Opuntia engelmannii

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Opuntia engelmannii
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Opuntia
Species:O. engelmannii
Binomial name
Opuntia engelmannii

Opuntia engelmanni(a common lapsus )

Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri in habitat. Opuntia engelmannii - Pricklypearcrop.jpg
Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri in habitat.
Fruits of Opuntia engelmannii. Opuntia Engelmannii 7027.JPG
Fruits of Opuntia engelmannii.
Opuntia engelmannii blooming in Joshua Tree, California Opuntia engelmannii -Yellow Cactus Flower.jpg
Opuntia engelmannii blooming in Joshua Tree, California

Opuntia engelmannii is a prickly pear common across the south-central and Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It goes by a variety of common names, including cow's tongue cactus, cow tongue prickly pear, desert prickly pear, discus prickly pear, Engelmann's prickly pear, [1] and Texas prickly pear [2] in the US, and nopal, abrojo, joconostle, and vela de coyote in Mexico.

<i>Opuntia</i> genus of plants seen throughout India in dry areas

Opuntia, commonly called prickly pear, is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae. Prickly pears are also known as tuna (fruit), sabra, nopal from the Nahuatl word nōpalli for the pads, or nostle, from the Nahuatl word nōchtli for the fruit; or paddle cactus. The genus is named for the Ancient Greek city of Opus, where, according to Theophrastus, an edible plant grew and could be propagated by rooting its leaves. The most common culinary species is the Indian fig opuntia.

Southwestern United States Geographical region of the USA

The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest, is the informal name for a region of the western United States. Definitions of the region's boundaries vary a great deal and have never been standardized, though many boundaries have been proposed. For example, one definition includes the stretch from the Mojave Desert in California to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and from the Mexico–United States border to the southern areas of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The largest metropolitan areas are centered around Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Those five metropolitan areas have an estimated total population of more than 9.6 million as of 2017, with nearly 60 percent of them living in the two Arizona cities—Phoenix and Tucson.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.


The nomenclatural history of this species is somewhat complicated due to the varieties, as well as its habit of hybridizing with Opuntia phaeacantha .

<i>Opuntia phaeacantha</i> species of plant

Opuntia phaeacantha is a species of prickly pear cactus known by the common names tulip prickly pear and desert prickly pear found across the southwestern United States, lower Great Plains, and northern Mexico. The plant forms dense but localized thickets. Several varieties of this particular species occur, and it also hybridizes easily with other prickly pears, making identification sometimes tricky.


The Opuntia engelmannii range extends from California to Louisiana in the United States, and from Sonora (state) to the Tamaulipan matorral in Chihuahua (state), in Mexico. [1]

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Sonora State of Mexico

Sonora, officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, is one of 31 states that, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 federal entities of United Mexican States. It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo. Sonora is bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south. To the north, it shares the U.S.–Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of California.

In the Sonoran Desert, terminal pads face predominantly east-west, so as to maximize the absorption of solar radiation during summer rains. Although found occasionally in the Mojave Desert, it tends to be replaced by Opuntia basilaris , which does not need the summer rain.

Sonoran Desert North American desert

The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona and California and of Northwestern Mexico in Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is the hottest desert in Mexico. It has an area of 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 sq mi). The western portion of the United States–Mexico border passes through the Sonoran Desert.

Mojave Desert desert in southwestern United States

The Mojave Desert is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America. It is in the southwestern United States, primarily within southeastern California and southern Nevada, and it occupies 47,877 sq mi (124,000 km2). Very small areas also extend into Utah and Arizona. Its boundaries are generally noted by the presence of Joshua trees, which are native only to the Mojave Desert and are considered an indicator species, and it is believed to support an additional 1,750 to 2,000 species of plants. The central part of the desert is sparsely populated, while its peripheries support large communities such as Las Vegas, Barstow, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, and St. George.

<i>Opuntia basilaris</i> species of cactus

Opuntia basilaris, the beavertail cactus or beavertail pricklypear, is a cactus species found in the southwest United States. It occurs mostly in the Mojave, Anza-Borrego, and Colorado Deserts, as well as in the Colorado Plateau and northwest Mexico. It is also found throughout the Grand Canyon and Colorado River region as well as into southern Utah and Nevada, and in the western Arizona regions along the Lower Colorado River Valley.


The overall form of Opuntia engelmannii is generally shrubby, with dense clumps up to 3.5 metres (11 ft) high, usually with no apparent trunk. The pads are green (rarely blue-green), obovate to round, about 15–30 cm long and 12–20 cm wide. [3]

The glochids are yellow initially, then brown with age. Spines are extremely variable, with anywhere from 1-8 per areole, and often absent from lower areoles; they are yellow to white, slightly flattened, and 1–6 cm long.


Glochids or glochidia are hair-like spines or short prickles, generally barbed, found on the areoles of cacti in the sub-family Opuntioideae. Cactus glochids easily detach from the plant and lodge in the skin, causing irritation upon contact. The tufts of glochids in the areoles nearly cover the stem surfaces of some cactus species, each tuft containing hundreds of glochids; this may be in addition to, or instead of, the larger, more conspicuous cactus spines, which do not readily detach and are not generally barbed.

The flowers are yellow, occasionally reddish, 5–8 cm in diameter and about as long. Flowering is in April and May, with each bloom lasting only one day, opening at about 8AM and closing 8 hours later. Pollinators include solitary bees, such as the Antophoridae, and sap beetles.

The purple fleshy fruits are 3–7 cm long.



The fruits were a reliable summer food for Native American tribes. [9] The Tohono O'odham of the Sonoran Desert, in particular, classified the fruits by color, time of ripening, and how well they kept in storage.

Opuntia engelmannii is cultivated as an ornamental plant, for use in drought tolerant gardens, container plantings, and natural landscaping projects. Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension — Opuntia engelmannii

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<i>Opuntia ficus-indica</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia gosseliniana</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia stricta</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia leucotricha</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia rastrera</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia humifusa</i> species of plant

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<i>Acanthocereus tetragonus</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia fragilis</i> species of plant

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<i>Sclerocactus brevihamatus</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia aciculata</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia aurantiaca</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia macrocentra</i> species of plant

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<i>Opuntia macrorhiza</i> species of plant

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  1. 1 2 "Opuntia engelmannii". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  2. "TACKLING A THORNY PROBLEM: Pricklypear Removal". Hortenstine Ranch Company. 2017-06-07. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  3. "Opuntia engelmannii, original description" (PDF). 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  4. "Opuntia engelmannii var. cuija". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  5. "Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  6. Jepson Manual treatment for Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii
  7. USDA: var. lindheimeri'
  8. "Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  9. U. of Michigan: Native American Ethnobotany Database