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Useful Temperate Plants

Opuntia polyacantha

Haw.

Cactaceae

+ Synonyms

Opuntia arenaria Engelm.

Opuntia nicholii L.D.Benson

Cactus ferox Nutt.

Opuntia barbata K.Brandegee ex J.A.Purpus

Opuntia calacantha Otto ex J.Forbes

Opuntia erinacea utahensis (Engelm.) L.D.Benson

Opuntia heacockiae Arp

Opuntia juniperina Britton & Rose

Opuntia media Haw.

Opuntia missouriensis DC.

Opuntia neorutila Y.Itô

Opuntia rutila Nutt.

Opuntia schweriniana K.Schum.

Opuntia sphaerocarpa Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Opuntia spirocentra Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow ex Haage

Opuntia splendens Pfeiff.

Opuntia trichophora (Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow) Britton & Rose

Opuntia utahensis J.A.Purpus

Tunas polyacantha (Haw.) Nieuwl. & Lunell

Opuntia diploursina Stock, N.Hussey & Beckstrom

Opuntia erinacea Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Opuntia hystricina bensonii Backeb.

Opuntia hystricina ursina (F.A.C.Weber) Backeb.

Opuntia ursina F.A.C.Weber

Opuntia hystricina Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow

Opuntia rhodantha K.Schum.

Opuntia xanthostemma K.Schum.

Opuntia xerocarpa Griffiths

Common Name: Plains Prickly Pear

No Image.

General Information

Opuntia polyacantha is a spiny, evergreen succulent shrubby cactus with many branches, forming mats of growth around 10 - 25cm tall and several metres 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 polyacantha 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 western N. America - Alberta and Saskatchewan, south to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northeast Mexico

Habitat

Dry prairies, sand hills and rocks[
204
Title
Flora of Canada
Publication
 
Author
Livingstone. B.
Publisher
National Museums of Canada
Year
1978
ISBN
0-660-00025-3
Description
In 4 volumes, it does not deal with plant uses but gives descriptions and habitats.
]. Gravelly rocky soil under dry conditions in creosote bush scrub, pinyon-juniper and joshua tree woodland, chaparral and yellow pine forest at elevations of 300 - 2,800 metres[
276
Title
Flora of California
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.calflora.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line database of the Californian flora, giving details on plant habitats and photos of the plants.
,
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 Shrub
Height0.15 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Opuntia polyacantha is very tolerant of winter cold and snow, being found as far north as southern Canada. However, it needs hot summers and a faily dry climate in order to thrive, though a wet period of the year can be tolerated[
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.
].
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.
]. Must be kept fairly dry in winter but likes 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[
3
Title
Growing Unusual Fruit.
Publication
 
Author
Simmons. A. E.
Publisher
David & Charles; Newton Abbot.
Year
1972
ISBN
0-7153-5531-7
Description
A very readable book with information on about 100 species that can be grown in Britain (some in greenhouses) and details on how to grow and use them.
,
216
Title
Ethnobotany of the Hopi
Publication
 
Author
Whiting. A. F.
Publisher
North Arizona Society of Science and Art
Year
1939
ISBN
-
Description
A very good guide the the plant uses of the N. American Hopi Indians.
,
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.
]. 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 dried fruit can be mixed into stews or used to thicken soups[
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 is dry and spiny[
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.
]. The fruits of var erinacea are variously described as 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.
], and 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 tan to brown, more or less cylindrical fruit is around 15 - 45mm long and 12 - 25mm in diameter, 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.
]. 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 the notes above on toxicity.

Young stem segments are boiled and fried[
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.
]. The large hairs are burnt off, the segments are boiled and the remaining thorns washed off. The segments are then dipped in a syrup made from boiling sweetcorn seeds and then eaten[
216
Title
Ethnobotany of the Hopi
Publication
 
Author
Whiting. A. F.
Publisher
North Arizona Society of Science and Art
Year
1939
ISBN
-
Description
A very good guide the the plant uses of the N. American Hopi Indians.
].

Seed - dried, parched and ground into a meal, then 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.
].

Medicinal

The stems are astringent and diuretic[
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.
]. An infusion is used in the treatment of diarrhoea[
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.
].
A poultice of the flesh has been used to treat skin sores, infections, wounds and back aches[
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.
]. The peeled stem segments are applied to wounds as dressings[
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 fuzz of the stems (the irritant glochids?) was rubbed over warts to remove them[
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 peeled stems have been used as a mordant in fixing dyes[
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.
]. The mucilage in stems has been used as a mordant to stabilize fabric colouring[
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
]. Freshly cut stem segments are rubbed over the dyed pattern to fix the colours[
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
].

A pink to red dye is obtained from the fruit[
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.
].

The mucilage in the stems has been used to clarify drinking water[
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
]. Stem segments are split and placed in a container with the water, with the exuded sticky juice quickly clearing the water[
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
]

A gum is obtained from the stem that can be used as an adhesive[
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.
].

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. 2023-02-06. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Opuntia+polyacantha>

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