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Opuntia ficus-indica

Higher Taxonomy
Family: CactaceaeView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: 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.
Genera In Family: +- 125 genera, +- 1800 species: America (especially deserts), Africa; many cultivated, some edible. Note: 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.
eFlora Treatment Author: Bruce D. Parfitt, except as noted
Scientific Editor: Bruce D. Parfitt, Douglas H. Goldman, Bruce G. Baldwin, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Genus: OpuntiaView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: 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.
Species In Genus: +- 150 species: America; Opuntia ficus-indica cultivated for food, others for ornamental. Etymology: (Possibly from Papago name ("opun") for this food pl; or for a spiny plant of Opus, Greece) Note: 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.
eFlora Treatment Author: Bruce D. Parfitt

Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.
Habit: Tree-like. Stem: 4--5 m; branches generally ascending; segments 25--43 cm, generally elliptic-obovate, gray-green, glabrous. Spines: generally 0(6) per areole, if present then longest +- 1--3 cm, flat, white-tan or brown-gray. Flower: inner perianth yellow or orange; filaments pale green to pale pink; ovary tubercled, style white (pale pink), stigma green. Fruit: 6--9 cm, juicy, yellow-orange or purple; areoles 43--71. Seed: 4.5--5 mm. Chromosomes: 2n=88.
Ecology: Dry coastal habitats; Elevation: 6--450 m. Bioregional Distribution: s CCo, s SCoRO, SCo, s ChI, w WTR, w PR; Distribution Outside California: cultivated in warm regions worldwide; native range unknown. Flowering Time: May--Jun Note: Hybrids with Opuntia phaeacantha uncommon.
Unabridged Synonyms: Opuntia megacantha Salm-Dyck, misappl.
eFlora Treatment Author: Bruce D. Parfitt
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botanical illustration including Opuntia ficus-indica


Citation for this treatment: Bruce D. Parfitt 2012, Opuntia ficus-indica, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 18, 2018.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2018, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on July 18, 2018.

Opuntia ficus-indica
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© 2006 Steve Matson
Opuntia ficus-indica
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© 2006 Steve Matson
Opuntia ficus-indica
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© 2007 Neal Kramer

More photos of Opuntia ficus-indica in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Opuntia ficus-indica:
s CCo, s SCoRO, SCo, s ChI, w WTR, w PR;
Markers link to CCH specimen records. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues. Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
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, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.