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Bruce D. Parfitt, except as noted

Perennial herb, shrub, tree, generally fleshy. Stem: cylindric to spheric, or flat; surface smooth, tubercled, or ribbed (grooved); nodal areoles bearing flowers. Leaf: generally 0 or early-deciduous, flat to ± cylindric. Spines: areoles generally with central, radial spines, occasionally with glochids. Flower: generally 1 per areole, bisexual [unisexual], sessile, radial [bilateral]; perianth parts generally many [5], scale-like to petal-like; stamens many; ovary inferior [superior], style 1, stigma lobes generally several [many]. Fruit: dry to fleshy or juicy, indehiscent to variously dehiscent, spiny, scaly, or naked; tubercled or smooth. Seed: generally many, occasionally 0–few.
± 125 genera, ± 1800 species: America (especially deserts), Africa; many cultivated, some edible. [Parfitt & Gibson 2004 FNANM 4:92–257] Spines smaller, fewer (0) in shade forms; yellow spines blacken in age. Introduced species increasingly escape cultivation. Hybridization common in some genera. Taxa of Escobaria in TJM (1993) moved to Coryphantha. —Scientific Editors: Bruce D. Parfitt, Douglas H. Goldman, Bruce G. Baldwin, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Unabridged references: [Hunt 2006 The New Cactus Lexicon, DH Books, Milborne Port, England]

Key to Cactaceae

Shrub, tree; roots fibrous [tuberous]. Stem: generally erect, < 6 [12] m; segments generally flat (± cylindric), generally firmly attached; tubercles 0 to ± developed; ribs 0. Leaf: small, conic, fleshy, deciduous, present on young stems, ovaries. Spines: 0–many per areole, cylindric or flat, tip smooth or barbed, epidermis persistent; glochids generally many. Fruit: juicy, fleshy or dry; wall thick, bearing areoles; spiny or not. Seed: in a bony, ± white aril.
± 150 species: America; Opuntia ficus-indica cultivated for food, others for ornamental. (Possibly from Papago Indian name ("opun") for this food plant; or for a spiny plant of Opus, Greece) Spines smaller, fewer in shade forms; yellow spines blacken in age. Spineless stems, ovaries, and fruit generally with glochids, these occasionally long, conspicuous; hybridization common. Taxa with cylindric to club-shaped stems moved to Cylindropuntia, Grusonia.

Key to Opuntia

O. phaeacantha Engelm. BROWN-SPINED PRICKLY-PEAR
Shrub. Stem: 0.3–1 m; branches decumbent to ± spreading; segments 11–30 cm, generally obovate; gray-green, glabrous. Spines: 1–4(6) per areole on distal 30–70% of segment, fewer proximally, largest 3–8 cm, generally flat, spreading, distal 1–2 red-brown near base, distally white or straw, smaller 1–3 ± reflexed, generally white or gray. Flower: inner perianth 3.5–4 cm, yellow, base red; filaments white; style white, stigma yellow-green to green. Fruit: 2.5–6.5 cm, juicy, red-purple; interior generally green; areoles 15–32. Seed: 3–6 mm.
2n=66. Chaparral, Joshua-tree woodland, pinyon/juniper woodland; 45–2220 m. Outer South Coast Ranges, San Bernardino Mountains, e Peninsular Ranges, Desert Mountains, Sonoran Desert; to South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico. Hybrids with Opuntia ficus-indica uncommon or rare; stabilized hybrids with Opuntia chlorotica in Desert Mountains (New York Mountains, eastern San Bernardino Co.), southern Nevada, western Arizona called Opuntia ×curvispina Griffiths (2n=44). May–Jul [Online Interchange]
Unabridged synonyms: [Opuntia littoralis var. piercei (Fosberg) L.D. Benson & Walk.; Opuntia phaeacantha var. major Engelm.; probably Opuntia mojavensis Engelm. & J.M. Bigelow.]
Unabridged note: According to David J. Keil (pers. comm.), on dunes of southwestern San Luis Obispo and northwestern Santa Barbara cos. (s Central Coast).

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Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2013. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Nov 28 2015
Citation for this treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] 2013. Opuntia, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Nov 28 2015

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click for enlargement Opuntia phaeacantha
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2007 Sandy Shanks

Geographic subdivisions indicated for the distribution of Opuntia phaeacantha Markers link to CCH specimen records. If the markers are obscured, reload the page [or change window size and reload]. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

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Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
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CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.