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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

The Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) is a striking plant with large beautiful flowers. It has fewer spines than many western species of prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), but they are still fairly formidable. The fine bristles near the areoles can easily penetrate the skin, causing irritation should the pads of this cactus be carelessly handled or brushed against. While Eastern Prickly Pear normally occurs as scattered individual plants or in small colonies, sometimes this cactus can form impressively large colonies if it persists at the same location for a sufficiently long period of time. The only other cactus with a similar size and appearance in Illinois is the less common Big-rooted Prickly Pear (Opuntia macrorhiza). This latter species differs from the Eastern Prickly Pear by its thick tuberous root and the greater abundance of spines on its pads. While Eastern Prickly Pear develops 0-2 spines per areole, Big-rooted Prickly Pear develops 2 or more spines per areole. Other scientific names that refer to Eastern Prickly Pear include Opuntia compressa and Opuntia rafinesquei. Return
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This perennial plant is ¾–2' tall. It consists of a single pad (swollen stem) that is partially inserted in the ground, from which 1-2 additional sessile pads may develop from its upper curved margin. These fleshy pads are usually erect or ascending, although sometimes they sprawl horizontally. Individual pads are 2-7" long, 1½–5" across, and ½–1¼" thick; they are obovoid in shape and somewhat flattened. The pad surfaces are medium green or bluish green, shiny or dull, and hairless (excluding the woolly hair, bristles, and spines of areoles). The pads are evergreen during the winter, although they often become slightly yellowish and wrinkled at this time. Areoles (air pores) are scattered across the surface of each pad in diagonal rows; they often have a brownish appearance. Areoles have small tufts of fine sharp bristles (glochids) up to 3 mm. long that are embedded in woolly hairs. In addition, 0-2 hardened spines develop from each areole. The spines are light gray to light brown, straight, and variable in length (½–4" long). There are also small leaves near the areoles (one leaf per areole); these leaves are green or pale brown, about 3-6 mm. long, awl-shaped (subulate), and early-deciduous. One or more flower buds can develop along the upper curved margin of each pad. These flower buds are up to 2" long and ¾" across; they are oblanceoloid-oblongoid in shape, greenish, and somewhat fleshy-scaly in appearance. When the flowers are fully open, they are 2-3" across. Each flower several tepals, numerous stamens, and an inferior ovary with a single style. Mature tepals are light yellow to yellow and satiny in appearance. Sometimes, the bases of inner tepals toward the center of each flower are orange-red. The filaments of the stamens are yellow to pale orange, while their anthers are yellow. At the apex of the style, there is a narrow ring of short stigmas; these stigmas are white. to pale yellow. The blooming period occurs during early summer, lasting about 3-4 weeks for a colony of plants. Each flower is diurnal, lasting only a single day. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by sessile fruits. Mature fruits are 1¼–2" long and ½–¾" across, dull red to reddish brown, and oblanceoloid-oblongoid in shape with concave apices. Each fruit contains several seeds in a fleshy interior. Depending on the local ecotype and stage of ripeness, the flesh of these fruits is green to red and either sour, bland, or sweet. Individual seeds are about 4 mm. long, tan to dark brown, globoid, and somewhat flattened in shape; there is narrow ridge along at least one-half of the outer margin of each seed. The root system is fibrous and spreading. Upper pads occasionally break off from lower pads, falling to the ground. Such detached pads can develop new roots in the ground, creating new plants that are clonal offsets.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range Description

The species occurs in the United States, from Massachusetts south to Georgia, west to Louisiana, and north to Arkansas and New York (L. Majure pers. comm. 2011). The number of locations is definitely larger than 100. The species is very widely distributed.
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Montana, Great Lakes, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Massachusetts to Florida.

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States or Provinces

(key to state/province abbreviations)


UNITED STATES



ALARCOCTDEFLGAIAILIN
KSKYLAMAMDMIMOMSMTNC
NBNJNMNYOHOKPARISCSD
TNTXVAWIWV



CANADA


ON

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Eastern pricklypear is widely distributed across North America. It occurs from
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 [49]. 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].

