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Opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service )

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Ordo: Caryophyllales

Familia: Cactaceae
Subfamilia: Opuntioideae
Tribus: Opuntieae
Genus: Opuntia
Series: O. ser. Setispinae
Species: Opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa (Raf.) Raf., 1830.

Cactus humifusus Raf. in Ann. Nat.: 15. 1820 syn. sec. ???
Opuntia compressa var. humifusa (Raf.) D.Weniger, Cacti S. W.: 202. 1970 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia humifusa subsp. humifusa syn. sec. ???
Opuntia humifusa var. humifusa syn. sec. ???
Opuntia vulgaris Mill., Gard. Dict., ed. 8. 1768 syn. sec. Leuenberger 1993
Cactus opuntia var. vulgaris (Mill.) DC., Cat. Pl. Horti Monsp.: 13. 1813 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Platyopuntia vulgaris (Mill.) F.Ritter, Kakteen Südamerika 1: 35. 1979 syn. sec. Majure & al. 2012
Opuntia vulgaris var. major Salm-Dyck, Observ. Bot. Hort. Dyck. 3: 9. 1822 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia vulgaris var. media Salm-Dyck, Observ. Bot. Hort. Dyck. 3: 9. 1822 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Cactus italicus Ten., Syll. Gen. Sp. Crypt.: 241. 1831 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia intermedia Salm-Dyck, Hort. Dyck.: 364. 1834 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia italica Ten. ex Pfeiff., Enum. Diagn. Cact.: 149. 1837 syn. sec. Tropicos
Cactus italicus Ten. ex Steud., Nomencl. Bot., ed. 2, 1: 246. 1840 syn. sec. Hunt 2016
Opuntia prostrata Monv. & Lem. ex C.F.Först., Handb. Cacteenk.: 478. 1846 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia intermedia var. prostrata Salm-Dyck, Cact. Hort. Dyck., ed. 1849: 69. 1850 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia rafinesquei Engelm. in Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 3: 295. 1856 syn. sec. Tropicos
Opuntia rafinesquiana Urlandt in Neubert's Deutsch. Gart.-Mag. 40: 156. 1887 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia allairei Griffiths, Ill. Stud. Opuntia: 83–84, t. 5, t. 2, f. 2, t. 12, upper f., t.13, f. 9. 1909 syn. sec. Tropicos
Opuntia compressa var. allairei (Griffiths) D.Weniger, Cacti Southwest: 207. 1970 syn. sec. Tropicos
Opuntia rafinesquei var. parva F.Haage & E.Schmidt in Verz. Blumenzeitung 1915: 29. 1915 syn. sec. Kew WCVP (2019)
Opuntia rubiflora Griffiths in Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 43: 529. 1916 syn. sec. Tropicos
Opuntia calcicola Wherry in J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 16: 12, f. 1. 1926 syn. sec. Majure & al. 2017

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Regional: Eastern USA
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Regional: Mexico
Mexico Northeast
Introduced into:
Austria, Bulgaria, Central European Russia, East Himalaya, France, Free State, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Korea, Kriti, Lebanon-Syria, Lesotho, Netherlands, New South Wales, North Caucasus, Queensland, South Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Victoria, Western Australia, Yugoslavia

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Rafinesque, C.S. 1830. Medical Flora; or, manual of the medical botany of the United States .... 276 pp. Philadelphia.BHL Reference page. : 2:247.

Additional references

Korotkova, N., Aquino, D., Arias, S., Eggli, U., Franck, A. , Gómez-Hinostrosa, C., Guerrero, P.C., Hernández, H.M., Kohlbecker, A., Köhler, M., Luther, K., Majure, L.C., Müller, A., Metzing, D., Nyffeler, R., Sánchez, D., Schlumpberger, B. & Berendsohn, W.G. 2021. Cactaceae at Caryophyllales. org–a dynamic online species-level taxonomic backbone for the family. Willdenowia 51(2): 251–270. DOI: 10.3372/wi.51.51208 Open access Reference page.


