AZ Arboretums

Opuntia phaeacantha v. discata
(Opuntia engelmannii)

Prickly pear

Common: Engelmann's prickly pear, Nopal, Purple fruit prickly pear
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, as well as in northern Mexico. Sandy soils of flats, hills, and valleys in deserts and grasslands. 1,500 to 7,000 feet elevation.

Effective hedge and screening plant. Good choice for wildlife gardens, desert gardens, and cactus gardens. Makes a nice background to other low desert species.

Grows to 5 feet. Wide, spreading cactus to 15 feet in diameter. Green to bluish green stems with circular or oblong pad, 16" long to 9" wide. In upright or sprawling chains. Spines are ash-gray to white, up to 3 inches long. Spines are flattened, curved or straight. Areoles have brown or yellowish glochids.

Yellow, orange or reddish flowers to 3-1/5 inches wide. Flowers appear on edge of flat pad, followed by smooth red to purplish, cylindrical fruit, to 3 inches long.

Fruits, called tunas, are eaten by birds and rodents, and used for jelly and making red dye.

Most common prickly pear in Arizona.

Pollinated by bees. Javelinas eat pads. Stem pulp is used to make face cream and water purifier. Glochids are difficult to remove from the skin. "Itching powder" is made from the glochids.\