Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Colo., Kans., Nebr., N.Mex., Okla., Tex., Wyo.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Shrubs, low, to 0.4 m, creeping from clumps, sometimes from thickened rootstocks. Stem segments not easily detached, pale green to deep green, graying with age, wrinkled when stressed, flattened, broadly obovate to ovate, 6.5-15 × 4-10 cm, tuberculate, glossy, glabrous; areoles 6-9 per diagonal row across midstem segment, oval, obovate, or subcircular, 2.5-5 × 1.5-4 mm; wool tan, aging brown. Spines 1-9 on most areoles to only on distal 1/2 of stem segment, white to gray with pale brown tips and bases, sometimes brown throughout; central spines 1-3, all deflexed or 1-2 porrect or ascending, terete or flattened, occasionally spirally twisted, 25-70 mm; small spines (2-)3-6(-8) strongly deflexed, usually slender, even bristlelike, 5-15 mm. Glochids forming a well developed adaxial tuft, yellow to brownish white, to 6 mm. Flowers: inner tepals yellow to gold, commonly darker to red near base, broadly spatulate, 30-40 mm, apiculate; filaments usually pale yellow; anthers yellow; style whitish to pale green; stigma lobes greenish. Fruits purple-red, oval to broadly ovate, subspheric or short ovoid, bases not narrowed, 30 × 20-25 mm, fleshy, base not narrowed, glabrous, spineless or nearly so; umbilicus deep; areoles 18-30. Seeds whitish to tan, irregularly shaped, flattened, 4-6 × 3-4 mm; girdle protruding 1-2 mm. 2n = 44, 66.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Opuntia cymochila Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow; O. mackensenii Rose; O. tortispina var. cymochila (Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow) Backeberg
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Type Information

Holotype for Opuntia mackensenii Rose
Catalog Number: US 617434
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Verified from the card file of type specimens
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): B. Mackensen
Year Collected: 1909
Locality: Texas, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Rose, J. N. 1911. Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 13: 310.
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Ecology

Habitat

Grass-lands, pinyon-juniper-oak woodlands, sandy or shaley flats, rocky hills; 1400-1800m.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering spring-early summer (Apr-Jul).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Notes

Comments

Opuntia tortispina is apparently of hybrid origin. It has intermediate character states from its putative parents, O. macrorhiza (fleshy and spineless fruits) and O. polyacantha (areoles with basal deflexed spines and barrel-shaped fruits). The spirally twisted spines, which the specific epithet implies, are not at all characteristic for this species. When O. tortispina and O. cymochila are considered conspecific, the former has priority, as first selected by N. L. Britton and J. N. Rose (1919-1923, vol. 1). 

 One favored hypothesis as to the origins is that the O. humifusa-O. macrorhiza-O. pottsii complex spread across the United States from the east coast to Arizona. Opuntia polyacantha originated in north-central Mexico and spread northward. Tetraploid O. macrorhiza came into contact with the east flank of O. polyacantha and hybridized (probably repeatedly, even at present), producing the highly variable taxon referred to here as O. tortispina, which then spread eastward onto the plains. Opuntia tortispina has hexaploid members, presumably from unions of reduced and unreduced gametes. Those hexaploids apparently hybridize with hexaploid O. phaeacantha and add further to variation of O. tortispina. Many of these variations have been formally named or since treated as synonyms of O. macrorhiza.

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