Opuntia Species, Eastern Prickly Pear, Low, Smooth Prickly Pear, Devil's Tongue

Opuntia humifusa

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: humifusa (hew-mih-FEW-suh) (Info)
Synonym:Opuntia austrina
Synonym:Opuntia calcicola
Synonym:Opuntia compressa
Synonym:Opuntia fuscoatra
Synonym:Opuntia impedata


Alpines and Rock Gardens



Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade


Grown for foliage

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bright Yellow

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From woody stem cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama

Gaylesville, Alabama

New Market, Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Black Canyon City, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Morrilton, Arkansas

Calabasas, California

Canoga Park, California

Clovis, California

Garden Grove, California

Yucca Valley, California

Abington, Connecticut

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Milford, Connecticut

South Lyme, Connecticut

Big Pine Key, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Cape Canaveral, Florida

Hampton, Florida

High Springs, Florida

Keystone Heights, Florida

Longwood, Florida

Merritt Island, Florida

Osprey, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Sebring, Florida

Yulee, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Augusta, Georgia

Braselton, Georgia

Monroe, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois(2 reports)

Frankfort, Illinois

New Lenox, Illinois

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Watseka, Illinois

Anderson, Indiana

New Carlisle, Indiana

Parsons, Kansas

Louisville, Kentucky

Mc Dowell, Kentucky

Melbourne, Kentucky

Worthville, Kentucky

Falmouth, Maine

Brookeville, Maryland

Centreville, Maryland

Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Valley Lee, Maryland

Dracut, Massachusetts

Housatonic, Massachusetts

North Attleboro, Massachusetts

Townsend, Massachusetts

Detroit, Michigan

Galesburg, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Bonne Terre, Missouri

Eunice, Missouri

Independence, Missouri

Maryland Heights, Missouri

Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey

Frenchtown, New Jersey

Milford, New Jersey

Neptune, New Jersey

Whiting, New Jersey

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bronx, New York

Cobleskill, New York

Spring Valley, New York

Staten Island, New York

Cary, North Carolina

Clinton, North Carolina

Elizabethtown, North Carolina

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Greenville, North Carolina

Newton Grove, North Carolina

Athens, Ohio

Bucyrus, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio

North Olmsted, Ohio

North Ridgeville, Ohio

Youngstown, Ohio

Binger, Oklahoma

Cement, Oklahoma

Chickasha, Oklahoma

Clinton, Oklahoma

Corn, Oklahoma

Mcalester, Oklahoma

Medicine Park, Oklahoma

Mustang, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Pocasset, Oklahoma

Sulphur, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Union City, Oklahoma

Watonga, Oklahoma

Weatherford, Oklahoma

Allentown, Pennsylvania(2 reports)

Butler, Pennsylvania

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

Irwin, Pennsylvania

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania(2 reports)

Bluffton, South Carolina

Clemson, South Carolina

Conway, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Clarksville, Tennessee

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Jackson, Tennessee

Lebanon, Tennessee

Canton, Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas

Frisco, Texas

Shepherd, Texas

Whitesboro, Texas

Buchanan, Virginia

Fort Valley, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Manassas, Virginia

Stafford, Virginia

Kent, Washington

Malaga, Washington

Orchards, Washington

Madison, Wisconsin

Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin

Waukesha, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Sep 2, 2019, BostonPlanted from Boston, MA (Zone 5b) wrote:

I have been enamored with our only hardy native cactus here in New England. The tiny spines (glochids) itch like crazy when they inevitably embed themselves in your fingers so wear gloves when handling. I have it in full sun sandy loam soil right at the front of my front garden. Passerbys are always asking about it. Cactus growing in the ground are not at all a common site here. Takes a while to rise from the dead in spring. It literally rises up slowly after laying flat and shriveled all winter. The pads right themselves and plump up to a bright smooth green. Blooms are large and yellow and appear in early June here. Fallen pads root very easily.


