Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Montana, Great Lakes, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Massachusetts to Florida.
States or Provinces
Ontario south to Florida; west to Montana and New Mexico; and east to
Massachusetts and South Carolina. Eastern pricklypear is rare in Ontario, Ohio, and Pennsylvania . The Flora of North America provides a distribution map of eastern
eastern pricklypear and its varieties.
Varieties: Florida devil's-tongue only occurs in Florida. Southeastern
eastern pricklypear occurs from North Carolina south to Florida and west to Texas.
Devil's-tongue occurs throughout the general distribution range of eastern
eastern pricklypear [49,79].
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
7 Lower Basin and Range
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
Catalog Number: US 1326734
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined; Alleged type specimen status verified from secondary sources
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): E. Wherry
Year Collected: 1927
Locality: Berks, Pennsylvania, United States, North America
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Sandy soil and rock outrcrops (ranging from granitic to sand stone or limestone) of hills, valleys, and shores.
Key Plant Community Associations
More info for the terms: cactus, caudex, cover, forbs, hemicryptophyte, layering, monoecious, stem succulent, succession, tree, xeric
Eastern pricklypear occurs in a variety of desert, grassland, prairie, and
woodland communities. It occurs as a community associate and not a dominant
species . Brief descriptions of the common dominants and associates are
Eastern pricklypear is commonly found in sandhill prairie communities dominated
by big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium),
and prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia). Other common
associates in these communities include Addison's rosette grass (Dichanthelium
ovale var. addisonii), goat's rue (Tephrosia virginiana),
porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea), Muhlenberg's sedge (Carex
muehlenbergii), sand lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes), sand
sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia), soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca),
and western ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya) [2,26,28,50,69,71].
In shortgrass prairies dominated by blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)
and buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), eastern pricklypear can
be one of the principal forbs [1,78,83]. Eastern prickly pear also occurs in
mixed grass prairies dominated by needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata)
and western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) .
In the Texas savanna vegetation type, eastern pricklypear can occur with a
variety of associates including mesquite (Prosopis spp.), acacias (Acacia
spp.), oaks, junipers (Juniperus spp.), bluestems, indiangrass (Sorghastrum
nutans), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), gramas, buffalo grass, and
Texas tussockgrass (Nassella leucotricha) .
Eastern pricklypear is a common associate in a wide variety of habitat types
dominated by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and sand pine (P. clausa).
Overstory associates in these types include turkey oak (Quercus laevis),
bluejack oak (Q. incana), and sand live oak (Q. geminata).
Understory associates include pineland threeawn (Aristida stricta), dwarf palm (Sabal
minor), and Adam's needle (Y. filamentosa) [16,31,39,40,84].
In saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens) prairies, eastern pricklypear is
commonly found with inkberry (Ilex glabra), wiregrass, broomsedge
bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), carpet grass (Axonopus spp.) and
sand live oak [21,22].
Eastern pricklypear occurs on the drier sites in eastern redcedar (Juniperus
virginiana) glades where other associates include post oak (Q. stellata),
blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), winged elm (Ulmus alata), yaupon (I. vomitoria) [6,7,8,35].
It also occurs in
black oak (Q. velutina) savannas in Indiana , black
oak-eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) dunes in Michigan , and
turkey oak sandhills in Georgia .
In the upper dune zone of the beach vegetation type in Florida, southeastern
eastern pricklypear commonly occurs as an associate with aloe yucca
(Y. aloifolia) and finger rot (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Opuntia humifusa
- GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS
- RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM
- REGENERATION PROCESSES
- SITE CHARACTERISTICS
- SUCCESSIONAL STATUS
- SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology,
and is not meant for identification. Several florae provide keys for identifying
eastern pricklypear [9,29,38].
Eastern pricklypear is a perennial
native mat- or clump-forming cactus usually 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) tall. It
occasionally grows to 12 inches (30 cm) in height in Florida. The succulent stem
segments, or pads, are 1.5 to 4 inches (3.8-10 cm) long and 1.6 to 2.4 inches
(4-6 cm) wide. Areoles
on the pads give rise to 0 to 2 spines that are 1 to 2.4 inches (2.5-6
cm) long. Flowers are solitary, 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm) in diameter.
