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Scientific: Opuntia ficus indica
Common: spineless cactus
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: A polyphyletic cactus belived to have originated from central Mexico, now naturalized in warm climates, tropical to arid, worldwide.

Pronounciation: O-PUN-tee-a FI-cus IN-di-ca

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 12-24
USDA 9-11

Landscape Use: Cactus rock garden, barrier, screen, textural accent. Best for large desert landscape spaces; however, because it lacks spines and prominent glochids, it is often planted in locations juxapositioned to higher traffic areas.

Form & Character: Stiff and arborescent, smooth, desert, dry.

Growth Habit: Succulent perennial, slow and upright growth habit, many branched, to 6- to 20-feet tall.

Foliage/Texture: Stems are jointed into fleshy pads that are oblong to spatulate, 12- to 20-inches long, aeroles without glochids and occassionally have spines mostly 1 to 5 per aerole, pale yellow to white to 1-inch long; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Flowers are yellow, 3- to 4-inches across on terminal ends of pads, fruits oblong, 2- to 3-inches long, red to purple, edible.

Seasonal Color: Flowers in mid spring, fruit in summer.

Temperature: Tolerant of lower desert temperature extremes.

Light: Full sun, no shade.

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: None after establishment.

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

Propagation: Easy by stem sections that will form adventitious roots almost anywhere under any condition if only exposed to the ground surface.

Disease and Pests: Root rot, cochineal scale can colonize in protected areas with poor air circulation. To control cocchineal scale, prune plants during winter and use a high pressure garden hose to wash off scale during summer months.

Additional comments: This is an old-fashioned, upright cactus that's currently not very popular because of its relatively potentially large size and extensive local availability of other 'more interesting' Opuntia species for Phoenix xeric and oasis landscapes. It has naturalized in many tropical and subtropical locations and is harvested as a food crop (stem pads and fruit) in those regions.

Special images for the curious: Opuntia ficus indica signage, Opuntia ficus indica happy face, Opuntia ficus indica key hanger, or Opuntia ficus indica epiphyte.