University of Maryland Extension

Prickly Pear Cactus

Text and photo by Shelley McNeal

Opuntia humifusa

Want a smile on a winter day? Tired of watering? Have a baking hot spot in the yard? Try a winter-hardy prickly pear cactus. The smooth pads of these native cacti have the typical cactus spines as well as glochids, tiny barbed hairs with a deceptively downy appearance.  Practical, yet novel, prickly pears are well suited for dry, sandy areas and rocky sites.  The showy yellow flowers open 3-4 inches wide. Edible fig-like fruit, called tunas, taste similar to watermelon.  Besides full sun, cacti insist on well-drained soils to grow successfully. Hardy to zone 5.  

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