Opuntia fragilis

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Opuntia fragilis

Secure (NatureServe)[2]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Opuntia
O. fragilis
Binomial name
Opuntia fragilis

Cactus fragilis
Opuntia brachyarthra

Opuntia fragilis, known by the common names brittle pricklypear and little prickly pear, is a prickly pear cactus native to much of western North America as well as some midwestern states such as Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. It also occurs in several Canadian provinces. It is known from farther north than any other cactus,[3] occurring at as far as 56°N latitude in British Columbia.[4] There is an isolated and possibly genetically unique population in Eastern Ontario known as the "Kaladar population".[5]


Opuntia fragilis is a small, prostrate plant, rarely more than 10 cm (4 in) high: joints tumid, fragile, easily detached, oval, elliptical, or subglobose, 3–5 cm (1–2 in) long and nearly as thick as broad, bright green: areoles 0.6–1.3 cm (1412 in) apart, with whitish wool and a few white to yellow bristles, which are much longer and more abundant on older joints; spines 1–4, occasionally a few small additional ones, weak, dark brown, the upper one usually longer and stronger than the others, rarely 2.5 cm (1 in) in length: flowers greenish yellow, 2.5–3.2 cm (1–1+14 in) wide: fruit ovate to subglobose with few spines or bristles, mostly sterile, 2.5 cm (1 in) or less long; seeds few and large.[6]

Subspecies and varieties[edit]

  • Var. brachyarthra, Coult. A plant with more swollen joints, more numerous and stronger spines, smaller flowers and more spiny fruit Colorado, New Mexico.
  • Var. caespitosa, Hort. Joints bright green, smaller and more crowded than in the type: flowers bright yellow. Colorado.
  • var. fragilis [7][8]
  • Var. tuberiformis, Hort. Joints olive-green, bulbous-looking. Colorado.



  1. ^ Pinkava, D.J.; Puente, R.; Baker, M. (2017) [amended version of 2013 assessment]. "Opuntia fragilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T151913A121572262. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T151913A121572262.en. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  2. ^ NatureServe (2024). "Opuntia fragilis". Arlington, Virginia. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  3. ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Cactus. Topic ed. Arthur Dawson. Ed.-in-chief Cutler J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
  4. ^ Gorelick, Root (2015). "Northern Range Limit of Opuntia fragilis and the Cactaceae is 56°N, Not 58°N". Madroño. 62 (2): 115–123. doi:10.3120/0024-9637-62.2.115. S2CID 85912474.
  5. ^ Mottiar, Yaseen; Chafe, Paul D.J.; Ribbens, Eric (2015). "Imperfect Flowers of Opuntia fragilis in Kaladar, Ontario". Haseltonia. 20: 22–25. doi:10.2985/026.020.0105. S2CID 84131774.
  6. ^ Haw.[clarification needed]
  7. ^ "Opuntia fragilis". Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center The University of Texas at Austin. 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2022-03-25.
  8. ^ "Opuntia fragilis". US Forest Service. Retrieved 2022-03-25.

External links[edit]