Opuntia austrina

Prickly-pear Cactus

Cactaceae

Also known as Opuntia humifusa

Plant Specifics

Form:Flower
Life Span:Long-lived perennial
Flower Color:Yellow
Fruit Color:Red
Phenology:Evergreen
Noted for:Showy flowers, Showy fruits, Interesting foliage, Thorns

Landscaping

Recommended Uses:Can be used as a small specimen plant or as a low-growing hedge that is sure to keep out intruders.
Considerations:Thorns! This plant has thorns and prickles that will attack the unwary. They make weeding difficult, and the plant needs to be where no one will accidentally step on it.
Propagation:Fragments of an existing plant.
Availability:Friends
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:Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water.
Salt Spray/ Salty Soil Tolerance:High. Can tolerate significant and ongoing amounts of salty wind and salt spray without injury.
Soil or other substrate:Sand
Soil pH:

Ecology

Wildlife:
Insects:
  

  • Nectar plant for dotted skipper (Hesperia attalus) butterflies.
  • Attracts a variety of insects, especially native bees.

Native Habitats:Scrub, scrubby flatwoods, sandhill, xeric disturbed areas.

Distribution and Planting Zones

Natural Range in Florida
USDA Zones

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

USDA zones are based on minimum winter temperatures

Comments

Ethnobotany:Hispanic people use a fruits (called tunas) to make jams and syrups. They also slice the pads (nopales) into thin strips, grill them, and serve with a lime juice.
General Comments:

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

One of several cactus species that is 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. austrina is considered to be a Florida endemic.