Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Opuntia macrocentra, Long-spined Prickly Pear

Long-spined Prickly Pear has showy yellow flowers with red tinges in the lower portions; both the filaments and anthers are also yellow. Plants bloom from March to June. Opuntia macrocentra Long-spined Prickly Pear is also called Purple Prickly Pear. Plants may grow large, up to 9 feet although often much smaller. This species is found in AZ, NM and TX. Opuntia macrocentra Long-spined Prickly Pear has from 0 to 15 spines; glochids are reddish yellow aging brown. This species is a Chihuahuan Desert cactus and prefers elevations from 2,000 to 5,000 feet. Opuntia macrocentra

Scientific Name: Opuntia macrocentra
Common Name: Long-spined Prickly Pear
Also Called: Purple Prickly Pear, Purple Pricklypear, Purple Prickly-pear; (Spanish: Duraznilla, Nopal)
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Synonyms: (Opuntia violacea var. macrocentra)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 9 feet tall, usually much less.
Growth Form: Shrub, tree; erect to decumbent; stem segments purple to green, flattened, broadly obovate to sub-circular, thickish.
Leaves: Leaves modified into spines or glochids and emerging from areoles, spines 0 or 1 to 15 per areole; glochids reddish yellow, aging brown.
Flower Color: Yellow, inner tepals numerous, yellow with red basal portions, filaments and anthers yellowish, style cream and stigma lobes green; fruits red to purplish, obovoid to barrel-shaped, fleshy or somewhat juicy, glabrous and spine-less.
Flowering Season: March to June.
Elevation: 2,000 to 5,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Desert uplands, sandy desert flats, rocky hills and valleys; grasslands, oak woodlands.

Recorded Range: In the United States Opuntia macrocentra is found in the southwestern states of AZ, NM, TX. It is native to much of northern Mexico. In Arizona in is found in the eastern quarter and southern parts of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Opuntia macrocentra.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.

Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Opuntia macrocentra, Purple Prickly Pear is salvage restricted.

Genus Information: In North America there are 52 species for Opuntia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 194 accepted species names and a further 203 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 16 species of Opuntia, California and Utah each have 10 species, Nevada has 6 species, New Mexico has 13 species, Texas has 23 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

There are 2 varieties in Opuntia macrocentra:
Opuntia macrocentra var. macrocentra, Purple Pricklypear (AZ, NM, TX);
Opuntia macrocentra var. minor, Purple Pricklypear (TX).

Comments: Long-spined Prickly Pear produces edible fruit. This species, cultivated as an ornamental, is a Chihuahuan Desert cactus. The genus name Opuntia is derived from the Latin root "puncti" meaning prickled.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Beavertail Pricklypear, Opuntia basilaris; Cactus Apple, Opuntia engelmannii; Twistspine Pricklypear, Opuntia macrorhiza; Tulip Pricklypear, Opuntia phaeacantha and Santa Rita Pricklypear, Opuntia santa-rita.

References: Posted 06/05/2015, rev. 07/21/2015, updated, 09/14/2015, updated 08/07/2017, updated format 10/11/2017
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search (accessed 07/30/2017).
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 07/30/2017).
Donald J. Pinkava, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 4 | Cactaceae | 16. Opuntia macrocentra Engelmann, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 3: 292. 1856.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 08/07/2017]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
Donald J. Pinkava Vascular Plants of Arizona: Cactaceae Part Six: Opuntia - JANAS 35(2): 137-150. 2003.
Lyman David Benson “The Cacti of the United States and Canada” Stanford University Press, 1982
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations, (accessed 08/07/2017).