(brittle prickly-pear cactus)
Drawing on left from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and
Opuntia fragilis makes
its home from
all the way east to
According to the Washington Natural Heritage Program, there
are only 10 known occurrences of O.
This species does well in open, exposed locations and cannot persist in shady conditions. Much of its habitat has been lost due to tree encroachment (fire suppression & exclusion) and the introduction of invasive species. (4)
Able to grow on south-facing rocky outcrops, like many
cactus species, O. fragilis is a
Some studies have found that it reproduces almost exclusively asexually,
by segments breaking off and rolling away, being carried by animals, or even
floating and relocating via water. Its species name “fragilis” is a nod to the
ease in which terminal segments break off from the main plant. (3) This strategy can be a nuisance to humans and
animals alike. It is perhaps for this reason that it is listed as a noxious
Due to its wide range, O.
fragilis is associated with a wide variety of species. In western
May be collected as:
may not be collected in
If you are so lucky as to 1) find a fruiting plant, 2) find fruit with viable seed, and 3) live in a state where you can collect O. fragilis, the following method has been suggested. Lightly sand the surface of the seed before stratification. Place in the fridge for 5 weeks and then set out in 68º F for germination. (3)
Make friends with someone from
Soil or medium requirements
(2) PLANT Database. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=OPFR.
(3) Ribbens, Erc M.D. Opuntia fragilis (Nuttall) Haworth (Cactaceae): Reproductive Ecology.
Natural Heritage Program website: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/nhp/refdesk/fguide/htm/fsp_ascu.htm
Data compiled by
Samantha Martin Sprenger