Cactus dillenii Ker Gawl.
Cactus strictus Haw.
Opuntia anahuacensis Griffiths
Opuntia dillenii (Ker Gawl.) Haw.
Opuntia inermis (DC.) DC.
Opuntia stricta is a shrubby, low-spreading to erect, evergreen cactus, sometimes forming large, wide clumps that are seldom more than 80cm tall, though occasional forms with definite trunks are known to grow 2 - 3 metres tall[
]. The plant varies considerably in degrees of spininess, ranging from forms that are completely free of spines up to forms with relatively abundant spines[
The plant has been cultivated through much of the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zone as a hedge plant and living fence, and also for sand dune fixation[
]. The fruits are occasionally eaten[
The plant has escaped from cultivation in many parts of the tropics and become an invasive pest species. The plant is capable of over-running large areas of land in a surprisingly short time[
Species in this genus generally have numerous minutely barbed glochids (hairs) that are easily dislodged when the plant is touched and they then become stuck to the skin where they are difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable discomfort[
Northern S. America - Ecuador, Venezuela; C. America; Caribbean; southern N. America - Texas to Florida and Virginia.
Coastal sand dunes, hammocks, edges of maritime forests, shell middens; at elevations around sea level[
]. Thickets, rocks, sandy soils in areas of southern China where it has become naturalized[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Requires a sunny position and a well-drained soil[
Opuntia stricta hybridizes with Oountia engelmannii (apparently var. lindheimeri) forming Opuntia × alta Griffiths (as species) along the coast of southeastern Texas and adjacent Louisiana. The hexaploid hybrid is arborescent to 3 metres; it has stem segments subcircular to oblong-ovate, with a glochid pattern intermediate of the putative parents, all yellow spines, and light green stigma lobes[
Fruits - raw[
]. Insipid but very juicy, they can be made into syrup, jam or jelly[
]. The pear-shaped, purplish, spine-free fruits can be up to 75mm long[
Young pads - cooked as a vegetable[
]. They can be cut into strips and boiled, or can be sun-dried for later use[
The fruit is said to have a value in the treatment of diabetes[
The plant is traditionally grown in living fences in the northwestern Himalayas, where it helps to exclude livestock and other animals; mark out land boundaries; whilst also providing a range of medicinal and other uses[
The plant spreads rapidly and has been used in the past to stabilize sand dunes, and to form hedges and living fences[
]. Due to the plants propensity to spread into native environments, however, this practice should only be carried out within its native range or any other areas where it has proved to be better behaved[
Seed - sow early spring in a very well-drained compost in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some protection from winter wet. Make sure you have some reserve plants in case those outdoors do not overwinter.
Cuttings of leaf pads at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a sandy compost. Very easy, rooting quickly.