Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Opuntia macrorhiza, Twistspine Pricklypear

Twistspine Pricklypear has showy yellow flowers with red basal portions. This species blooms from May to July across its large geographic range. Opuntia macrorhiza Twistspine Pricklypear is spread out across a very large range and has numerous local common names including: Bigroot Prickly Pear, Common Prickly Pear, Grassland Pricklypear, Plains Prickly Pear, Prickly Pear and Western Prickly Pear. Opuntia macrorhiza Twistspine Pricklypear has from 0 to 4 spines from each areole, erect or spreading, white to red-brown; glochids are in dense tufts, pale yellow, tan to red-brown and aging brown. Opuntia macrorhiza Twistspine Pricklypear is a small clumping cactus that grows up to 1 foot or so and about 4 to 5 feet wide; prefers elevations from 2,900 to over 6,000 feet and sandy to loamy soils and a variety of habitats including plains, chaparral, grassy woodlands and coniferous forests. Opuntia macrorhiza

Scientific Name: Opuntia macrorhiza
Common Name: Twistspine Pricklypear
Also Called: Bigroot Prickly Pear, Common Prickly Pear, Grassland Pricklypear, Plains Prickly Pear, Plains Twistspine Pricklypear, Prickly Pear, Twist-spine Prickly Pear, Western Pricklypear (Spanish: Nopal)
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Synonyms: ()
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 13 inches tall and 4 to 5 five wide.
Growth Form: Shrub; forming clumps, sometimes from tuber-like rootstocks, stems flattened obovate to circular, erect pad cactus; pads dark green; fleshy or flabby and cross wrinkled when stressed.
Leaves: Leaves modified into spines or glochids and emerging from areoles; spines from 0 to 4 per areole, erect to spreading, white to red-brown; glochids in dense tuft, pale yellow, tan to red-brown, aging brown.
Flower Color: Yellow with red, inner tepals yellow with red basal portions, filaments pale yellow, anthers yellow, style white, stigma lobes cream to yellowish; fruits green to yellowish to dull red, fleshy, glabrous.
Flowering Season: May to July.
Elevation: 2,900 to 6,100 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Sandy to loamy soils, gravelly soils, variable habitats; plains, chaparral, grassy woodlands and coniferous forests.

Recorded Range: In the United States Opuntia macrorhiza is common throughout all of the central portion in: AR, AZ, CO, IA, ID, IL, KS, LA, MN, MO, MT, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, UT, WI, WY. It is also native to central and northern Mexico. In Arizona it occurs throughout much of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Opuntia macrorhiza.

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

Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Opuntia macrorhiza, Purple Prickly Pear is salvage restricted: Iowa: Bigroot Pricklypear is Endangered.

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 macrorhiza:
Opuntia macrorhiza var. macrorhiza, Twistspine Pricklypear (see range above);
Opuntia macrorhiza var. pottsii, Twistspine Pricklypear (AZ, NM, TX)

Comments: Twistspine Pricklypear is found throughout much of the mid-western United States reaching as far west as Arizona.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Beavertail Pricklypear, Opuntia basilaris; Cactus Apple, Opuntia engelmannii; Long-spined Prickly Pear, Opuntia macrocentra; 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
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 | 5. Opuntia macrorhiza Engelmann, Boston J. Nat. Hist. 6: 206. 1850.; 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
Wikipedia contributors. "Opuntia macrorhiza." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Jun. 2017. Web. 7 Aug. 2017
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations, (accessed 08/07/2017).