On Nov 28, 2016, cactusmann from Boston, MA (Zone 6b) wrote:

Grows very well in south Florida except ones that originate from a much more northern location don't flower as well in the springtime as the southern forms do.They are very common in Florida and south east USA in a dry scrub environment.They need to be in full sun and have a soil that doesn't retain water in order for it to survive the cold winter months.They are very rare the further north you go.The are not rare up north because of the cold weather but because there is not many areas available that are sunny and open with no shade.They need full sun and kept dry to be able to handle colder tempertures.The few areas available that are sunny and open often have tree growing that out competes with them and covers them with shade and kills them off.That iss why they are so rare up north.In f... read more


On Oct 31, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This isn't a groundcover, as it does not outcompete weeds. Keeping it weed-free entails encountering spines and glochids.

In the winter, it dehydrates (to turn its juices into a kind of anti-freeze), lies flat on the ground, and gets all wrinkly and ugly.

I don't think the brief season of bloom is worth the downsides.


On Aug 10, 2015, bogturtle from Egg Harbor Township, NJ wrote:

Common to our local pine barrens, this plant will expand to an ugly, huge patch, with much dead material, and with the spines, impossible to deal with. For that reason, mine is in a pot, to be moved within view during the magnificent bloom. So tolerant of dry soil that a potted one usually does fine. Ugly plant in Winter. If I knew a spine-less clone existed, I would buy it. But would never let it out of its container.


On May 3, 2015, Mark_B from Garden Grove, CA wrote:

This plant originates from Montana onto the Midwest. Here in Southern California, it doesn't do very well in full sunlight, as it gets pretty burned up as a young plant. But once it's fully grown, it does well. It is prone to mealybugs in Southern California. I use Sevin liquid to kill the mealybugs. I've yet to see mine bloom and bear fruit.


On Feb 12, 2014, BerkshireGardener from Housatonic, MA wrote:

I have grown this plant successfully in the harsh Berkshires of Massachusetts for the past five years, and it regularly tolerates -20 temps, yet keeps on growing and flowering! The fruits are a wonderful addition to salads.


On Jul 19, 2013, CactusBoss from Crystal Lake, IL wrote:

Amazing plant, grows like a weed. Cuttings root easily!


On Feb 4, 2013, Mr_Monopoly from North Olmsted, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

I just got this plant last spring and have heard many great things about it. I have seen it growing all over North Olmsted and surrounding cities. As for the people complaining about the spines, simple solution: DON'T TOUCH IT!

Update 11/14/13: Just got through a great season with this plant. It grows RAPIDLY, even in partial shade! The flowers are beautiful and bright yellow. They don't last long, but are nice while around. Still love this cactus!


On Dec 17, 2012, aliasjhnsn from Marineland, FL wrote:

This plant is an unbelievably awful scourge in coastal Florida where I reside.
Any tiny section will propagate in the poorest of soil (pure sand!) and torment any mammal that comes in contact with it. The spines are barbed and once the have penetrated the skin are basically impossible to remove.
I have scar tissue on my left thumb from a serious run in that happened over a decade ago.
The best way to fight this monster is to fertilize! It hates nutrients! But, I have seen it literally growing IN saltwater in the Bahamas!


On Apr 30, 2012, LJinWBPA from Wilkes-Barre, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

It's too bad many here are not aware that there is a cactus that can grow in PA- and is native. My sister had one in her zone 5/6 garden for a few years until it rotted from damp conditions. This is super easy to grow, propigate, and needs no winter protection here, It's only pet peeve seems to be damp sold for long periods and poor drainage because... it is a cactus. The only hard part for me is weeding around them which is why I prefer them in containers. The spines are sharp but not the worst. I use them as handles to move the pads... the worst part is the bristles (glochids). I try to keep this away from walking paths and pets. The glochids tend to haunt later on and can take a day or so to work their way out of the skin.
I got mine on ebay a few years back. Not lo... read more


On Apr 28, 2012, Peterthecactusguy from Black Canyon City, AZ wrote:

Although somewhat confused I have some O. humifusa growing in my garden. I had to enclose them with wire fencing because javelina like to eat them. I give mine plenty of water once they perk up. They usually are the last of my Opuntia to do anything. Zero flowers yet but it's getting pads like crazy!

