This species is treated here in the wider sense as including Opuntia dillenii (as per David Hunt, CITES Cactaceae Checklist, Third Edition, 2016)
Cactus dillenii Ker Gawl.
Cactus strictus Haw.
Opuntia anahuacensis Griffiths
Opuntia dillenii (Ker Gawl.) Haw.
Opuntia inermis (DC.) DC.
Cactus opuntia inermis DC.
Consolea bahamana (Britton & Rose) A.Berger
Opuntia airampo Phil.
Opuntia bahamana Britton & Rose
Opuntia balearica F.A.C.Weber ex Hirscht
Opuntia bartramii Raf.
Opuntia bentonii Griffiths
Opuntia keyensis Britton ex Small
Opuntia longiclada Griffiths
Opuntia magnifica Small
Opuntia nejapensis Bravo
Opuntia parva A.Berger
Opuntia tehuantepecana (Bravo) Bravo
Opuntia tenuiflora Small
Opuntia vulgaris balaerica F.A.C.Weber
Pilocereus flavispinus Rümpler
Pilocereus nobilis K.Schum.
Opuntia maritima Raf.
Opuntia melanosperma Svenson
Opuntia zebrina Small
Common Name: Erect Prickly Pear
Opuntia stricta is a shrubby, low-spreading to erect, evergreen cactus, sometimes forming large, wide clumps that are seldom more than 80cm tall, though occasional forms with definite trunks are known to grow 2 - 3 metres tall[
]. The plant varies considerably in degrees of spininess, ranging from forms that are completely free of spines up to forms with relatively abundant spines[
The plant has been cultivated through much of the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zone as a hedge plant and living fence, as well as for sand dune fixation, and also as an ornamental[
]. The fruits are occasionally eaten[
Opuntia stricta is widespread, common, has no major threats, and is found in many protected areas.The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2017)[
Opuntia stricta has escaped from cultivation in many parts of the tropics and become an invasive pest species in many areas. The plant is capable of over-running large areas of land in a surprisingly short time[
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[
Northern S. America - Ecuador, Venezuela; C. America; Caribbean; southern N. America - Texas to Florida and Virginia.
Coastal sand dunes, hammocks, edges of maritime forests, shell middens; at elevations around sea level[
]. Thickets, rocks, sandy soils in areas of southern China where it has become naturalized[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Requires a sunny position and a well-drained soil[
Opuntia stricta hybridizes with Oountia engelmannii (apparently var. lindheimeri) forming Opuntia × alta Griffiths (as species) along the coast of southeastern Texas and adjacent Louisiana. The hexaploid hybrid is arborescent to 3 metres; it has stem segments subcircular to oblong-ovate, with a glochid pattern intermediate of the putative parents, all yellow spines, and light green stigma lobes[
Fruits - raw[
]. Insipid but very juicy, they can be made into syrup, jam or jelly[
]. The pear-shaped, purplish, spine-free fruits can be up to 75mm long[
Young pads - raw or cooked as a vegetable[
]. They can be cut into strips and boiled, or can be sun-dried for later use[
]. A traditional method of cooking is first to boil, them, then strip of the outer skin and spines, fry them in oil with onions and chillis and season them with salt and pepper, making a slimy, acid tasting, palatable green.[
The fruit is said to have a value in the treatment of diabetes[
The plant (part not specified) is used in India to treat sores, pimples, even syphilis[
The stem joints are used in northern Thailand to make a tea for the treatment of stomachache, excess gas, and liver and spleen problems[
The stem jointes are used as a poultice[
We have nofurther 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 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[
The plant is traditionally grown in living fences in the northwestern Himalayas, where it helps to exclude livestock and other animals; mark out land boundaries; whilst also providing a range of medicinal and other uses[
The plant spreads rapidly and has been used in the past to stabilize sand dunes, and to form hedges and living fences[
]. Due to the plants propensity to spread into native environments, however, this practice should only be carried out within its native range or any other areas where it has proved to be better behaved[
The fruits have been used as a red dye for ropes made of hemp[
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.