Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Black-Spined Prickly Pear

Opuntia macrocentra var. minor

Opuntia macrocentra var. minor is a Texas native. It is a smaller version of the O. macrocentra, found in Texas, New Mexico, and eastern Arizona. I didn’t go to Texas to get this cactus. When I volunteered at a Master Gardener cleanup earlier this year, the owner gave me a pad because I showed an interest in the species and had not seen the minor variety before. It has formed a few new pads since, and they are already showing the characteristic long dark spines of this species.

Although the long central spines are not completely black, the common name for this cactus is Black-Spined Prickly Pear. The long spines are only located near the top of the cactus pad. As with all Opuntia, it has numerous almost invisible glochids at each aureole. Although the central spines look scary, the glochids are far more problematic. I always wet prickly pear cactus when I handle them in order to cut down on the possibility of airborne glochids.

The regular O. macrocentra can grow to four feet high, but the minor variety will be about 30 percent smaller. When it blooms in spring, the flowers will be a bright yellow with a red center, followed by pink-red fruit. This cactus requires no supplemental water unless we have an unusually dry summer. It loves the Sahara desert heat, even though it is native of the Chihuahua desert.

As you can see in the photo, the pads are taking on the purple tinge common to the Opuntia genus in cooler weather. During warmer months, the pads are a blue-green.


verobirdie said...

Beautiful but scary.
I've noted the tip of wetting cacti before manipulating them.

Thank you for the always nice comments on my blog. I appreciate them.

Julie said...

Yes...I second that on the scary bit!!! I shiver when I look at it! For some reason Freddy Kruger comes to mind!!!

No Rain said...

The central spines on this cactus are somewhat flexible, so they are not as scary as ferocactus spines which are thick and hard. Now those hurt!

Perhaps this little guy's common name should be Freddy Kruger, rather than Black-Spined Prickly Pear!