IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Comprehensive Description

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In Illinois, Brittle Prickly Pear can be distinguished from other Opuntia spp. (Prickly Pears) by its small size and dry bur-like fruits. Like many other cacti, it produces large showy flowers that are short-lived. The detachable pads make this cactus difficult to handle while transplanting as they readily cling to fingers, hands, or gloves, thanks to its barbed spines. In particular, the inconspicuous glochids (fine sharp bristles of the areoles) can embed themselves underneath the surface of the skin and are difficult to remove. So its wise to exercise considerable care while handling this plant. Not only can the pads become detached by the movements of animals or people, even heavy rainfall, blowing snow, or a strong gust wind sometimes dislodge them. Each one of these detached pads has the potential to become another clonal plant, forming low mats of sprawling plants over time.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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