Opuntia macrorhiza is a common and widespread species of cactus with the common names plains prickly pear or twistspine pricklypear or Western pricklypear. It is found throughout the Great Plains of the United States, from Texas to Minnesota, as well as in the desert and Rocky Mountain states from Arizona to Idaho, with sporadic populations in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. It is also reported from northern Mexico, in the states of Chihuahua, Sonora, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Durango, Tamaulipas, and San Luís Potosí. The species is cultivated as an ornamental in other locations.
The species prefers dry, sandy or gravelly soils. It is one of the shorter species of the genus, rarely over 30 cm (1 foot) tall, spreading horizontally and forming large clumps. Flowers are showy and bright yellow, sometimes with red markings near the base of the petals. Fruits are narrow, red, juicy and edible.
Several varieties have proposed within the species. More study is needed to determine whether these should continue to be recognized as varieties, elevated to species status, or regarded as mere synonyms.
- The Plant List, Opuntia macrorhiza Engelm.
- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Profile
- Encyclopedia of Life
- Biota of North America Program, 2014 county distribution map
- SEINet, Southwestern Biodiversity, Arizona chapter photos, description, distribution map
- Flora of North America, Opuntia macrorhiza Engelmann, 1850. Western pricklypear
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