Index- plants in this Family
Cactaceae / Cactus
Pricklypear (Opuntia humifusa)
Pricklypear is also known as Devil's-Tongue, which is the official vernacular name of this species. The name Pricklypear applies to the entire genus..

Plant Type: This is a cactus, it is a perennial and is a evergreen which can reach 64cm in height (25inches). It is usually a reclining plant which spreads along the ground reaching ony about 20cm (8"). It occasionally stands somwhat erect.
Leaves: The spines are actually modified leaves.
Flowers: The flowers have numerous parts and are up to 5cm wide (2 inches). They are yellow, orange and brown. Blooms first appear in late spring and continue into early summer.
Fruit: A redish 'pear'.
Habitat: Usually in rocky outcrops, sand or other places that may be seasonly damp but become dry in summer.
Range: All of the eastern U. S. Except the extreme north.

      Color Photo     More Info      Classification

Ads on this page help pay for this site but if you see one that seems inappropriate here such as one that is counter to the pro environmental theme please let me know which Ad and I will block it.
Report a Bad Ad

Pricklypear is the only cacti common in our area (east of Texas). Photosynthesis is preformed by the pads which are the equivalent of stems. The spines that protect the plant are modified leaves. In addition to the large spines there are sometimes smaller bristles (glochids) which are barbed and easly detach from the plant and work into the skin.

Lore: The pulp of the fruit or 'pears' can be made into a beverage or preserves. The meat of the pads can be cooked and eaten (spines and skin removed).

Medical Uses: Native Americans and folk healers have poulticed the pulp of the pads for wounds and rheumatism. The juice has been used to treat warts, kidney stones and lung ailments.(Foster & Duke)

See the links below this image for other images. (1)
© Daniel Reed   E-mail      Image use policy

These images open in a new window. You may need to resize the window to view the entire image.
Prickly-Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) - close view of fruits  © Daniel Reed
Note the tiny spines.

Ads on this page help pay for this site but if you see one that seems inappropriate here such as one that is counter to the pro environmental theme please let me know which Ad and I will block it. Report a Bad Ad

More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves



Welcome / Glossary / Books / Links / Feedback / Image use policy - Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States, Page updated on 6/28/2007 7:27:42 PM.