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Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Idaho.

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Physical Description

Type Information

Isoneotype for Opuntia ursina F.A.C. Weber in Bois
Catalog Number: US 1732560
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: ; Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. B. Wolf
Year Collected: 1937
Locality: San Bernardino, California, United States, North America
Elevation (m): 915 to 915
  • Isoneotype: Weber, F. A. 1897. Dict. Hort. 896.; Benson, L. D. 1982. Cacti U.S. Canada. 920.
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Sandy or gravelly soils of valleys, plains, low hills, or canyonsides in the desert or woodland, prairie.

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Mojave Desert Habitat

This taxon is found in the Mojave Desert, the smallest of the four North American deserts. While the Mojave lies between the Great Basin Shrub Steppe and the Sonoran Desert, its fauna is more closely allied with the lower Colorado division of the Sonoran Desert. Dominant plants of the Mojave include Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), Many-fruit Saltbush (Atriplex polycarpa), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra), White Burrobush (Hymenoclea salsola), and Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia), the most notable endemic species in the region.

The Mojave’s warm temperate climate defines it as a distinct ecoregion. Mojave indicator species include Spiny Menodora (Menodora spinescens), Desert Senna (Cassia armata), Mojave Indigobush (Psorothamnus arborescens), and Shockley's Goldenhead (Acamptopappus shockleyi). The Mojave supports numerous species of cacti, including several endemics, such as Silver Cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa), Mojave Prickly Pear (O. erinacea), Beavertail Cactus (O. basilaris), and Cotton-top Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus).

While the Mojave Desert is not so biologically distinct as the other desert ecoregions, distinctive endemic communities occur throughout. For example, the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve harbor seven species of endemic insects, including the Kelso Dunes Jerusalem Cricket (Ammopelmatus kelsoensis) and the Kelso Dunes Shieldback Katydid (Eremopedes kelsoensis). The Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma Scoparia), while not endemic to the dunes, is rare elsewhere. Flowering plants also attract butterflies such as the Mojave Sooty-wing (Pholisora libya), and the widely distributed Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

There are a total of eight amphibian species present in the Mojave Desert all of which are anuran species: the endemic Relict Leopard Frog (Lithobates onca); the endemic Amargosa Toad (Anaxyrus nelsoni); Lowland Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); and the Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla).

The native range of California’s threatened Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) includes the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The Desert Tortoise has adapted for arid habitats by storing up to a liter of water in its urinary bladder. The following reptilian fauna are characteristic of the Mojave region in particular: Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum NT); Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus), Northern Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), Western Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus), and regal horned lizard (Phrynosoma solare). Snake species include the Desert Rosy Boa (Charina trivirgata gracia), Mojave Patchnose Snake (Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis), and Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus).

Endemic mammals of the ecoregion include the Mojave Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis) and Amargosa Vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis); and the California Leaf-nosed Bat (Macrotus californicus).

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Associations

Mojave Desert flora associations

Mojave prickly pear, Opuntia erinacea, is found in California's Mojave Desert as one of the locations of occurrence of this species, . Some of the common flora associates are Shockley's goldenhead, Acamptopappus shockleyi; Desert senna, Cassia armata; Mojave dalea, Psorothamnus arborescens;and Spiny menodora, Menodora spinescens . Example cacti associates in this desert are: Silver cholla, O. echinocarpa; Beavertail cactus, O. basilaris; and Many-headed barrel cactus, Echinocactus polycephalus. The chief megaflora of this desert region is the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia. Soils here in the Mojave are mainly coarse sands and gravels with many outcrops that offer diverse habitat niches

  • C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Cactus. Topic ed. Arthur Dawson. Ed.-in-chief Cutler J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Over 100 EOs (Benson 1982).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Common throughout the western United States.

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Threats

Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2004), lists Opuntia ericacea in the synonymy of O. polyacantha var. ericacea and also mentions that Opuntia erinacea has been misapplied to some plants of varieties of O. polyacantha.

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