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OPUNTIA aciculata

Image of Opuntia aciculata

Maureen Gilmer

Family

Cactaceae

Botanical Name

OPUNTIA aciculata

Plant Common Name

Chenille Pricklypear

General Description

Don't let the warm fuzzy name of this small to medium-sized pricklypear cactus fool you into thinking that its tufted reddish whisker-like glochids are soft as chenille. It needs these barbed bristles (and its long, stout spines) to protect against hungry and thirsty browsing wildlife in its arid Texas and northern Mexican haunts. The spines are actually modified leaves and what appear to be leaves (and are treated as such below) are paddle shaped stem segments. In contrast, the cup-shaped yellow, orange, or red blooms are quintessentially floral. They appear in spring, followed by succulent purple pear-shaped fruit. While the fruit is edible, it is relatively small and best left for the birds.

Like all cacti, this prickly pear prefers full sun, well drained soil and minimal water. A wide-spreading plant that grows in a chain-like series of pads that branch in irregular ways, it makes a fine groundcover succulent for hot, dry spaces. It is susceptible to rot where summers are moist, but will do fine in a pot kept dry on a south porch. Like all of its kin, plant well away from walk and play areas as the glochids are painful and quite difficult to remove. It is best avoided if children use the space.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    8 - 10

  • Sunset Zone

    8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Width

    6'-10' / 1.8m - 3.0m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

    Texas, Mexico

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Red, Orange

  • Fruit Color

    Purple

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Light Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green, Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Light Green, Blue Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Groundcover, Houseplant, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    No