Opuntia angustata Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow
Opuntia arizonica Griffiths
Opuntia blakeana Rose
Opuntia camanchica Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow
Opuntia canada Griffiths
Opuntia chihuahuensis Rose
Opuntia comanchica Urlandt
Opuntia confusa Griffiths
Opuntia cyclodes (Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow) Rose
Opuntia dulcis Engelm.
Opuntia engelmannii cyclodes Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow
Opuntia engelmannii dulcis (Engelm.) J.M.Coult. ex K.Schum.
Opuntia engelmannii wootonii (Griffiths) Fosberg
Opuntia eocarpa Griffiths
Opuntia gilvescens Griffiths
Opuntia gregoriana Griffiths
Opuntia laevis canada (Griffiths) Peebles
Opuntia lindheimeri dulcis (Engelm.) J.M.Coult.
Opuntia mojavensis Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow
Opuntia platyacantha mojavensis (Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow) Schelle
Opuntia recurvospina Griffiths
Opuntia rubrifolia Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.
Opuntia superbospina Griffiths
Opuntia toumeyi Rose
Opuntia woodsii Backeb.
Opuntia wootonii Griffiths
Opuntia zuniensis Griffiths
Common Name: Bastard Fig
Opuntia phaeacantha is a spiny, evergreen, succulent, prostrate to sprawling shrubby cactus, often forming large clumps up to 90cm tall and 250cm wide[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Opuntia phaeacantha has a very wide range, is very abundant, and there are no threats. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2017)[
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[
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[
Central and south-western N. America - California to Kansas, south to northern Mexixo and Texas
Dry prairies and open woodlands, often on sandy soils[
]. Grasslands, pine-juniper woodland, xerophyllous scrub and chaparral, in sandy or rocky soils of hills, flats, valleys, it also grows on cliffs and canyon walls[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
Opuntia phaeacantha is native to arid and semi-arid climates in southwestern N. America. It is fairly cold tolerant, with reports of it surviving short periods with temperatures falling as low as -18°c, but requires a hot, non-humid climate if it is to thrive[
Requires a sandy or very well-drained soil[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5[
]. Plants must be kept fairly dry in the winter but they like a reasonable supply of water in the growing season[
]. 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.
Fruit - raw, cooked or dried for later use[
]. They can be made into a jelly or baked with sugar, cinnamon etc[
]. The obovate, reddish purple to purple, fleshy fruits are 35 - 80mm long and 20 - 40mm in diameter[
Seed - dried, parched and ground into a meal, then eaten as a gruel or added to flour and used in making cakes etc[
Young stem segments - cooked. Boiled or roasted, then used like green beans[
]. 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.
A poultice of the heated stem segments has been applied to the breasts of a nursing mother in order to encourage milk flow[
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[
The flesh of tender young stem segments can be applied as a poultice to reduce inflammation[
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[
There is clinical evidence that the soluble fibre in the stem segments helps reduce blood cholesterol levels[
A red paint is obtained simply by crushing the fruits. It is used as a face paint[
The juice of the frits is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a humectant[
The following notes are for Opuntia ficus indica. They almost certainly also apply to this species[
A gum is obtained from the stem. It is used as a masticatory or mixed with oil to make candles[
]. The juice of the boiled stem segments is very sticky. It is added to plaster, whitewash etc to make it adhere better to walls[
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.