To the haters, glochids are a part of growing Opuntia. I brave them. I have been caught many times, and will continue to be. I have 23 different Opuntia (and hybrids). I know a thing or two about the glochids and I will deal with them for the lovely flowers.


On Sep 7, 2011, mikesmode from Detroit Area, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have been growing Opuntia humifusa in Michigan for a while now.


On May 25, 2011, divenany from Lebanon, TN wrote:

I began my plant with two pads (or leaves) three years ago here in Lebanon, TN from a plant in Chattanooga, TN. From those two leaves, I now have a plant that measures 6 ft by 6 ft and 5 ft tall. I prepared a rock garden for it on a small slope. Please take a look at my plant in the pictures under this category.


On Jan 18, 2011, glochid15 from Parsons, KS (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant, based on my experience, tolerates more water than most opuntias. It is also easy to propagate through pad cuttings (be sure to use either heavy duty leather gloves or tongs when handling). It tends to spread quite rapidly in the right conditions; even invasive at times. Flowers are usually bright yellow, but there are a few exceptions. In the wild, they are found throughout most of the United States and some parts of Canada, and tend to be smaller.


On Nov 29, 2010, agardenabove from Albuquerque, NM (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have been making jelly from the purple fruit of this plant for years. It is quite mild so this year I am adding some jalapeno juice to add spice to it. I wash, slit and cook the fruit, then either hang it in cheesecloth to drip or mash through a cloth into a colander. Then use your jelly recipes. The juice freezes for years if you cannot use it right away.


On Nov 29, 2010, concretephil from Osprey, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I eat this plant on a regular basis. It's a food source commonly used in Mexico. The pads are called Napols and when cooked the are called Napolitos. I pick them wearing leather gloves (learned the hard way), as another comment said, cotton gloves do not work.
Pick pads no bigger than 8 inches long, burn the spines off over an open flame, gas range works best, butane torch, any thing that has a flame that won't leave a bad taste such as a candle. I cut them in small strips, across the pads, simmer them adding a spash of cider vinager. Taste like green beans. Same thing for pears. After cleaning the pears cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon and eat it like any other sweet fruit. In order to taste best, use only plant ripened very soft fruit.
I hate t... read more


On Jun 19, 2010, RxBenson from Pikesville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

(Aside from my childhood horror stories of encountering the spines on this plant, I have a positive to offer...)

In the Pine Barrens area of NJ, old-timers would plant this common flower in the rotted centers of old tree stumps in their yards, adding soil (here it's close to beach sand...) to the rotted humus.

The plants do shrivel something terrible here in winter, and I have often thought they were goners, but Spring brings them back bigger and better every year. (See my posted photos.)They are now encroaching on my sidewalk and I have to don the leather gloves and finally dig and relocate them.

The purple pears shrivel in winter, too. But sometime in Spring the animals devour them. (I thought they's have swiped them in the fall.)

... read more


On Oct 21, 2009, mswestover from Yulee, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Just lay a broken piece on top of the ground and it will root. Nothing bothers this plant.


On Mar 29, 2009, CARPE_DIEM from Chicago, IL wrote:

Has survived 3 Chicago winters with no protection. Yet to bloom though.


