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Useful Temperate Plants

Opuntia basilaris

Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Cactaceae

+ Synonyms

Opuntia brachyclada Griffiths

Opuntia humistrata Griffiths

Opuntia intricata Griffiths

Opuntia longiareolata Clover & Jotter

Opuntia treleasei J.M.Coult.

Opuntia whitneyana E.M.Baxter

Common Name: Beavertail Prickly Pear

No Image.

General Information

Opuntia basilaris is a spiny, succulent, evergreen shrubby cactus with flattened, segmented stems; it forms clumps of growth usually around 7 - 40cm tall and 25 - 50cm wide. Individual stem segments are around 8 - 14cm long and 4 - 10cm wide[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
,
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine. It is grown as an ornamental in arid and semi-arid areas, valued especially for its flowers.
Opuntia basilaris has a very wide range, is common and although there are threats in parts of its range which are impacting some of the varieties, there are no concerns for the species overall. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2017)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

The plant has numerous minutely barbed glochids - these are barbed spines that are usually small to minute and are very sharp and brittle. The glochids are very easily dislodged when the plant is touched and can penetrate the skin where, because of their barbs, they become stuck and are very difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable irritation and discomfort[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
1999
Title
A natural history of the Sonoran Desert
Publication
 
Author
Phillips S.J. & Comus P.W.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles, California
Year
2000
ISBN
0-520-22029-3
Description
 
].
Opuntia species can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, especially in older parts of the plant. Perfectly alright in small quantities, foods containing oxalic acid should not be eaten in large amounts since it can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
1999
Title
A natural history of the Sonoran Desert
Publication
 
Author
Phillips S.J. & Comus P.W.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles, California
Year
2000
ISBN
0-520-22029-3
Description
 
].

Botanical References

270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
,
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 

Range

Southwest N. America - California, southern Nevada, southwest Utah, Arizona, northwest Mexico (Baja California Norte, Sonora)

Habitat

Sandy or rocky soil with chipping in chaparral, woodlands, desert flats, plains, valleys, streams and hills generally in hot deserts; at elevations from 100 - 1,800 metres[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
,
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height0.30 m
PollinatorsBees, Insects
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Opuntia basilaris is a plant of semi-arid to very arid regions of southwest N. America that receive most of their rainfall in the winter. Plants are capable of withstanding temperatures falling as low as -18°c in arid climates. It is also very drought tolerant - in severe droughts most or even all of the stem segments can drop from the plant, but it will grow new segments with the next rains[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
].
In cultivation, Cactus plants generally will not succeed in moist climates. They usually require a sunny position in a well-drained, circumneutral soil and to be kept more or less dry in the dormant season[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - cooked. Immature fruits have a moist flesh, becoming dry at maturity[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
,
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]. The young fruit was eaten after having been cooked for about 12 hours in a pit lined with hot stones[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
1438
Title
Food Plants in the Americas: A Survey of the Domesticated, Cultivated, and Wild Plants Used for Human Food in North,
Publication
 
Author
Kermath B.M.; Bennett B.C.' Pulsipher L.M.
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
A pre-publication draft of an amazing, on-going work first started in 1985. It contains information on more than 3,900 taxa from the Americas - from Arctic regions to the Tropics
]. The tan-coloured fruit is usually free of spines, it is around 20 - 40mm long and 15 - 23mm in diameter[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
];

The young stem segments are gathered in spring, their spines are removed by brushing the stems with bunches of grass, and the stems are then dried in the sun. These dried stems were later boiled with salt and eaten[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
]. The tender stem segments were also cooked in pits lined with stones, and were eaten immediately or dried and then stored for use in winter[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
1438
Title
Food Plants in the Americas: A Survey of the Domesticated, Cultivated, and Wild Plants Used for Human Food in North,
Publication
 
Author
Kermath B.M.; Bennett B.C.' Pulsipher L.M.
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
 
Description
A pre-publication draft of an amazing, on-going work first started in 1985. It contains information on more than 3,900 taxa from the Americas - from Arctic regions to the Tropics
].

Flower buds - cooked[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]. They can be dried and stored for later use[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
].

Seeds - cooked[
1991
Title
Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A flora in southwestern Arizona. Part 7. Eudicots: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Publication
Phytoneuron 2014-69: 1-95
Author
Felger R.S. et al
Publisher
 
Year
2014
ISBN
2153 733X
Description
 
]. They can be ground into a powder and eaten as a mush or used to prepare a kind of atole[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
]. Atole is a thick drink that is made with cornmeal (with or without other ground seeds), water, raw sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and is served warm

Medicinal

A poultice made from the inner part of the stem segments is applied to cuts and wounds in order to relieve pain[
1987
Title
The Cactus Family
Publication
 
Author
Anderson E.F.
Publisher
Timber Press; Portland, Oregon
Year
2001
ISBN
0-88192-498-9
Description
An excellent work, giving botanical descriptions of virtually all the cacti, together with their range (but not their habitats) and sometimes also a photo. it also contains a long chapter detailing the many uses of cacti and another on cultivation..
].

We have no further specific information on medicinal uses for this species, but the following notes are likely to apply universally to Opuntia species and other related genera[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].


The mucilage and soluble fibre found in the flowers and stem segments have been shown to help control blood-sugar levels associated with adult-onset diabetes[
1999
Title
A natural history of the Sonoran Desert
Publication
 
Author
Phillips S.J. & Comus P.W.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles, California
Year
2000
ISBN
0-520-22029-3
Description
 
].
There is clinical evidence that the soluble fibre in the stem segments helps reduce blood cholesterol levels[
1999
Title
A natural history of the Sonoran Desert
Publication
 
Author
Phillips S.J. & Comus P.W.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles, California
Year
2000
ISBN
0-520-22029-3
Description
 
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

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.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2022-11-27. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Opuntia+basilaris>

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