The fruit is a fleshy berry 1 to 1.6 inches (2.5-4 cm) long. The seeds are
and 0.2 inch (4.5 mm) in diameter. The root system is shallow and fibrous
[9,29,34,58]. A caudex may develop in persistent stems .
Eastern pricklypear is considered highly drought tolerant .
RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Eastern pricklypear reproduces from seeds, by layering, and sprouting from detached
stem segments and the caudex [19,75,83].
Eastern pricklypear is monoecious .
Eastern pricklypear is pollinated by insects .
Throughout much of its distribution, eastern pricklypear relies primarily on
seeds for reproduction . Flowers and fruits are 1st produced at 2 years of
Seeds of eastern pricklypear are primarily spread when the fruits are eaten by birds and a
variety of rodents including rabbits, woodrats, prairie-dogs, mice, and
ground squirrels. Ground squirrels may cache the seeds, some of which are later
consumed. Cached seeds that are not eaten may germinate and produce new plants
No further information is available on this topic.
Germination rate is reported to be low for seeds of Opuntia species . In
laboratory tests, it was found that eastern pricklypear seeds collected from rabbit fecal scats had
a higher germination rate than seeds collected from unconsumed fruits. Seeds
collected from the scats required an average germination time of 41 days and had
a germination rate of 25%. Seeds collected from non-eaten fruits required 71 days and
germinated at a rate of 18% .
Although the literature reports that eastern pricklypear regenerates by seeds
, information is lacking on the specifics of seedling establishment and
Layering occurs when pads still attached to the parent plant take root into soil. Detached pads
also readily root into soil . The pads can disperse by attaching to animals by the spines .
Opuntia species can sprout from the caudex when the
aboveground portion of the plant is destroyed .
Eastern pricklypear is a species that can flourish under a great range of
conditions. It is found at elevations ranging from sea level to
5,500 feet (1,576 m), will grow well on various types of soils under a wide
range of moisture regimes, and can survive extremes of both hot and cold
The moisture regimes in which eastern
eastern pricklypear can thrive are quite varied. For example, the cactus occurs in
extremely xeric sandstone cedar glades in Kentucky and Tennessee, but also
thrives in the saw-palmetto prairies in Florida where the water table is often
at or near the ground surface [21,35].
Eastern pricklypear is winter hardy, being able to survive on sites where
the minimum winter temperatures can drop below 10 oF (-12 oC).
The cactus avoids freeze damage by rapidly reducing the water content in cells
during cold acclimation .
Eastern eastern pricklypear is most commonly found on sandy or gravely soils
but can also flourish on organic detritus and silty or loamy soils. It is tolerant of
low-nutrient, acid, and alkaline soils .
Eastern pricklypear is shade intolerant  and is
generally replaced by other species in advanced stages of succession .
The cactus colonizes disturbed sites and may persist through
late seral stages of plant succession. It colonizes bare coastal dunes in
some areas of the Northeast . On the dunes of southern
Lake Michigan, it appears in early seral stages where it invades the beachgrass
sandreed communities of young dunes. It is found in late seral,
shrub-populated dunes on the shores of western Lake Michigan where
it persists after the invasion of jack pine and black oak. It dies
out as dense tree canopy cover develops . Eastern pricklypear
is found in "climax" sand sagebrush communities in northeastern
Eastern pricklypear flowers from May to July . Plants in Florida may
bloom year-round . Fruits mature 2 to 3 months after flowering and may
persist until the following spring .
Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):
More info for the terms: cover, hardwood, shrub
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
211 Creosote bush scrub
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
505 Grama-tobosa shrub
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
611 Blue grama-buffalo grass
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
705 Blue grama-galleta
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
710 Bluestem prairie
711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
715 Grama-buffalo grass
717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
719 Mesquite-liveoak-seacoast bluestem
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
727 Mesquite-buffalo grass
730 Sand shinnery oak
731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma
732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)
808 Sand pine scrub
809 Mixed hardwood and pine
810 Longleaf pine-turkey oak hills
811 South Florida flatwoods
812 North Florida flatwoods
814 Cabbage palm flatwoods
816 Cabbage palm hammocks
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: cover
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
24 Hemlock-yellow birch
25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch
26 Sugar maple-basswood
27 Sugar maple
40 Post oak-blackjack oak
42 Bur Oak
45 Pitch pine
46 Eastern redcedar
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak
60 Beech-sugar maple
66 Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
67 Mohrs (shin) oak
69 Sand pine
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine-scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
73 Southern redcedar
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine-oak
78 Virginia pine-oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine-shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine-hardwood
83 Longleaf pine-slash pine
84 Slash pine
85 Slash pine-hardwood
98 Pond pine
110 Black oak
111 South Florida slash pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
240 Arizona cypress
241 Western live oak
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
More info for the term: shrub
KUCHLER  PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K027 Mesquite bosques
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K044 Creosote bush-tarbush
K045 Ceniza shrub
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K054 Grama-tobosa prairie
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
K060 Mesquite savanna
K062 Mesquite-live oak savanna
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K072 Sea oats prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K077 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
K079 Palmetto prairie
K081 Oak savanna
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K084 Cross Timbers
K085 Mesquite-buffalo grass
K087 Mesquite-oak savanna
K088 Fayette prairie
K089 Black Belt
K090 Live oak-sea oats
K091 Cypress savanna
K099 Maple-basswood forest
K100 Oak-hickory forest
K102 Beech-maple forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K110 Northeastern oak-pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K115 Sand pine scrub
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES40 Desert grasslands
Flower-Visiting Insects of Eastern Prickly Pear in Illinois
(Long-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen, while short-tongued bees usually collect pollen; beetle activity is unspecified; information is limited to bees and beetles; observations are from Mitchell, Moure & Hurd, LaBerge, MacRae, and Grundel et al. as indicated below)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera fq (Gnd); Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocollis (Gnd), Bombus pensylvanicus (Mch); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla (Gnd); Anthophoridae (Xylocopini): Xylocopa virginica (Mch); Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes communis communis (Mch), Melissodes coreopsis sn (Mch), Melissodes tepaneca (Mch), Melissodes wheeleri (Mch); Megachilidae (Megachilini): Lithurge littoralis (Mch), Megachile addenda (Mch), Megachile mendica (Mch), Megachile montivaga (Mch), Megachile texana (Mch)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon splendens (Mch, Gnd), Augochlorella aurata (Gnd), Augochlorella striata (Mch), Halictus ligatus (Mch), Halictus rubicundus (MH), Lasioglossum coreopsis (Mch), Lasioglossum nymphalis (Mch), Lasioglossum pilosum pilosum (Mch, Gnd); Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes brevicornis (LB)
Buprestidae: Acmaeodera tubulus (McR)
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).
Fire Management Considerations
Repeated fires can greatly reduce populations of small Opuntia spp. like
eastern pricklypear. High fire frequency may eliminate eastern pricklypears from a
site for many years until new plants reestablish from seeds or pads carried onto
the site by birds or mammals .
Plant Response to Fire
Eastern pricklypear establishes from singed or unburned pads after fire .
It probably also establishes from on- and off-site seed sources and pads
transported onto burns from off-site sources ; however, information on postfire
seedling establishment of eastern pricklypear and postfire pad transport is
lacking (as of 2005).
A spring fire in a sand lovegrass-little bluestem-prairie sandreed community in
Illinois destroyed most of the existing pads of eastern pricklypear. Sampling
showed good regrowth of the cactus 3 months after fire. However, mortality of the
new plants was high in the next 2 years following the burn. Prickly-pear
biomass was 34 g/mÂ² 3 months after fire, 26 g/mÂ² 1 year
after fire, and 10 g/mÂ² 2 years after fire . In
studies of other Opuntia spp., it was found that many plants that
sprout following fire are attacked by insects that spread bacterial and fungal
infections which subsequently kill the new stems .
Immediate Effect of Fire
Moderate- or low-severity fires can kill the aboveground parts of Opuntia
spp. Some pads may survive low- to moderate-severity fires when they are covered
by litter or sheltered within a clump of stems. High-severity fire usually kills
the entire plant .