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

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 [11]:

7 Lower Basin and Range

12 Colorado Plateau

13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

14 Great Plains

16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Shrubs, forming clumps or often prostrate, usually only 1 or 2 stem segments tall, to 0.5 m (except in Florida where they may be erect and reach to 2+ m with short trunk), flattened to obovoid, sometimes from tuberlike rootstocks. Stem segments not disarticulating, dark or bright shiny green, wrinkling when stressed, circular to broadly oblong to obovate, 5-17.5 × 4-12 cm, fleshy, usually tuberculate, glabrous; areoles 4-6 per diagonal row across midstem segment, oval to circular, 2-4 mm diam., not raised, sometimes somewhat sunken; wool tan to brown. Spines often absent or 1-2(-3) per areole, spreading, whitish to brownish, terete, straight, and usually stout, 25-60 mm; occasionally also 1 deflexed spine present. Glochids in dense crescent of adaxial edge of areole and in dense tuft overtopping crescent in age, yellow to red-brown, to 4 mm. Flowers: inner tepals pale to bright yellow throughout, 20-30 mm diam.; filaments yellow to orange; anthers pale yellow to cream; style and stigma lobes white. Fruits greenish, tardily becoming apricot to brownish red, elongate, 30-50 × 12-20 mm, fleshy, tapering at base; pulp green and sour, becoming reddish and sweet under ideal conditions; areoles 10-18. Seeds tan, 3.5-4.5 mm diam., thickish; girdle protruding to 1 mm.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Cactus humifusus Rafinesque, Ann. Nat. 1: 15. 1820
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Type Information

Neotype for Cactus humifusus Raf.
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
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species occurs in sandy soil and rock outcrops (ranging from granitic to sand stone or limestone) of hills, valleys, and shores (Hunt et al. 2006).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Sandy soil and rock outrcrops (ranging from granitic to sand stone or limestone) of hills, valleys, and shores.

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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 [9]. Brief descriptions of the common dominants and associates are
presented below.

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) [27].
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) [17].
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 [13], black
oak-eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) dunes in Michigan [61], and
turkey oak sandhills in Georgia [55].
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) [66].


BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS


SPECIES: Opuntia humifusa


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
flattened, orbicular,
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 [19].

Physiology:
Eastern pricklypear is considered highly drought tolerant [83].


RAUNKIAER [
65] LIFE FORM:

Hemicryptophyte
Stem succulent


REGENERATION PROCESSES:


Eastern pricklypear reproduces from seeds, by layering, and sprouting from detached
stem segments and the caudex [19,75,83].

Breeding system:
Eastern pricklypear is monoecious [9].
Pollination:
Eastern pricklypear is pollinated by insects [9].
Seed production:
Throughout much of its distribution, eastern pricklypear relies primarily on
seeds for reproduction [83]. Flowers and fruits are 1st produced at 2 years of
age [24].
Seed dispersal:
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
[25,83].



Seed banking:
No further information is available on this topic.
Germination:
Germination rate is reported to be low for seeds of Opuntia species [75]. 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% [25].



Seedling establishment/growth:
Although the literature reports that eastern pricklypear regenerates by seeds
[9], information is lacking on the specifics of seedling establishment and
growth.
Asexual regeneration:
Layering occurs when pads still attached to the parent plant take root into soil. Detached pads
also readily root into soil [75]. The pads can disperse by attaching to animals by the spines [83].
Opuntia species can sprout from the caudex when the
aboveground portion of the plant is destroyed [19].


SITE CHARACTERISTICS:


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
temperatures [9,44].

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 [53].
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 [9].


SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:


Eastern pricklypear is shade intolerant [50] and is
generally replaced by other species in advanced stages of succession [9].
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 [76]. On the dunes of southern
Lake Michigan, it appears in early seral stages where it invades the beachgrass
(Ammophilia breviligulata)-prairie
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 [61]. Eastern pricklypear
is found in "climax" sand sagebrush communities in northeastern
Colorado [64].

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:

Eastern pricklypear flowers from May to July [9]. Plants in Florida may
bloom year-round [87]. Fruits mature 2 to 3 months after flowering and may
persist until the following spring [9].

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

More info on this topic.

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 [70]:

211 Creosote bush scrub

212 Blackbush

310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland

501 Saltbush-greasewood

502 Grama-galleta

505 Grama-tobosa shrub

508 Creosotebush-tarbush

601 Bluestem prairie

602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed

603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass

604 Bluestem-grama prairie

605 Sandsage prairie

606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass

607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass

608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass

609 Wheatgrass-grama

611 Blue grama-buffalo grass

612 Sagebrush-grass

704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass

705 Blue grama-galleta

706 Blue grama-sideoats grama

707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama

709 Bluestem-grama

710 Bluestem prairie

711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie

714 Grama-bluestem

715 Grama-buffalo grass

717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass

718 Mesquite-grama

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

728 Mesquite-granjeno-acacia

729 Mesquite

730 Sand shinnery oak

731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma

732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)

733 Juniper-oak

734 Mesquite-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

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Habitat: Cover Types

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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 [33]:

