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Opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf.

Opuntia calcicola Wherry

Opuntia compressa auct. non J.F. Macbr.

Opuntia compressa J.F. Macbr. var. allairei (Griffiths) D. Weniger nom. nud.

Opuntia compressa J.F. Macbr. var. fuscoatra (Engelm.) D. Weniger nom. nud.

Opuntia compressa J.F. Macbr. var. microsperma (Engelm. & Bigelow) L.D. Benson

Opuntia cumulicola Small

Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf. var. humifusa

Opuntia rafinesquei Engelm.

Eastern Prickly Pear

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassCaryophyllidaeCacti, many other succulents, carnivorous plants, and leadworts
OrderCaryophyllalesIncludes cacti, carnations, amaranths, ice plants, and many carnivorous plants
FamilyCactaceaeSucculent (water-storing) plants, often spiny
GenusOpuntiaPrickly pears
SpecieshumifusaMeans “strewn on the ground”

About plant names...

Eastern prickly pear is widespread in eastern North America.

Identification: I first encountered these in an outdoor botanical garden in Massachusetts, and I was amazed to learn that there are cacti that grow that far north. These cacti form low shrubs, sometimes lying very close to the ground and looking rather unhealthy. Oval stem segments resembling Mickey Mouse ears are green to red-purple, 1½-4" (4-10 cm) by 1½-2" (4-6 cm), and about ⅜" (1 cm) thick. Only the upper areoles have spines, which are gray or brownish and ¾-1¾" (2-5 cm) long. (Sometimes there are no spines.) Yellow flowers are up to 1" (3 cm) in diameter. The purplish or reddish fruits, called tunas, are ½-1½" (1.5-4 cm) long.

Edibility: The egg-shaped fruits are edible, and taste a little like watermelon.

References:

Anderson, Edward F., The Cactus Family, Timber Press, 2001, p. 501

Online References:

Opuntia humifusa at Illinois Wildflowers

Opuntia humifusa on FLORIDATA

Opuntia humifusa on the USDA Plants Database

Opuntia humifusa on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

Opuntia humifusa on the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Opuntia humifusa at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Opuntia humifusa on Wikipedia

Opuntia humifusa at the Vanderbilt University Bioimages web site

Opuntia humifusa on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site

Opuntia humifusa on eFloras

Opuntia humifusa description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.

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Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

5/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 24 × 18" (59 × 46 cm)

Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

5/22/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 31 × 21" (78 × 52 cm)

Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

6/15/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 3½ × 2½' (1.2 × 0.8 m)

Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

5/22/2010 · Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA
≈ 31 × 21" (78 × 52 cm)

Range:

About this map...