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Useful Temperate Plants

Opuntia phaeacantha

Engelm.

Cactaceae

+ Synonyms

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

No Image.

General Information

Opuntia phaeacantha is a spiny, evergreen, succulent, prostrate to sprawling shrubby cactus, often forming large clumps up to 90cm tall and 250cm 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 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)[
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.
,
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.

Range

Central and south-western N. America - California to Kansas, south to northern Mexixo and Texas

Habitat

Dry prairies and open woodlands, often on sandy soils[
227
Title
Trees of North Texas
Publication
 
Author
Vines. R.A.
Publisher
University of Texas Press.
Year
1982
ISBN
0292780206
Description
A readable guide to the area, it contains descriptions of the plants and their habitats with quite a bit of information on plant uses.
]. 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[
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 *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Perennial
Height0.50 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

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[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
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.

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.
]. Juicy[
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.
]. They can be made into a jelly or baked with sugar, cinnamon etc[
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 obovate, reddish purple to purple, fleshy fruits are 35 - 80mm long and 20 - 40mm in diameter[
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..
].

Seed - dried, parched and ground into a meal, then eaten as a gruel or added to flour and used in making cakes etc[
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.
,
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
].

Young stem segments - cooked. Boiled or roasted, then used like green beans[
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.
,
1483
Title
Minangmose (Gymnocladus assamicus) and Dekang (Gymnocladus Burmanicus): Culturally important and endangered trees of
Publication
Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol 9(3), July 2010, pp 419-429
Author
Singh R.K.; Srivastava R.C.; Adi tribe; Monpa tribe; Khasi t
Publisher
 
Year
2010
ISBN
 
Description
 
]. 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.

Medicinal

A poultice of the heated stem segments has been applied to the breasts of a nursing mother in order to encourage milk flow[
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
].

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

A red paint is obtained simply by crushing the fruits. It is used as a face paint[
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 juice of the frits is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a humectant[
1243
Title
CosIng
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/cosing/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
CosIng is the European Commission database for information on cosmetic substances and ingredients.
].

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. 2022-11-27. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Opuntia+phaeacantha>

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