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Surface rhizome/chamaephytic root crown in organic mantle or on soil surface
Caudex/herbaceous root crown, growing points in soil
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)
Fire information specific to this species is lacking. Opuntia spp. are adapted to
survive low-severity fire by sprouting from the caudex and by layering from
pads that were buried or protected in the litter layer [19,74]. Prickly-pear
cacti colonize burned areas when
off-site seed is transported on-site by animals .
Eastern pricklypear grows in plant communities with a wide range of fire
frequencies from less than 10 years for many grassland and prairie communities
to greater than 1,000 years for some of the eastern mixed-hardwood communities.
As of this writing (2005), fires ecology studies are lacking for eastern
eastern pricklypear. The following table provides fire return intervals for plant
communities and ecosystems where eastern pricklypear occurs. For further
information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|sugar maple||Acer saccharum||>1,000|
|sugar maple-basswood||Acer saccharum-Tilia americana||>1,000 |
|bluestem prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||<10 [51,62]|
|Nebraska sandhills prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium||<10|
|bluestem-Sacahuista prairie||Andropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae||<10 |
|basin big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata||12-43 |
|mountain big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana||15-40 [5,20,57]|
|Wyoming big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis||10-70 (Âµ=40) [81,88]|
|saltbush-greasewood||Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus||<35 to <100 |
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||<35 [62,86]|
|blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass||Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii||<35 [62,67,86]|
|blue grama-buffalo grass||Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides||<35 [62,86]|
|grama-galleta steppe||Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii||<35 to <100|
|blue grama-tobosa prairie||Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica||<35 to <100|
|blackbrush||Coleogyne ramosissima||<35 to <100|
|Arizona cypress||Cupressus arizonica||<35 to 200 |
|beech-sugar maple||Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum||>1,000 |
|juniper-oak savanna||Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana||<35|
|Rocky Mountain juniper||Juniperus scopulorum||<35 |
|cedar glades||Juniperus virginiana||3-22 [42,62]|
|creosotebush||Larrea tridentata||<35 to <100|
|Ceniza shrub||Larrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa||<35 |
|wheatgrass plains grasslands||Pascopyrum smithii||<5-47+ [62,63,86]|
|pinyon-juniper||Pinus-Juniperus spp.||<35 |
|jack pine||Pinus banksiana||<35 to 200 |
|shortleaf pine||Pinus echinata||2-15|
|shortleaf pine-oak||Pinus echinata-Quercus spp.||<10|
|slash pine||Pinus elliottii||3-8|
|slash pine-hardwood||Pinus elliottii-variable||<35|
|sand pine||Pinus elliottii var. elliottii||25-45 |
|South Florida slash pine||Pinus elliottii var. densa||1-15 [59,72,82]|
|Jeffrey pine||Pinus jeffreyi||5-30|
|western white pine*||Pinus monticola||50-200 |
|longleaf-slash pine||Pinus palustris-P. elliottii||1-4 [59,82]|
|longleaf pine-scrub oak||Pinus palustris-Quercus spp.||6-10 |
|pitch pine||Pinus rigida||6-25 [18,45]|
|loblolly pine||Pinus taeda||3-8|
|loblolly-shortleaf pine||Pinus taeda-P. echinata||10 to <35|
|Virginia pine||Pinus virginiana||10 to <35|
|Virginia pine-oak||Pinus virginiana-Quercus spp.||10 to <35 |
|galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe||Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea||<35 to <100 |
|mesquite||Prosopis glandulosa||<35 to <100 [56,62]|
|mesquite-buffalo grass||Prosopis glandulosa-Buchloe dactyloides||<35|
|Texas savanna||Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa||<10 |
|oak-hickory||Quercus-Carya spp.||<35 |
|oak-juniper woodland (Southwest)||Quercus-Juniperus spp.||<35 to <200 |
|northeastern oak-pine||Quercus-Pinus spp.||10 to <35|
|southeastern oak-pine||Quercus-Pinus spp.||<10 |
|coast live oak||Quercus agrifolia||2-75 |
|white oak-black oak-northern red oak||Quercus alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra||<35|
|bur oak||Quercus macrocarpa||<10 |
|oak savanna||Quercus macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||2-14 [62,82]|
|shinnery||Quercus mohriana||<35 |
|post oak-blackjack oak||Quercus stellata-Q. marilandica||<10|
|black oak||Quercus velutina||<35|
|live oak||Quercus virginiana||10 to<100 |
|interior live oak||Quercus wislizenii||<35 |
|cabbage palmetto-slash pine||Sabal palmetto-Pinus elliottii||<10 [59,82]|
|blackland prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Nassella leucotricha||<10|
|Fayette prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Buchloe dactyloides||<10 |
|little bluestem-grama prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp.||<35 |
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Opuntia humifusa
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Opuntia humifusa
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Widespread throughout the United States.
Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.
Opuntia spp. may increase in abundance during droughty periods because of a
reduction in other plant species that are not as drought tolerant. Also,
dry conditions are not as favorable for some of the insects that
can be the most damaging to eastern pricklypear. As moisture levels increase in
years following drought, insect damage to eastern pricklypear can be high, and
native grasses and forbs begin to reestablish on the site near clumps of
eastern pricklypear where the clumps create a favorable microsite for seed germination
There is some indication that Opuntia spp. may increase in response to
heavy grazing. However, researchers are not sure if eastern pricklypear
populations respond to a reduction of the preferred forage species, or if the
grazing animals simply provide for improved spread and establishment of the
cactus by transporting the pads on their bodies .
Opuntia spp. can be problematic in pastures grazed by domestic sheep and goats.
The spines can cause bacterial infection in the mouth and
intestinal tract, and the seeds can cause rumen impaction .
Eastern pricklypear is susceptible to damage by the cactus bug, a cochineal
scale, and several species of cactus borers .
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
Humans eat the stems, fruits, and seeds of eastern pricklypear. The stems
are usually singed to remove the spines and are then roasted and peeled or deep-fried.
Pads can be dried for later use. Fruits are eaten
fresh or dried and can be used for jelly or syrup. Seeds can be roasted and
ground into flour . Native Americans used the mucilaginous
stem sap as a wound dressing .
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Eastern prickly pear has been used in restoration projects, although the
literature does not indicate extensive use for this purpose.
Seedlings were successfully established in a reclamation project
on a sand and gravel borrow-pit in Ohio .
Opuntia seeds germinate most readily when they are fresh. Dried seeds require
scarification to induce germination . Eastern
eastern pricklypear is easily established from stem cuttings buried to
approximately three-fifths of their length , and can be
artificially propagated using tissue culture .
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Roots, stems, fruits, and seeds of eastern prickly pear may be eaten by a
variety of birds and animals [23,54]. Eastern prickly pear is one of the most
important foods of the prairie pocket mouse . Gopher tortoises will feed on
the stems, fruits and seeds, but
eastern pricklypear does not constitute a large percentage of their diet .
White-tailed deer in North Carolina feed on eastern
eastern pricklypear fruits in the fall and winter . The ornate box turtle,
endangered in Wisconsin, feeds on the stems and fruits .
The pads of Opuntia spp. can be used as emergency livestock forage after
the spines have been singed off .
Eastern pricklypear is low in nutritional value for livestock .
The nutritional value of fresh, immature eastern pricklypear stems in the
United States is as follows :
Percent digestible protein
This species ranges from Montana eastward to parts of the southern Great Lakes, and in the dry coastal sand dunes along the eastern seaboard from the Florida Keys to coastal Connecticut and Long Island, NY, as well as westward to New Mexico.
As is the case in other Opuntia species, the green stems of this low-growing perennial cactus are flattened, and are formed of segments. Barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments, and longer spines are sometimes present. The flowers are yellow to gold in color, and are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers. They measure 4–6 cm across. This cactus blooms in the late spring.
The juicy and edible red fruits measure from 3–5 cm. As the fruit matures, it changes colour from green to red, and often remains on the cactus until the following spring. There are 6 to 33 small, flat, light-colored seeds in each fruit.
This plant is very intolerant of shade. It thrives in full sun and needs well-drained soil.
Some botanists treat this cactus as a variety of Opuntia compressa: hence Opuntia compressavar. humifusa, or a synonym of Opuntia compressa. Those recognizing this species treat Opuntia rafinesquii as a junior synonym.