Scientific: Opuntia engelmannii
Common: Texas prickly pear, Nopal prickly pear, Lindheimer prickly pear, cactus apple, cow's tongue cactus.
Common names are usually specific to the varietal selection
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Variously located at elevations below 4,500 feet in the northern Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts from California to Texas south into Mexico.

Pronounciation: O-PUN-tee-a en-gel-MAN-nee-i

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 8, 9, 12-24

Landscape Use: Cactus rock garden, barrier, screen, textural accent for large desert landscape areas only

Form & Character: Much branched; this is a cactus species with much phenotypic variation ranging from strongly upright and arborescent to spreading.

Growth Habit: Moderate growth rate with great variation is mature size. Most cultured plants have unique varietal growth habits.

Foliage/texture: Stems are jointed into fleshy pads that are somtimes oblong to elongate. Only immature and developing pads have short, fleshy conical green leaves, otherwise pads are leafless. All pads do have areoles with dense and tufted yellow-brown (sometimes reddish) glochids and spines (3 to 12) ranging in color from white to yellow to reddish depending on varietal selection; coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: Yellow, pink, magenta to red flowers, 3 to 4 inches across, are borne on upper terminal margins of pads; fruit oblong, 2 to 3 inches long, red to purple, edible.

Seasonal color: Flowers in mid to later spring, fruit in summer

Temperature: Tolerant

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: None after established

Pruning: Prune by removing pad segments of any length to control spread.

Propagation: Cutting and dispersal of clades; just stick 'em in the ground.

Disease and pests: Root rot and cochineal scale which can colonize in protected clades (stem segments) in areas with poor air circulation.

Additional comments: This cactus has many named varietal selections upon which selection and use in the Phoenix landscape is determined.

Some important varietal selections include:

  • O. engelmannii var. cuija
  • O. engelmannii var. engelmannii
  • O. engelmannii var. flavispina
  • O. engelmannii var. flexospina
  • O. engelmannii var. lindheimeri
  • O. engelmannii var. linguiformis
  • Fun Horticultural Art: Check out this novel Opuntia engelmannii Christmas tree.