Opuntia phaeacantha is a species of prickly pear cactus known by the common names tulip prickly pear and desert prickly pear found across the southwestern United States, lower Great Plains, and northern Mexico. The plant forms dense but localized thickets. Several varieties of this particular species occur, and it also hybridizes easily with other prickly pears, making identification sometimes tricky.
O. phaeacantha has a characteristic prickly pear appearance, with flattened green pads bearing wool and spines. The spines are brown, reddish-brown, or gray, and often over 3 cm in length.
The flowers are usually bright yellow with reddish centers, and sometimes peach, pinkish or reddish overall. The edible fruits are red or purple with green flesh. The pads and fruit bear tiny glochids which can lodge in the skin and cause irritation.
This plant, like other Opuntia species, is attacked by cactus moth.
Older names for this species, and names for old species which are now considered variants of this species, include plateau prickly pear, brown-spined prickly-pear, Mojave prickly pear, and Kingman prickly pear.
- USDA Plants Profile: Opuntia phaeacantha
- Jepson Manual Treatment: Opuntia phaeacantha
- Opuntia phaeacantha Photo Gallery
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