Desert Prickly Pear


Scientific Name: Opuntia engelmannii

Common Name: Prickly Pear
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus family

Duration: Perennial.

Size: Up to 4 or 5 or rarely 8 feet tall.
Growth Form: Shrub, Tree with short trunk; spreading to sometimes decumbent; stem segments yellow-green to blue-green, flattened (pads), glabrous, circular to obovate to rhombic.
Leaves: Spines evenly distributed on pad or absent, white to yellow, aging gray to blackish, spines straight to curbed; glochids widely spaced, yellow to red-brown aging gray or blackish.

Flower Color: Yellow throughout, or sometimes orange to pink to red and rarely whitish; flowers diurnal; filaments, anthers and style whitish to cream, stigma lobes yellow-green to green; fruit dark red to purple throughout, ovate-elongate to barrel-shaped, juicy, bleeding and staining, glabrous and spine-less, seeds tan to grayish.
Flowering Season: April to July.

Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Opuntia engelmannii is salvage restricted.

Comments: The juicy, mildly sweet fruits, known as "tunas", are edible if the spiny glochids are removed. The fruits are used to make juice, syrup, and cactus candy. The pads are also edible if the spines and glochids are removed.