Opuntia compressa (Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus) [sometimes Opuntia numifusa)

Cold hardy to USDA zone 4, the Eastern Prickly Pear a moderately small cactus that acts similar to a ground cover. The flowers are bright yellow and occur in early summer. Like other succulents, they require full sun, dry soils, and excellent drainage.

Opuntia compressa (Eastern Prickly Pear, Prickly-Pear Cactus) [sometimes Opuntia numifusa]
Deciduous: No, the stems (“pads”) lie down in winter and enter dormancy, however.
Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Height: 15-35 centimeters (6-14 inches) tall
Diameter: 30-45 centimeters (12-18 inches) across
Growth Rate: fast
Age: perennial
Root System: shallow, fibrous
Family: Cactaceae
Subspecies: none

Tolerates: herbivores (rabbits, deer), drought, strong winds
Problems (major): In poorly drained or inadequete soils, root rot, stem rot, and other forms of fatal rotting occur.
Problems (minor): few
Poisonous: presumably no

Soil requirements: prefers dry sandy/gravelly soils with good drainage (grows in very well-drained clay/heavy soils with any acidity/pH)
Air requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: low/dry
Sun requirement: requires full sun

Primary photosynthetic organ: stems
Stem structure: rounded, flat, light green, oval-shaped, sometimes called “pads”, up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) wide, have several bristles (called “glochids”)
Leaf shape: spiky/spiny
Rosette: no
Reproduction by offsets: yes
Monoecious or dioecious: monoecious
Monocot or dicot: dicot
Flower structure: yellow, to 8 centimeters (3 inches) in diameter, stigmas in the center surrounded by many stamens, up to 12 petals (sometimes called “rays”), sometimes with a red center (known as an “eye”)
Flowering frequency: June to July
Fruits: red, to 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter, edible

Notable characteristics:
These are easily propagated vegetatively by cuttings.

O. compressa are sometimes used as groundcover. Some are naturally found in desert, prairie, or forest areas.

Sources used:

A large group of O. compressa

A close-up of a flower and some bristles

Flowering structures

Close-up of a flower

All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.


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