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Brown-spine Prickly-Pear

Opuntia phaeacantha

Brown-spine Prickly-pear, Opuntia phaeacantha, photo © by Michael Plagens

Observed in grassland/chaparral habitat north of Carefree, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 30 May 2011.

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FLOWERS: Large, mostly yellow flowers with orange-red bases to petals. Numerous stamens with abundant pollen. Botany purists contend that the ‘petals’ should be called tepals, this because there is no clear distinction between the greenish sepals and the numerous, more showy petals.

JOINTS: The flattened stem joints are slightly oblong in outline and often trail along the ground forming thickets.

SPINES: The spines are long and the major central spines tend to be dark reddish brown. Minute spines called glochids are abundant.

SUCCULENT: Low growing prickly pear with pads rarely reaching more than 1 meter above ground level but spreading out up to several meters.

RANGE: Found mostly in the transition zones of upland Sonoran Desert where elements of chaparral and desert grassland are also present. Becomes more abundant in response to heavy grazing by cattle.

FRUIT: At maturity the fruit is a plump, red pear beset with many minute spines and numerous hard seeds inside.

Cactaceae - Cactus Family

Red fruits of Brown-spine Prickly-pear, Opuntia phaeacantha, photo © by Michael Plagens

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 21 June 2012