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

68 Mesquite

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

239 Pinyon-juniper

240 Arizona cypress

241 Western live oak

242 Mesquite

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

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 [52] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:

K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland

K027 Mesquite bosques

K038 Great Basin sagebrush

K039 Blackbrush

K040 Saltbush-greasewood

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

K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass

K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass

K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass

K069 Bluestem-grama prairie

K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie

K071 Shinnery

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

K111 Oak-hickory-pine

K112 Southern mixed forest

K114 Pocosin

K115 Sand pine scrub

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

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):

ECOSYSTEMS [36]:

FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine

FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine

FRES15 Oak-hickory

FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress

FRES18 Maple-beech-birch

FRES29 Sagebrush

FRES30 Desert shrub

FRES31 Shinnery

FRES32 Texas savanna

FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe

FRES35 Pinyon-juniper

FRES38 Plains grasslands

FRES39 Prairie

FRES40 Desert grasslands

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Eastern Prickly Pear in Illinois

Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)
(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)

Bees (long-tongued)
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)

Bees (short-tongued)
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)

Beetles
Buprestidae: Acmaeodera tubulus (McR)

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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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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fire frequency, frequency

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 [10].

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: cactus

Eastern pricklypear establishes from singed or unburned pads after fire [10]. 
It probably also establishes from on- and off-site seed sources and pads
transported onto burns from off-site sources [12]; 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/m² 3 months after fire, 26 g/m² 1 year
after fire, and 10 g/m² 2 years after fire [2]. 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 [19].

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the terms: high-severity fire, litter

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 [10].

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the term: root crown

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [73]:

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)

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: cacti, caudex, layering, litter, low-severity fire

Fire adaptations:

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 [77].

FIRE REGIMES:
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 EcosystemDominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
maple-beech-birchAcer-Fagus-Betula spp. >1,000
sugar mapleAcer saccharum >1,000
sugar maple-basswoodAcer saccharum-Tilia americana >1,000 [82]
bluestem prairieAndropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [51,62]
Nebraska sandhills prairieAndropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium <10
bluestem-Sacahuista prairieAndropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae <10 [62]
basin big sagebrushArtemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [68]
mountain big sagebrushArtemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [5,20,57]
Wyoming big sagebrushArtemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (µ=40) [81,88]
saltbush-greasewoodAtriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus <35 to <100 [62]
plains grasslandsBouteloua spp. <35 [62,86]
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrassBouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [62,67,86]
blue grama-buffalo grassBouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides <35 [62,86]
grama-galleta steppeBouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii <35 to <100
blue grama-tobosa prairieBouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica <35 to <100
blackbrushColeogyne ramosissima <35 to <100
Arizona cypressCupressus arizonica <35 to 200 [62]
beech-sugar mapleFagus spp.-Acer saccharum >1,000 [82]
juniper-oak savannaJuniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana <35
Rocky Mountain juniperJuniperus scopulorum <35 [62]
cedar gladesJuniperus virginiana 3-22 [42,62]
creosotebushLarrea tridentata <35 to <100
Ceniza shrubLarrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa <35 [62]
wheatgrass plains grasslandsPascopyrum smithii <5-47+ [62,63,86]
pinyon-juniperPinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [62]
jack pinePinus banksiana <35 to 200 [30]
shortleaf pinePinus echinata 2-15
shortleaf pine-oakPinus echinata-Quercus spp. <10
slash pinePinus elliottii 3-8
slash pine-hardwoodPinus elliottii-variable <35
sand pinePinus elliottii var. elliottii 25-45 [82]
South Florida slash pinePinus elliottii var. densa 1-15 [59,72,82]
Jeffrey pinePinus jeffreyi 5-30
western white pine*Pinus monticola 50-200 [4]
longleaf-slash pinePinus palustris-P. elliottii 1-4 [59,82]
longleaf pine-scrub oakPinus palustris-Quercus spp. 6-10 [82]
pitch pinePinus rigida 6-25 [18,45]
pocosinPinus serotina 3-8
loblolly pinePinus taeda 3-8
loblolly-shortleaf pinePinus taeda-P. echinata 10 to <35
Virginia pinePinus virginiana 10 to <35
Virginia pine-oakPinus virginiana-Quercus spp. 10 to <35 [82]
galleta-threeawn shrubsteppePleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea <35 to <100 [62]
mesquiteProsopis glandulosa <35 to <100 [56,62]
mesquite-buffalo grassProsopis glandulosa-Buchloe dactyloides <35
Texas savannaProsopis glandulosa var. glandulosa <10 [62]
oak-hickoryQuercus-Carya spp. <35 [82]
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest)Quercus-Juniperus spp. <35 to <200 [62]
northeastern oak-pineQuercus-Pinus spp. 10 to <35
southeastern oak-pineQuercus-Pinus spp. <10 [82]
coast live oakQuercus agrifolia 2-75 [41]
white oak-black oak-northern red oakQuercus alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra <35
bur oakQuercus macrocarpa <10 [82]
oak savannaQuercus macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium 2-14 [62,82]
shinneryQuercus mohriana <35 [62]
post oak-blackjack oakQuercus stellata-Q. marilandica <10
black oakQuercus velutina <35
live oakQuercus virginiana 10 to<100 [82]
interior live oakQuercus wislizenii <35 [4]
cabbage palmetto-slash pineSabal palmetto-Pinus elliottii <10 [59,82]
blackland prairieSchizachyrium scoparium-Nassella leucotricha <10
Fayette prairieSchizachyrium scoparium-Buchloe dactyloides <10 [82]
little bluestem-grama prairieSchizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. <35 [62]

