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.