Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly-Pear

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Eastern Prickly-Pear (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 native 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

Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly-Pear Ground Cover Height: 1⁄2–1 foot Spread: 1–3 feet Bloom Color: Yellow Characteristics 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 Attributes 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 Attracts butterflies and bees to flowers; birds and mammals to fruit and pads Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Well-drained Light Requirements: Sun Water Requirements: Dry Easy to grow (roots from pads stuck in ground) Use in “hell strips,” rock or water-wise gardens *It is common in the Coastal Plain of DE and rare in PA. It is infrequent throughout VA, although locally common in some areas. Hardiness: USDA Zones 3–10 Excellent Replacement for Delosperma species - Iceplant Lotus corniculatus - Bird’s Tree Trefoil Portulaca grandiflora - Moss Rose

Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets