Opuntia spp.

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Erect Prickly-pear Cactus


Also known as Opuntia humifusa, Opuntia stricta, O. mesacantha. O. austrina

Plant Specifics

Size:2-3 (rarely 5) ft ft tall by 1-4 ft ft wide
Life Span:Long-lived perennial
Flower Color:Yellow
Fruit Color:Red
Noted for:Showy flowers, Showy fruits, Interesting foliage, Thorns


Recommended Uses:Makes an interesting wildflower. Can be used as a low-growing hedge in hot, dry locations.
Considerations:Thorns! The thorns on this plant make weeding around it difficult. Best planted where no one will be walking adjacent to the plant.
Propagation:Planting of fragments.
Light: Full Sun
Moisture Tolerance:
always floodedextremely dry
 (Not wet but not extremely dry ----- to ----- Very long very dry periods)
Moisture Tolerance: Not wet but not extremely dry ----- to ----- Very long very dry periods
Salt Water Flooding Tolerance:Tolerant of occasional/brief inundation such as can occur in storm surges.
Salt Spray/ Salty Soil Tolerance:Moderate. Tolerant of salty wind and may get some salt spray. Exposure to salt spray would be uncommon (major storms).
Soil or other substrate:Sand
Soil pH:Circum-neutral



Nectar plant for Meske's skipper (Hesperia meskei) butterflies.

Attracts a variety of insect pollinators.

Bees documented visiting Opuntia humifusa include Agapostemon splendens, Augochlorella aurata, Augochloropsis sumptuosa, Dialictus nymphalis, D. tegularis, Halictus ligatus, Dianthidium floridiense, Lithurgus gibbosus, Megachile brevis pseudobrevis, M. policaris, M. texana, Melissodes communis, Apis mellifera, Bombus impatiens, B. pennsylvanicus and Xylocopa virginica krombeini (Deyrup et al. 2002).

Native Habitats:Coastal dunes, coastal grasslands.

Distribution and Planting Zones

Natural Range in Florida
USDA Zones

Suitable to grow in:
10A 10B 11 8A 8B 9A 9B 

USDA zones are based on minimum winter temperatures


Ethnobotany:Fruits and pads are edible.
General Comments:

These species are, in combination, found throughout Florida and from a cultivation perspective, are very similar.  In nature, O. stricta tends to be in more coastal areas.

Rarely grown but worthy of consideration in hot dry locations where the thorns are not an issue or are an asset.

These cacti are attacked by the cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, which arrived in Florida in 1989, and this invasive species has become a serious threat to the diversity and abundance of Opuntia cacti in North America. If it become a problem on an Opuntia used in landscaping, it is best treated by manual removal as insecticides can also kill native butterflies and pollinators.

O. stricta is invasive in many warmer parts of the world including Australia, parts of Africa, and parts of Eurasia.