Plains pricklypear grows in the northern and southern Great Plains, the shrub- and woodlands of the Great Basin, the eastern Sierra Nevada, the borders of the Rocky Mountain forest regions, and the northern Chihuahuan Desert. It occurs from British Columbia to Manitoba southward through the Dakotas and Missouri to Texas and every state westward [6,30,42]. A distributional map of plains pricklypear is available on the PLANTS database. Distribution of infrataxa is as follows :
Opuntia polyacantha var. arenaria - in sandy soils near the Rio Grande of southeastern New Mexico, extreme western Texas, and northern Chihuahua
Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea - Arizona
Opuntia polyacantha var. hysricina - eastern Utah and western Colorado
Opuntia polyacantha var. nicholii - Arizona and New Mexico
Opuntia polyacantha. var. polyacantha - Alberta and Saskatchewan south to western Texas, New Mexico, and southeastern Utah
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