On Mar 21, 2009, bt18 from Union City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

You can find this cactus just about anywhere in Oklahoma but is more noticeable in rocky and hilly areas of the state such as the Wichita and Arbuckle mountains and in the canyon areas around Binger, OK. I have seen it grow in many shapes and sizes, with or without large needles, round or pointed pads and either dark green or light green. I currently own some I picked up from Lake Texoma-northern Texas side and has bloomed every year since 2005. It looks terrible in the winter, shriveled and purple colored, but bounces back in the March warmth. I also saw some south of Mustang, OK, but the pads were very small and the glochids had much more fuzzy needles than the Texoma variety, making it much more difficult to handle. It has not bloomed since I acquired it in Sept. 2005. O. compressa is a... read more


On Mar 20, 2009, emeraldsgarden from Fredericksburg, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This cactus grows all over where I live and if you are not careful - it will take over. Fortunately we have a lot of shade, so we do not have that many. I can not remember how many times my children have fallen on them. The only good thing is their fruit! It makes a wonderful jelly and pancake syrup. It is very very sweet. It is worth the effort of harvesting.


On Nov 13, 2008, Menk from Darling Downs,
Australia wrote:

The form with the bright orange centre to the flower is absolutely stunning. Hardly a very prickly plant compared to some other opuntia species and is low growing, so easily controlled. Often referred to as the "lazy pear" because of its reclining and creeping growth habit.
If you handle with a pair of salad tongs the glochids will not be a problem. Gloves are useless. If they get glochids in them you might as well throw them away and spines will go straight through. Don't wear gloves when handling any opuntia!
O. humifusa also grows in Australia in New South Wales where it is naturalized in a small area. Sometimes it hybridizes with O. stricta wherever their ranges of distribution overlap.

Re another comment below, O. vulgaris is not a synonym of O. ficus-indi... read more


On Aug 10, 2008, 1cros3nails4gvn from Bluffton, SC (Zone 9a) wrote:

im sorry to say this with all those that seem to love this plant, but this plant is all around awful. it is imho very ugly, and cheap-looking. its flowers may seem nice, but they will only bring you closer to the dreadful spines that are brittle and nearly invisible so they break off into your skin, and punish you for getting too close to the plant with stings like tiny invisible wasps, whenever anything brushes against the punctures skin. the best way to rmove them is with a magnifying glass and tweezers, and after each has been removed separately, put duct tape on the affected area and pull off to remove any that are laying flat on the skin.. after tht put rubbing alcohol on. i think it reduces the skin's reaction to the spines


On Jun 27, 2008, Susanay from Youngstown, OH wrote:

Love this plant. We originally found a loose pad just lying on the ground of an island in the middle of the Hudson River in N.Y.
The plant settled quite nicely once we replanted it in Youngstown, Ohio. Today it flourishes and has even managed to flower this year for the first time ever.


On Apr 17, 2008, Chantell from Middle of, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

What a happy little plant! Nice and compact...petite little pads. Started with just one pad brought back from the beach. Didn't have a clue and literally just place it on the ground. Whaaa laaa...good sized clump growing now in 2 places and have shared with others. This one even seems to handle the rain and such without a second thought.


On Jul 5, 2007, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I love this plant. When I first found out about it, I was amazed that a cactus was native to Maryland since I've always thought about cacti as occurring in hot dry deserts.

I first saw this plant when we moved into our new house at the end of our communal private drive. It was situated in the cracked separation of a large, low rock in full sun, obviously shallow, poor soil.

For some reason, it was considered to be of no aesthetic value by my neighbors and was removed by not before I had collected a chunk of it. I wish I knew it was going to happen so I could have taken the whole plant.

I have it growing now in the shallow soil on top of the roots of a very old oak tree that isn't very full so the cactus gets a good amount of sun.

... read more


On Jun 18, 2007, KyWoods from Highland Heights, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

My neighbor has these atop a long, low stone wall in front of her yard, and when they bloom, it's a lovely sight!


On Jun 18, 2007, fishrepair from Worthville, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant is extremely easy to propagate. It sometimes propagates itself by simply dropping a new leaf to the ground, where it almost immediately roots.It is very hardy to 25 below zero and to sometimes to 120 degrees.


On Jun 24, 2006, shortleaf from suburban K.C., MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

Neat cactus, good for northern climes.


