Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This endemic to the United States is confined to the states of Arizona and Utah. In Utah it occurs in southeast Washington County and in south Kane County; in Arizona it occurs along the Utah border north of Pipe Spring, Mohave County. The species occurs at elevations of 1,500 to 1,800 m asl.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ariz., Utah.
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Global Range: Juniper-Pinyon Woodland and upper edge of Navajoan Desert. Utah in southeast Washington Co. and in south Kane Co.; Arizona along Utah border north of Pipe Spring, Mohave Co.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Shrubs, forming low clumps or with trailing branches, 10-30 cm. Stem segments not disarticulating, green to blue-green, flattened, elliptic to obovate, 6-15 × 5-12 cm, low tuberculate, papillate; areoles 7-11 per diagonal row across midstem segment, subcircular to elliptic, 3-5 × 2-4 mm; wool tan. Spines absent or only l spine in 1-few distal areoles, deflexed, yellow to gray, straight, terete, to 10 mm. Glochids in dense crescent at adaxial margin of areole and dense subapical tuft, yellow, to 6 mm. Flowers: inner tepals yellow throughout (magenta in introgressed plants), 25-30 mm; filaments white to yellow; anthers yellow; style white; stigma lobes green. Fruits tan to gray, 25-30 × 15-20 mm, dry, spineless; areoles 12-18. Seeds tan, subspheric to irregularly shaped, flattened, very large, 9-12 mm diam.; girdle thick, protruding 2.5-3.5 mm. 2n = 66.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Opuntia basilaris Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow var. aurea (E. M. Baxter) W. T. Marshall; O. erinacea Engelmann var. aurea (E. M. Baxter) S. L. Welsh
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This is a clump forming shrub found in pinyon-juniper woodlands on red sands.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Pinyon-juniper woodlands, red sands; 1500-1800m.
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Comments: Sand or sandy soils of flats, dunes, and valleys in woodland areas at 1,200-2,100.

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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: 6 - 20

Comments: Seventeen EO's (Benson 1982).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering late spring (May-Jun).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Pinkava, D.J., Baker, M. & Puente, R.

Reviewer/s
Superina, M. & Goettsch, B.K.

Contributor/s

Justification
Opuntia aurea has a restricted range (its extent of occurrence is less than 5,000 km²), but it is abundant where it occurs and there are no significant threats. Hence, it is listed as Least Concern. Monitoring may be required to ensure that the threats do not increase as they could impact the species and cause a change in its conservation status.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable

Reasons: Limited distribution.

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Population

Population
Although the species has a limited range it is abundant where it occurs - it forms dense carpets. The species hybridizes with other Opuntia species in the area.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There is some mining in the area where it occurs (surface mining for gypsum - but not on the red sands where this species occurs) and much of the area is used for cattle grazing, but none of these pose a threat to the species.
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Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The type locality is within Pipe Springs National Park. The species also occurs in Zion National Park - this is where most of the herbarium collections come from.
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Notes

Comments

Opuntia aurea forms hybrids with O. polyacantha var. erinacea and O. phaeacantha, and forms hybrid swarms with O. pinkavae (B. D. Parfitt 1991).
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Recognized as a full species by Kartesz (1999); has also been treated as a variety of Opuntia basilaris (e.g., by Kartesz, 1994) or as a variety of O. erinacea (as by Welsh).

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