Scientific: Opuntia macrocentra
Common: purple pricklypear
Origin: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas south into central Mexico.
Pronounciation: O-PUN-tee-a ma-crow-SIN-tra
Sunset 13, 18-24
Landscape Use: Smaller accent or barrier cactus for desert style gardens, xeriscapes.
Form & Character: Dense, low growing, shrubby cactus, rigid, dry, dangerous, unfriendly, colorful.
Growth Habit: Succulent perennial, moderate growth rate, prostrate and spreading and many branched to 2 feet in height maximum with significantly greater spread.
Foliage/Texture: Stems of Opuntia are jointed into flattened sections called blades, clades or pads, which store water. Purple pricklypear pads are glaucous blue with a tinge of purple throughout the year (similar to Opuntia santa-rita), and are generously adorned with elongated, somewhat white spines at each aerole, occassionally blackened (as if singed in a fire), sometimes to 3 inches long; coarse texture.
Flowers & Fruits: Flowers petals yellow with orange red centers; fruits reddish in late summer and fall.
Seasonal Color: Consistently blooms in April to May.
Temperature: Strongly heat tolerant, cold hardy to 25oF.
Light: Full sun to partial shade.
Watering: Extremely drought tolerant, but an occasional summer soaking will keep pads flush.
Pruning: None is really needed, but if one must prune, then make sure to wear proper protective equipment (PPE) to avoid accidental injury caused by "spinal engagement".
Propagation: As with all Opuntia, purple prickly pear easily roots at the basal end of pads, seed (generally unnecessary).
Disease and Pests: None (appears mostly resistant to Cochineal scale insects)
Additional comments: This is one diminutive, yet tough Opuntia for use in Phoenix landscapes.