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Jepson Interchange (more information)
©Copyright 1993 by the Regents of the University of California
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Edward F. Anderson (except Opuntia)

Perennial, shrub, tree, generally fleshy
Stem cylindric, spheric, or flat; surface smooth, tubercled, or ribbed (fluted); nodal areoles bear flowers, generally bear spines from center ("central spines") and margin ("radial spines") (Opuntia areoles bear small, barbed, deciduous bristles sometimes called glochids, generally also bear spines)
Leaf generally 0
Flower generally solitary, bisexual, sessile, ± radial; perianth parts generally many, grading from scale-like to petal-like; stamens many; ovary appearing inferior, ± submerged in stem, so generally with areoles on surface, style 1, stigma lobes generally many
Fruit generally fleshy, generally indehiscent, spiny, scaly, or smooth
Seeds many
Genera in family: 93 genera, ± 2000 species: especially Am deserts; many cultivated
Etymology: (Greek: thorny plant)
Reference: [Benson 1982 Cacti of US & Can; Hunt & Taylor eds 1990 Bradleya 8:85–107]



Bruce D. Parfitt and Marc A. Baker

Shrubs, trees; roots fibrous
Stem generally erect, < 12 m; segments flat to cylindric, generally firmly attached; tubercles generally elongate along stem; ribs sometimes present; spines 0–many, sometimes flat, tip smooth or barbed, epidermis persistent or separating as a papery sheath; small, barbed deciduous bristles generally many
Leaf small, conic, fleshy, deciduous, obvious on young stems and ovaries
Fruit juicy, fleshy or dry; wall thick, bearing areoles
Seed dark brown, encased in a bony, whitish aril
Species in genus: 200 species: Am; O. ficus-indica cultivated for food, others for ornamental
Etymology: (Possibly from Papago Indian name ("opun") for this food plant; or named for a spiny plant of Opus, Greece)
Spines smaller, fewer in shade forms; when yellow, blacken with age. Hybridization common within subgenera.


O. pulchella Engelm.


Stem clumped, 10–20 cm, arising from a bristle-covered tuber; segments narrowly club-shaped to cylindric, terminal < 10 cm, 0.5–2.5 cm diam; tubercle 6–9 mm, < 1.5 mm high; spines 8–15, densest near stem tip, < 6 cm, bulbous at base, largest flat, sharply angled, without cross-rows of rough papillae; sheath separating only near tip; barbed bristles of tuber generally 1–1.5 cm
Flower: inner perianth 1.5–2.5 cm, pink-magenta; filaments green to yellow
Fruit 2–3 cm, fleshy, smooth, red, with soft, upwardly barbed bristles
Seed 3–6 mm
Ecology: Borders of dry lakes, sandy flats
Elevation: 1500–1700 m.
Bioregional distribution: East of Sierra Nevada
Distribution outside California: to Utah
Highly variable; juvenile forms sometimes flower
Horticultural information: In cultivation.

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bioregional map for OPUNTIA%20pulchella being generated

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