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OPUNTIA arcei

Image of Opuntia arcei

John Rickard

Family

Cactaceae

Botanical Name

OPUNTIA arcei

Plant Common Name

Tuna Blanca

General Description

This little known and rarely grown prickly pear grows into a head-high plant with a tree-like branching structure. South American in origin, it is native to Cercado province, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Several short stout gray "trunks" give rise to upright or spreading branches composed of large succulent pads. Although resembling leaves (and treated as such in the following list of characteristics), the pads are actually swollen stem segments. The blue-green, diamond shaped or oblong segments are dotted with cushion-like areoles that bear dense oval patches of sharp brown hair-like bristles known as glochids. Among them rise four to seven gray spines of variable length that protect the plant against herbivores. This spring blooming cactus bears golden yellow bowl-shaped flowers that turn with the sun. These mature into yellow-green, round to barrel shaped fruits that are armed with glochids.

This cactus propers in sun and relatively dry soil, and is an exceptional choice for waterwise gardens in arid regions such as the Southwest United States. It tolerates several degrees of frost. Be careful to plant well away from pathways or play areas. Because these plants bear glochids, extreme care should be used whenever handling or moving them.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 12

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    4'-7' / 1.2m - 2.1m

  • Width

    7'-9' / 2.1m - 2.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Blue Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Blue Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray

  • 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

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Houseplant, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    No