On Feb 17, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

American Indians poulticed peeled pads on wounds and applied the juice to warts, They dranks pad tea for lung ailments. In folk medicine, peeled pads were poulticed for rheumatism; juice used to treat kidney stones. Baked pads were used for gout chronic ulcers and wounds.


On Sep 11, 2005, Fernshield from Whitehall, PA wrote:

withers in winter; plumps reliably in spring; numerous large (3.5 to 5 in) yellow flowers in mid-june; new specimens are easily grown indoors over the winter months; 50 to 70 % sand with equal parts potting soil and organic material (peat moss) seems to work best as it provides the extra drainage during wet spells, will not do well in soil with lots of clay. Grows well on sloped ground, where it can be an effective deterrent to erosion. IMPORTANT TIP: when removing pads for new specimens, allow the point of removal to 'callous' over before placing in planting mix.


On May 14, 2005, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

LOVE this plant! In spite of the spines and glochids. It grows naturally in South Eastern NC. Wild animals, such as racoons love the fruits, which can also be consumed by humans. The green pads can also be eaten as a vegetable. Grew extensively on the grounds of my old Scout Camp.


On Jan 18, 2005, SudieGoodman from Broaddus, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Sudie, Zone 8b Southeast TX
Potted rooted cutting in 5 gal. plastic pot. Placed in west flower bed. Prickly Pear gets good drainage and lots & lots of hot, Texas sun!
Mid-summer blooms are deep, canary yellow & beautiful lasting about 3 weeks. After blooming when Fall arrives, Prickley (pears) are ripe & ready for eating; similiar, in taste & process, to fried, green tomatoes.
East TX folks fry the tunas (red fruit) which are delicious.
Fireants invaded pot. I have an insect arsenal & discouraged fire ants who moved to another location. lol
Prickly Pear is a perennial; height is 6-12"; hardiness in zones 4b to 10b; foliage is evergreen; drought-tolerant; do not overwater (this is a desert plant)
propagate by rooted, stem cuttings.
... read more


On Jan 17, 2005, JodyC from Palmyra, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

Primarily bees visit the flowers (both long-tongued and short-tongued), including Plasterer bees, Halictid bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, Miner bees, bumblebees, and large Carpenter bees. These bees often collect the copious pollen; the larger bees are more likely to cause pollination. In the eastern states, the relationship of cacti to wildlife is less well-known than in the western U.S. From these western studies, it appear that the fruit and seeds are occasionally eaten by the Wild Turkey, Striped Skunk, and Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel. The fruit and stems (pads) are sometimes eaten by the Cottontail Rabbit, White-Tailed Deer, and Coyote, notwithstanding the spines. All of these animals occur in Illinois at the present time. Those animals eating the fruits help to disperse the seeds... read more


On Dec 1, 2004, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

More synonyms are:
Opuntia compressa, Opuntia mesacantha, Opuntia italica, Opuntia rafinesquei, Opuntia fuscoatra, Opuntia allairei, Cactus humifusus, Opuntia caespitosa (Rafinesque)1830, Opuntia rafinesquei var. minor, Opuntia humifusa var. minor, Opuntia nemoralis, Opuntia rubiflora, Opuntia impedata, Opuntia calcicola, Opuntia cumulicola.

Opuntia vulgaris has been misapplied as a synonym in the past, and is not valid. Some still list it as a synonym though. It is actually a synonym of Opuntia ficus-indica as of the 2001 reclassifications.

This plant lies on the ground flat in the wintertime, very prostrate in the wintertime, sprawling out, less than 12 inches high. The pads look somewhat wrinkled laterally.
It is fairly rare but, some c... read more


On Oct 15, 2004, QueenB from Shepherd, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

The most common prickly pear dispersed throughout the state, it does well here, and can be invasive in a garden situation if not contained. It's an easy bloomer that will produce loads of yellow flowers dependably year after year. Tolerates freezing weather.


On Apr 2, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Small, sprawling prickly pear species native to the northeast US- grows great in Florida, and so-so in California. Here in S California it is a real miniature cactus, rarely exceeding 2-3" in height.