Scientific: Opuntia polyacantha
Common: plains pricklypear, hairspine cactus, panhandle pricklypear, starvation pricklypear
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Broadly distributed across a range of temperate to arid habitats from inland northern Canada south into northern Chichuahua, Mexico.

Pronounciation: O-PUN-tee-a pol-ee-a-CAN-tha

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 4-13, 18-24
USDA 4-11

Landscape Use: Stem and flower ground cover accent cactus for desert style gardens, container plant.

Form & Character: Prostrate, submissive, interesting yet dangerous, dry, and colorful.

Growth Habit: Succulent perennial, slow growth rate, densely mostly basally branched, prostrate and widely spreading, only 2 to 3 feet in height.

Foliage/texture: Stems of all Opuntia are jointed into flattened sections called blades or pads which store water. Plains prickly pear cacti are known for their dense arrangement of areoles having either brownish glochids or numerous yellowish-white to iridescent white spines, spines straight or wavy ranging in length from less than 1/4 inch to over 7 inches long; coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: Magenta, apricot, or yellow flowers, 2 to 3 inches in diameter, on ends of highest pads; fruits are pale, oblong, yellowish green to reddish in late summer and fall. Fruits are edible.

Seasonal color: Consistently blooms in April to May.

Temperature: Extremely hardy to below 0oF.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: This cactus is extremely drought tolerant, but an occasional summer soaking will keep pads fresh and flush.

Pruning: None

Propagation: As with all Opuntia, plains prickly pear easily roots at the basal end of pads, seed (generally unnecessary) or layering.

Disease and pests: None

Additional comments: Plains prickly pear is a great native, low growing and spreading accent cactus for a dry desert garden. This Opuntia has much phenotypic variation and many varieties have been identified. The variety erinaceae (grizzly bear cactus) has a dense arrangement of white spines that can glow and sparkle in the full sun.

A taxonomic note: The genus Opuntia was an early name used for some plants by the Greek father of modern plant morphology Theophrastus of Eresos (died in 285 B.C.). The specific epithet polyacantha means "many thorns" in botanical Latin. Plains pricklypear was first described in 1819 by the English gardener, entomologist, and succulent enthusiast Adrian Haworth (1767-1833).