Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: It occurs in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico.
Comments: Heavier soils of mesas, flats, valleys, and plains and in bottomland soils of washes in the deserts.
Habitat and Ecology
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 EO's (Benson 1982).
Opuntia leptocaulis was observed to provide habitat for the errant Scorpion, Centruroides vittatus, at a greater than expected frequency. It is suspected that the scorpion is associated with the cactus because the high water content in the cactus provides a buffer from extreme temperature changes , e.g. high temperatures during the day and/or low temperatures during the night (McReynolds 2008).
O. leptocaulis and Larrea tridentata exhibit a cyclical species relationship whereby L. tridentata provides suitable habitat for seeds of O. leptocaulis to germinate, deposited by rodents or birds. O. leptocaulis have superficial roots that don't penetrate that soil very deeply and do not compete with the deeper-growing L. tridentata roots. Eventually, the L. tridentata dies, exposing the O. leptocaulis growing beneath. The Opuntia then dies as result of animals burrowing underneath the soil and exposing its shallow roots, creating open space again where the Larrea can colonize (Yeaton 1978).
Life History and Behavior
This Opuntia mainly reproduces asexually by detachment of its stems or cladodes. In O. leptocaulis terminal stem segments break off easily from the parent plant and and take root producing clonal individuals (Rebman and Pinkava 2001). The fruits of this species are consumed by humans and domesticated animals, including cows, horses and burros which all contribute to the long distance dispersal and account for an increase in its range (Hernandez et al. 2010). The natural dispersers of seeds of O. leptocaulis are birds and rodents (Yeaton 1978). Hernandez et al. (2010) also comment that cholla species, including Opuntia (=Cylindropuntia) leptocaulis can behave like weeds becoming extremely abundant after disturbance.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Cylindropuntia leptocaulis
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cylindropuntia leptocaulis
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Widespread throughout the southwestern United States and in northern Mexico.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
This species is very common. Stem fragments are easily dispersed by cattle. Its range and population are likely increasing with cattle-ranching.
Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.
Flowers are pale yellow or greenish yellow, with occasional red tips.
Around December, the plant grows red berries that when consumed, can have an intoxicating effect.
Desert Christmas Cactus in Sahuarita, Arizona.
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