summer, followed by purplish-red fruits called figs. The blooms only last a day or two, and they are almost translucent. The plant is cold and drought tolerant. Opuntia can spread into large clonal colonies, which can be considered a noxious weed if you don't cut them back. Many homeowners use this plant in their xeroscapes. It has many uses besides landscaping, including medicinal, dyes, food and candy making.

On Jan 19, 2005, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

Flowers are yellow to a yellowish-orange. This species has been widespread by humankind and has become to be considered a noxious weed in some areas. (but not all). It can still be utilized as a landscape plant if kept trimmed.
Originating from Southeastern USA, eastern Mexico and Cuba.

Addditional synonyms include: Opuntia inermis, Opuntia ochrocentra var. inermis, Opuntia vulgaris var. balaerica, Consolea bahamana & Opuntia airampo.

Plants→Prickly Pears→Erect Pricklypear (Opuntia stricta 'Old Mexico')

Also sold as:
Opuntia gomei 'Old Mexico'
Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri 'Old Mexico'
Opuntia lindheimeri 'Old Mexico'

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Shrub
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Fruit: Showy
Flowers: Showy
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Uses: Will Naturalize
Edible Parts: Fruit
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Drought tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Needs specific temperature: 68-86 degrees
Start indoors
Can handle transplanting
Other info: Seeds may be extremely slow to germinate
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Other: Individual pads form new plants they must dry and callous for 10 days before planting
Containers: Needs excellent drainage in pots
Miscellaneous: Tolerates poor soil

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It is a shrubby, erect plant, extending lengthwise to somewhat upright and reach heights of growth up to 2 m (6.6 ft) in height, producing lemon yellow flowers in the spring and summer, followed by purplish-red fruits. It is quick to colonize hot, open environments with sandy soils. The bald, flattened, ovate to inverted egg-shaped, tapered at the base shoot sections are blue-green. They are 10 to 25 inches long and 6 to 25 inches wide. The brownish areoles are far apart leaving most of the epidermis, with often one or more yellowish spines, at least near the edges and towards the apex. They carry striking, yellow glochids that are 2 to 6 millimeters long. The 1 to 5 awl-shaped spur is flattened, provided with a light barb at the top thorns are yellow. They are perpendicular to the surface of the shoots and are 0.5 to 5 inches long. [4]

The yellow to yellowish orange flowers, which are solitary, formed by numerous membranous parts, reach a length of 5 to 6 inches and a diameter of 4 to 6 inches. The flowers are ephemeral and melliferous. The purple-red, smooth fruits are inverted-egg-shaped and tapered at the base. They are 2.5 to 3.5 inches long and covered with plenty of glochids and are more or less pyriform, always purple in color, 4 to 6 centimeters in length and contain from 60 to 180 seeds (which may remain viable for more than 10 years), yellow to light brown, incorporated into the fruit pulp. As fruits are appreciated by birds and mammals, their seeds are dispersed by animals. The mucilage inside the leaves is used to treat burns and abscesses. It is edible in the same way as fruits. [5]

Opuntia stricta occurs naturally in coastal beach scrub and sandy coastal environments in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama in the United States, as well as Bermuda, the Caribbean, eastern Mexico, Central America, northern Venezuela, and Ecuador. O. stricta is a major component in the understory of Bahamian dry forests in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. [6]

Opuntia stricta has been introduced to other parts of the world, including Africa, Australia and southern Asia. O. stricta is considered an invasive species in South Africa. In Australia it has been the subject of one of the first really effective biological control exercises using the moth Cactoblastis cactorum. [1] It was declared a Weed of National Significance by the Australian Weeds Committee in April 2012, but continues to be kept under control by the use of the Cactoblastis moth and a cochineal insect, Dactylopius opuntiae.

In Sri Lanka it has overgrown a 30 kilometres (20 mi) long coastal area between Hambantota and Yala National Park, especially in Bundala National Park, a Ramsar wetland site. It has overgrown several hundreds of hectares (acres) of sand dune areas and adjoining scrub forests and pasture lands. Some areas are so densely covered that they are completely inaccessible for humans and animals. The seeds are spread by macaque monkeys, and perhaps other animals and birds, that eat the large fruits. It is also spread by people cutting down the cactus but leaving the cuttings, which then re-sprout where they have fallen. No control measures have been carried out except some costly manual removal of about 10 hectares (25 acres) on the dunes near Bundala village. The cactus is due to invade Yala National Park. [7]

Speaking of Cactoblastis cactorum, the opposite problem has been encountered in Texas. The moth was first found in Brazoria County in 2017. This species of moth is highly destructive to this (and other) species of cactus native to the southern United States and northern Mexico. [8]

  1. ^ abc"Opuntia stricta". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) . Retrieved 2009-12-05 .
  2. ^
  3. "Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw". Plants of the World Online. Kew Science . Retrieved 2021-03-11 .
  4. ^
  5. "Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw". ITIS Standard Report. Integrated Taxonomic Information System . Retrieved 2009-12-03 .
  6. ^ Opuntia stricta . In: Edward F. Anderson : The Cactus Family . Timber Press: Portland, Oreg., 2001, p. 520 f.
  7. ISBN0-88192-498-9
  8. ^ Bernard Suprin, Arabian plants in New Caledonia, Noumea, Editions Photosynthesis2013, 382 p. (
  9. ISBN9782952731638 ), p. 188
  10. ^ Opuntia stricta Haworth In: NL Britton, JN Rose : The Cactaceae. Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family . Washington, 1919, Volume I, p. 161 f.
  11. ^ Lalith Gunasekera, Invasive Plants: A guide to the identification of the most invasive plants of Sri Lanka, Colombo 2009, pp. 84–85. A biodiversity status profile of Bundala National Park : a Ramsar national wetland of Sri Lanka Bambaradeniya, Channa N.B. Ekanayake, S.P. Fernando, R.H.S.S. Perera, W.P.N. Somaweera, R. Colombo : IUCN Sri Lanka, 2002.
  12. ISBN955-8177-16-4
  13. ^
  14. "Cactus moths". Brackenridge Field Laboratory. The University of Texas at Austin . Retrieved 2021-03-13 .

Media related to Opuntia stricta at Wikimedia Commons

External links [ edit ]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Opuntia stricta.
  • Wikidata: Q141416
  • Wikispecies: Opuntia stricta
  • AoFP: 3595
  • APA: 5485
  • APDB: 5470
  • APNI: 55348
  • ATRF: Opuntia_stricta
  • eFloraSA: Opuntia_stricta
  • EoL: 589709
  • EUNIS: 164726
  • FloraBase: 5227
  • FNA: 242415190
  • FoAO2: Opuntia stricta
  • GBIF: 5384075
  • GISD: 104
  • GRIN: 25872
  • iNaturalist: 47898
  • IPNI: 137078-1
  • IRMNG: 11384159
  • ISC: 37728
  • ITIS: 19736
  • IUCN: 152773
  • NCBI: 701516
  • NSWFlora: Opuntia

Media related to Opuntia stricta at Wikimedia Commons

Watch the video: Species Spotlight: Erect Prickly Pear