*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Opuntia humifusa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Opuntia humifusa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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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
Majure, L.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
Opuntia humifusa is assessed as Least Concern due to its wide distribution and large number of locations.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread throughout the United States.

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Population

Population
The species has been recorded from over 300 localities. Each observed subpopulation has numerous mature individuals and overall the population is considered stable.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
Major threats to this species include habitat loss and overcollection for ornamental purposes.
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Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species is located in numerous protected areas throughout its range. No specific conservation measures are proposed.
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Management considerations

More info for the terms: cactus, forbs

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
[83].

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 [12].
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 [80].
Eastern pricklypear is susceptible to damage by the cactus bug, a cochineal
scale, and several species of cactus borers [25].

Opuntia humifusa:

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These species are introduced in Switzerland.
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© Info Flora (CRSF/ZDSF) & Autoren 2005

Supplier: Name It's Source (profile not public)

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full to partial sunlight (at least one-half day of sun), mesic to dry conditions, and sandy or rocky soil. Soil containing loam or clay-loam is tolerated if it is well-drained. Older stems on the ground have a tendency to become brown and woody with age, which is natural. It is faster and easier to start new plants using pads, rather than seeds; detached pads form new roots in the ground readily. This is the easiest cactus to grow in Illinois because of its tolerance of moisture, humidity, and cold winter weather. It also blooms more reliably than most cacti. Range & Habitat
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Other uses and values

More info for the term: fresh

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 [32]. Native Americans used the mucilaginous
stem sap as a wound dressing [37].

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the terms: fresh, reclamation, restoration

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 [24].

Opuntia seeds germinate most readily when they are fresh. Dried seeds require
scarification to induce germination [3]. Eastern
eastern pricklypear is easily established from stem cuttings buried to
approximately three-fifths of their length [75], and can be
artificially propagated using tissue culture [85].

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the terms: cacti, fresh

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 [15]. Gopher tortoises will feed on
the stems, fruits and seeds, but
eastern pricklypear does not constitute a large percentage of their diet [14].
White-tailed deer in North Carolina feed on eastern
eastern pricklypear fruits in the fall and winter [43]. The ornate box turtle,
endangered in Wisconsin, feeds on the stems and fruits [23].

The pads of Opuntia spp. can be used as emergency livestock forage after
the spines have been singed off [47].
Palatability/nutritional value:
Eastern pricklypear is low in nutritional value for livestock [47].
The nutritional value of fresh, immature eastern pricklypear stems in the
United States is as follows [60]:


Percent composition

Percent digestible protein

ash2.6cattle0.5
crude fiber1.2horses0.4
protein0.9domestic sheep0.5
  domestic rabbits0.5

Cover value: Snakes and lizards
hide under the pads to avoid the sun. Birds, including northern bobwhites, nest
in eastern pricklypear cacti, using the protection offered by the
spines [23,46].

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Wikipedia

Opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa in fruit by the beach at Welwyn Preserve, Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, October 2014

Opuntia humifusa, commonly known as the Eastern Prickly Pear or Indian Fig, is a native cactus found in parts of eastern North America.

Distribution[edit]

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.[1]

Description[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Habitat[edit]

This plant is very intolerant of shade. It thrives in full sun and needs well-drained soil.

Taxonomy[edit]

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.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Plants Profile: Opuntia humifusa". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  2. ^ "4. Opuntia humifusa", Flora of North America 
  3. ^ Hector, Michael. "Michigan prickly pear". 
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