Opuntia humifusa

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Eastern prickly pear
Prickly pear MN 2007.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Opuntia
O. humifusa
Binomial name
Opuntia humifusa
(Raf.) Raf.
Opuntia humifusa in fruit by the beach at Welwyn Preserve, Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, October 2014

Opuntia humifusa, commonly known as the devil's-tongue,[1] Eastern prickly pear or Indian fig, is a cactus of the genus Opuntia present in parts of eastern North America.


As is the case in other Opuntia species, the green stems of this low-growing perennial cactus are flattened, and are formed of segments. Barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments, and longer spines are sometimes present.[2] The flowers are yellow to gold in color, and are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers. They measure 4–6 cm (1 582 38 in) across. This cactus blooms in the late spring.

The juicy and edible red or purple fruits[3] measure from 3–5 cm (1 18–2 in). As the fruit matures, it changes colour from green to red, and often remains on the cactus until the following spring. There are 6 to 33 small, flat, light-colored seeds in each fruit.


This species was originally native to arid areas of Montana southward to New Mexico, and eastward to the lower Great Lakes, and along the East Coast from the Florida Keys to coastal Connecticut.[4][failed verification] Its northern-most range is known to be Cape Cod, Nantucket, and some parts of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, although it does not appear to occur naturally in Rhode Island.[5]


Some botanists treat this cactus as a variety of Opuntia compressa: hence Opuntia compressa var. humifusa, or a synonym of Opuntia compressa. Those recognizing this species treat Opuntia rafinesquii as a junior synonym.


This plant is very intolerant of shade. It thrives in full sun in hot and dry environments and needs well-drained soil. Opuntia humifusa will grow in open or exposed areas in rocky and coastal scrub habits as well as at elevations where the winter is hard.



  1. ^ "Opuntia humifusa". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  2. ^ "4. Opuntia humifusa", Flora of North America
  3. ^ Niering, William A.; Olmstead, Nancy C. (1985) [1979]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Knopf. p. 436. ISBN 0-394-50432-1.
  4. ^ "Plants Profile: Opuntia humifusa". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  5. ^ Eastern Prickly Pear Opuntia humifusa (PDF) (Report). Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 21, 2018.

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