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Useful Temperate Plants

Opuntia engelmannii

Salm-Dyck ex Engelm.

Cactaceae

+ Synonyms

Opuntia bensonii Sánchez-Mej.

Opuntia caesia Griffiths

Opuntia discata Griffiths

Opuntia expansa Griffiths

Opuntia flavescens Peebles

Opuntia magnarenensis Griffiths

Opuntia megacarpa Griffiths

Opuntia microcarpa Engelm.

Opuntia neochrysacantha Bravo

Opuntia × occidentalis megacarpa (Griffiths) Munz

Opuntia phaeacantha discata (Griffiths) L.D.Benson & Walk.

Opuntia procumbens Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Opuntia riparia Griffiths

Opuntia tardospina Griffiths

Opuntia valida Griffiths

Opuntia cantabrigiensis Lynch

Opuntia cuija (Griffiths & Hare) Rose

Opuntia flavispina C.F.Först.

Opuntia phaeacantha flavispina L.D.Benson

Opuntia laevis J.M.Coult.

Opuntia phaeacantha laevis (J.M.Coult.) L.D.Benson

Opuntia convexa Mackensen

Opuntia deltica Griffiths

Opuntia ferruginispina Griffiths

Opuntia gilvoalba Griffiths

Opuntia gomei Griffiths

Opuntia griffithsiana Mackensen

Opuntia haematocarpa A.Berger

Opuntia laxiflora Griffiths

Opuntia lindheimeri Engelm.

Opuntia linguiformis Griffiths

Opuntia pyrocarpa Griffiths

Opuntia reflexa Mackensen

Opuntia sinclairii Griffiths

Opuntia squarrosa Griffiths

Opuntia subarmata Griffiths

Opuntia texana Griffiths

Opuntia tricolor Griffiths

Opuntia winteriana A.Berger

Common Name: Cactus Apple

No Image.

General Information

Opuntia engelmannii is a spiny, succulent, evergreen shrubby or tree-like cactus with a short trunk and a dense mass of spreading stems; it can grow 100 - 350cm tall[
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.
,
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..
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine.
Opuntia engelmannii has a very wide range, is abundant, and no major threats are known. 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.
].
The plant spreads mainly by vegetative reproduction and can become a weed of agriculture when the land is ploughed, forming virtually impenetrable masses of growth, outcompeting the introduced grasses and, often, other native plants[
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..
].

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.
,
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..

Range

Southwest N. America - California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, to central and southern Mexico

Habitat

Xerophyllous scrub, grasslands, pine-juniper and oak forest; at elevations from 150 - 1,800 metres[
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

Weed PotentialYes
Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height2.50 m
PollinatorsBees, Insects
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details


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 - raw or cooked, Of good quality, the flesh is succulent, sweet and juicy[
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
,
1990
Title
Cacti Biology and Uses
Publication
 
Author
Nobel, Park S. (Editor)
Publisher
University of California Press; Berkeley, California
Year
2002
ISBN
0-520-23157-0
Description
A lot of information about the uses and cultivation of Cacti native to central Mexico
,
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
 
]. It makes an excellent juice and is often used to make a jelly[
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
,
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 dark red to purple, ovate-elongate to barrel-shaped fruit is 35 - 90mm long and 20 - 40mm 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.
].
During their season the fruits (tunas) of various Opuntia species are the principal food of the people in certain parts of Mexico, and enormous quantities of them are consumed. Usually they are eaten raw, but they are also cooked in various ways, and sweetmeats are made from them.
The dried fruit can be pressed into large cakes (Queso de tuna ) and is widely sold in local markets. Miel de tuna is a syrup prepared from the fruit. Melcocha is a thick paste made by boiling down the juice. Colonche is the boiled and fermented juice. Nochote or nochocle is a fermented beverage prepared from tuna juice, together with pulque, and water. Tejuino also is a beverage prepared from the juice of the fruit[
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.
].

Stem segments - cooked. Fried[
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 stem segments of Opuntia species are known as ‘nopals’ in Mexico where they are a common ingredient in numerous dishes. They can be eaten raw or cooked, used in marmalades, soups, stews and salads. The most commonly used species are Opuntia ficus-indica or Opuntia matudae although the stems of almost all Opuntia species are edible.

Flowers[
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
]. This report probably refers to the flower buds[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. Opuntia flower buds are a rich source of calcium and soluble fibre, as well as containing significant protein[
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
 
]

Seeds. Dried and ground into a powder[
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 seeds of Opuntia species can be ground into a powder and used as a gruel or 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

Heated stem segments are applied to a new mother's breasts in order to stimulate the flow of milk[
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 flesh of tender young stem segments can be applied as a poultice to reduce inflammation[
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 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+engelmannii>

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