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Opuntia phaeacantha

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 Indian 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.

Opuntia phaeacantha Engelm.
Habit: 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. Chromosomes: 2n=66.
Ecology: Chaparral, Joshua-tree woodland, pinyon/juniper woodland; Elevation: 45--2220 m. Bioregional Distribution: SCoRO, SnBr, e PR, DMtns, DSon; Distribution Outside California: to South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico. Flowering Time: May--Jul Note: Hybrids with Opuntia ficus-indica uncommon or rare; stabilized hybrids with Opuntia chlorotica in DMtns (New York Mountains, eastern San Bernardino Co.), southern Nevada, western Arizona called Opuntia ×curvispina Griffiths (2n=44).
Unabridged Note: According to David J. Keil (pers. comm.), on dunes of southwestern San Luis Obispo and northwestern Santa Barbara cos. (s CCo).
eFlora Treatment Author: Bruce D. Parfitt
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botanical illustration including Opuntia phaeacantha


Citation for this treatment: Bruce D. Parfitt 2016. Opuntia phaeacantha, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 30, 2016.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2016. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 30, 2016.

Opuntia phaeacantha
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© 2010 California Academy of Sciences
Opuntia phaeacantha
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© 2012 James M. Andre
Opuntia phaeacantha
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© 2009 Thomas Stoughton
Opuntia phaeacantha
click for enlargement
© 2008 Thomas Stoughton
Opuntia phaeacantha
click for enlargement
© 2010 California Academy of Sciences
Opuntia phaeacantha
click for enlargement
© 2008 Thomas Stoughton

More photos of Opuntia phaeacantha in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Opuntia phaeacantha:
SCoRO, SnBr, e PR, DMtns, DSon;
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.