Korotkova, N. et al. 2022. Opuntia humifusa in Cactaceae at A global synthesis of species diversity in the angiosperm order Caryophyllales. Published online. Accessed: 2022 Jan 06. Reference page.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2022. Opuntia humifusa in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2022 Jan 06. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2022. Opuntia humifusa. Published online. Accessed: Jan 06 2022. 2022. Opuntia humifusa. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 06 Jan 2022.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Opuntia humifusa in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 2022 Jan 06.

Vernacular names
English: Eastern Prickly Pear, Indian Fig, Low Prickly Pear, Smooth Prickly Pear
magyar: ördögnyelv-fügekaktusz, kerekszárú fügekaktusz
한국어: 자단선선인장
svenska: Krypopuntia

Opuntia humifusa, commonly known as the devil's-tongue,[2] Eastern prickly pear or Indian fig, is a cactus of the genus Opuntia present in parts of eastern North America.


As is the case in other Opuntia species, the green stems of this low-growing perennial cactus are flattened, and are formed of segments. Barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments, and longer spines are sometimes present.[3] The flowers are yellow to gold in color, and are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers. They measure 4–6 cm (1+5⁄8–2+3⁄8 in) across. This cactus blooms in the late spring.

The juicy red or purple fruits measure from 3–5 cm (1+1⁄8–2 in). As the fruit matures, it changes colour from green to red, and often remains on the cactus until the following spring. There are 6 to 33 small, flat, light-colored seeds in each fruit.

Some botanists treat this cactus as a variety of O. compressa: hence O. c. var. humifusa, or a synonym of O. compressa. Those recognizing this species treat O. rafinesquii as a junior synonym.

This species naturally occurs along the East Coast of the United States, including on barrier islands from the Florida Keys to coastal Massachusetts,[4] and inland, such as a small endangered population in Canada, specifically in Point Pelee National Park on Lake Erie.[5] Eastern Prickly Pear is found is scattered locations from New Mexico and Montana eastward,[6] and is the only cactus native to the eastern United States.[7] Since Eastern Prickly Pear grows in hot, sunny locations with thin soil that does not hold water, it is found in shale barrens, which are accumulations of thin, flat, eroded sedimentary rock on steep slopes with southern exposures - essentially a desert microclimate - in the Appalachian Mountains.[8][9]

This plant is very intolerant of shade and instead thrives in sunny, hot and dry environments with well-draining, sandy soil.[5] O. humifusa will grow in open areas in sandy, rocky and coastal scrub habits. It is capable of surviving cool winters unlike many cacti, although harsh winter storms are known to cause habitat loss.[5]

The fruits are edible,[10] but have small spiny bristles. The pulp can be scooped and the seeds strained out to make syrup or jelly. The seeds can be briefly roasted and ground into meal.[11] Young cactus segments can be roasted to remove spines, then peeled and sliced to be eaten like string beans; alternatively, they can be deep fried. The leafy segments can be peeled and chewed for emergency hydration.[11]


Majure, L. 2017. Opuntia humifusa (amended version of 2013 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T152374A121591012. Downloaded on 19 June 2021.
USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "'Opuntia humifusa'". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
"4. Opuntia humifusa", Flora of North America
Eastern Prickly Pear Opuntia humifusa (PDF) (Report). Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 21, 2018.
"Species Profile (Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus) - Species at Risk Public Registry". Retrieved 2020-04-15.
"Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox". Retrieved 24 June 2022.
"Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin". Retrieved 24 June 2022.
"Cactuses, and the Spine of Appalachia". Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
"Appalachian Shale Barrens" (PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2022.
Niering, William A.; Olmstead, Nancy C. (1985) [1979]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Knopf. p. 436. ISBN 0-394-50432-1.

Elias, Thomas S.; Dykeman, Peter A. (2009) [1982]. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods. New York: Sterling. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-4027-6715-9. OCLC 244766414.

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