Starvation Prickly-Pear

Opuntia polyacantha

Starvation prickly pear 6

This prickly pear provides food for many types of animals. It provides over half the winter food for the black-tailed prairie dog in one area. Pronghorn antelope eat it, especially after the spines are burned off in wildfires. Ranchers intentionally burn stands of the plant to make it palatable for livestock when little other food is available. Native Americans used it as a medicinal plant, with different parts treating various symptoms.

Shrubs, low, 10-25 cm, with ± prostrate branches. Stem segments not easily detached, green, elliptic to narrowly to broadly obovate to circular, 4-27 × 2-18 cm. areoles 4-14 per diagonal row across midstem segment, subcircular, 3-6 mm; wool tan to brown. Spines at all or only distal areoles of stem segment, terete to flattened, stout to acicular to bristlelike, straight to curling, of 1 or 2 kind. Glochids inconspicuous, in narrow, tidy crescent at adaxial edge of areole or in broad, brushy crescent and tuft, yellow to reddish, aging brown, to 10 mm. Flowers: inner tepals yellow to magenta throughout, 25-40 mm; filaments white, yellow, or red to magenta (flowers may superficially appear bicolored); anthers yellow; style white to pale pink; stigma lobes green.

Chris, Menaul High School

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Andrew Hollander, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  2. (c) weldcar, all rights reserved, uploaded by Chris Deleon,
  3. (c) Andrey Zharkikh, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  4. no rights reserved,
  5. (c) Matthew Salkiewicz, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  6. Adapted by albuquerqueherbalism from a work by (c) Chris Deleon, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)

More Info

Range Map

iNat Map

Fruit spiny
Color pink, yellow