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Useful Temperate Plants

Opuntia macrorhiza

Engelm.

Cactaceae

+ Synonyms

Cactus tuberculatus Willd.

Opuntia compressa macrorhiza (Engelm.) L.D.Benson

Opuntia fusiformis Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Opuntia grandiflora (Engelm.) Small

Opuntia grandiflora Engelm.

Opuntia leptocarpa Mackensen

Opuntia loomisii Peebles

Opuntia mesacantha grandiflora Engelm.

Opuntia mesacantha greenii J.M.Coult.

Opuntia mesacantha macrorhiza (Engelm.) J.M.Coult.

Opuntia mesacantha stenochila (Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow) J.M.Coult.

Opuntia penicilligera Speg.

Opuntia plumbea Rose

Opuntia rafinesquei grandiflora Engelm.

Opuntia roseana Mackensen

Opuntia seguina C.Z.Nelson

Opuntia stenochila Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Opuntia tuberculata (Willd.) Haw.

Opuntia xanthoglochia Griffiths

Common Name: Twist-Spine Prickly Pear

No Image.

General Information

Opuntia macrorhiza is a spiny, succulent, evergreen shrubby cactus forming a low clump of growth around 13cm tall and 2 metres or more wide[
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, medicine and source of materials.
Opuntia macrorhiza has a very wide range, is abundant, and there are no threats. 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

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.
,
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

Central and southern N. America - Utah to Missouri, south to northern Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas

Habitat

Sandy, gravelly or rocky soil in grasslands, xerophyllous scrub and pine-juniper forests; at elevations from 600 - 2,100 metres[
228
Title
Flora of the Great Plains.
Publication
 
Author
McGregor. R. L. & Barkley. T. M.
Publisher
University Press of Kansas.
Year
1986
ISBN
0-7006-0295-x
Description
A useful source of habitats.
,
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.
]. Plants can sometimes persist for years under invading trees[
228
Title
Flora of the Great Plains.
Publication
 
Author
McGregor. R. L. & Barkley. T. M.
Publisher
University Press of Kansas.
Year
1986
ISBN
0-7006-0295-x
Description
A useful source of habitats.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height0.12 m
PollinatorsBees, Insects
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Opuntia macrorhiza is a fairly cold tolerant plant, requiring an arid or semi-arid climate with hot summers.
Requires a sandy or very well-drained soil[
160
Title
Wonder Crops. 1987.
Publication
 
Author
Natural Food Institute,
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5[
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.
]. Plants must be kept fairly dry in the winter but they like a reasonable supply of water in the growing 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.
]. A position at the base of a south-facing wall or somewhere that can be protected from winter rain is best for this plant. Requires warmth and plenty of sun. Plants tolerate considerable neglect.
This species is closely related to Opuntia humifusa[
235
Title
An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada
Publication
 
Author
Britton. N. L. Brown. A.
Publisher
Dover Publications. New York.
Year
1970
ISBN
0-486-22642-5
Description
Reprint of a 1913 Flora, but still a very useful book.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - raw, cooked or dried for later use[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
,
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
]. Sweet and gelatinous[
85
Title
Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
Publication
 
Author
Harrington. H. D.
Publisher
University of New Mexico Press
Year
1967
ISBN
0-8623-0343-9
Description
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
]. Lean and insipid[
95
Title
Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada.
Publication
 
Author
Saunders. C. F.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1976
ISBN
0-486-23310-3
Description
Useful wild plants of America. A pocket guide.
]. The unripe fruits can be added to soups etc, imparting an okra-like mucilaginous quality[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. The fruit can hang on the plant all year round[
160
Title
Wonder Crops. 1987.
Publication
 
Author
Natural Food Institute,
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
]. Be careful of the plants irritant hairs, see notes above. The fruits are about 4cm in diameter and usually free of spines[
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.
].

Stem segments - cooked or raw[
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
]. Watery and very mucilaginous[
85
Title
Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains.
Publication
 
Author
Harrington. H. D.
Publisher
University of New Mexico Press
Year
1967
ISBN
0-8623-0343-9
Description
A superb book. Very readable, it gives the results of the authors experiments with native edible plants.
].
The tender young stem segments of various species are often cooked as a vegetable[
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.
]. 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 hyptiacantha (syn Opuntia matudae), although the stems of almost all Opuntia species are edible[
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.
,
2001
Title
Uses of Opuntia Species and the potential impact of Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera; Pyralidae) in Mexco
Publication
Florida Entomologist 84(4) pp 493-498 2001
Author
Vigueras A.L. & Portillo L.
Publisher
 
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
 
].

Seed - dried or briefly roasted then 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
].

Medicinal

The spines are used to lance skin infections[
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 are roasted to obtain a lubricant that is used in childbirth[
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
].

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

The following notes are for Opuntia ficus indica. They almost certainly also apply to this species[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

A gum is obtained from the stem. It is used as a masticatory or mixed with oil to make candles[
64
Title
Vegetable Gums and Resins.
Publication
 
Author
Howes. F. N.
Publisher
Faber
Year
 
ISBN
81-88818-17-8
Description
A very good book dealing with the subject in a readable way.
]. The juice of the boiled stem segments is very sticky. It is added to plaster, whitewash etc to make it adhere better to walls[
92
Title
Early Uses of Californian Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Balls. E. K.
Publisher
University of California Press
Year
1975
ISBN
0-520-00072-2
Description
A nice readable book.
].

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. 2023-01-29. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Opuntia+macrorhiza>

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