Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic
Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (formerly O. compressa) is unique. Its natural habitat is in scattered pockets from Ontario, Canada, to Florida and Louisiana, rather than the Southwest. Though infrequent throughout Virginia,* it is naive to Fairfax and Prince William counties. Like many of its desert relatives, it is edible, but handle with care!
Print Version: Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets
Tags: Soil Requirements: Well-drained Delosperma species – Iceplant, Light Requirements: Sun Lotus corniculatus – Bird’s Tree Trefoil, Water Requirements: Dry Portulaca grandiflora – Moss Rose, It is common in the Coastal Plain of DE and rare in PA. It is infrequent throughout VA, although locally common in some Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-10 areas., Easy to grow (roots from pads stuck in ground), Use in “hell strips,” rock or water-wise gardens, Low-growing, clump-forming perennial cactus, Flattened, fleshy, paddle-shaped pads covered with sharp spines and tiny, hair-like bristles in little tufts (glochids), Bright yellow flowers, 3-to-4 inches wide, in June and July, each blooming for just one day, Edible bright red fruit (called tunas) ripen from
early spring through late fall, Tolerates drought, once set; intolerant of shade No serious pests or diseases; deer seldom severely damage Ripe fruit, seeds and young pads edible** Glochids are barbed, hard to remove from hands & cause severe skin irritation so wear gloves when handling; **remove glochids before cooking pads