Fine Art

Opuntia rufida

Opuntia rufida, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Familia: Cactaceae
Subfamilia: Opuntioideae
Tribus: Opuntieae
Genus: Opuntia
Species: Opuntia rufida

Opuntia rufida Engelm., Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 3: 298. (1857) et Opuntia rufida Engelm., Syn. Cact. U. S. 42 (1856) (preprint)

Opuntia microdasys var. rufida (Engelm.) K.Schum., Gesamtbeschr. Kakt. 706. (1898)
Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida (Engelm.) U.Guzmán & Mandujano in Cactaceae Syst. Init. 16: 18. (2003)
Opuntia rufida var. tortiflora M.S.Anthony, Amer. Midl. Naturalist 55: 240. (1956)

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Regional: Southwestern USA
Mexico Northeast
Regional: Southern Central USA
Introduced into:
Greece, Spain

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

Engelmann, G. 1856. Synopsis of the Cactaceae of the Territory of the United States and Adjacent Regions 42.

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.


International Plant Names Index. 2021. Opuntia rufida. Published online. Accessed: Nov. 30 2021.
Korotkova, N. et al. 2021. Opuntia rufida in Cactaceae at A global synthesis of species diversity in the angiosperm order Caryophyllales. Published online. Accessed: 2021 Nov. 30. Reference page. 2021. Opuntia rufida. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 30 Nov. 2021.
Shaw, J.J. & al. (ed.) 2015. Opuntia Web. Published online. Accessed: 2015 Apr 25.

Vernacular names
English: Blind pricklypear

Opuntia rufida is a species of prickly pear cactus native to southwestern Texas and northern Mexico, where it grows on rocky slopes. The species makes up for its total lack of spines with a profusion of red-brown glochids. The common name blind prickly pear or cow blinder comes from the fact that the glochids may be carried away by the wind and blind animals. [2][3]

The plant is closely related to Opuntia microdasys, and is sometimes taken as its subspecies, O. m. subsp. rufida.[4]

A commonly sold cultivar is Opuntia Rufida Minima Monstrose


Opuntia rufida is a multi-branched cactus that may reach 3 to 5 feet tall and a bit wider. The plant generally has a short trunk, and the thickish tomentose pads are subcircular, obovate, or elliptical. Areoles are spineless but have showy red-brown glochids. In mid-spring the plant produces a profusion of brilliant yellow flowers changing to orange and red, 3 to 4 inches across. In summer, the oblong fruit is bright red to purple, 2 to 3 inches long.

The plant can be a spectacular addition to the desert garden. It requires full sun and is highly tolerant of desert heat. However, the glochids tend to dislodge easily when the plant is bumped or shaken and they can be dangerous to humans and animals if carried by the wind. In fact, the common name blind prickly pear or cow blinder refers to the blinding of animals by the airborne glochids. The species rufida refers to the ruddy, reddish-brown glochids.[4][3]

Opuntia rufida is native to the Big Bend area of southwestern Texas and the Chihuahuan Desert of northern Mexico.[4]
Introduced range

Opuntia rufida has been planted as an ornamental in Queensland, Australia but has since been recognized as Prohibited invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2015. As a result, it may not be sold or moved and must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland.[5]


Corral-Díaz, R., Goettsch, B.K., Heil, K. & Terry, M. 2017. Opuntia rufida (amended version of 2013 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T152354A121589234. Downloaded on 16 September 2021.
Engelmann, George (1856). "Opuntia rufida". Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 3: 298.
Martin, Chris A. "Virtual Library of Phoenix Landscape Plants". Arizona State University. Retrieved 22 December 2020.
Shaw, Joe J. (31 January 2012). "Opuntia rufida, Texas prickly pear cactus, red glochids". Opuntia Web. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
"Blind cactus - Opuntia rufida" (PDF). Biosecurity Queensland.

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