Opuntia and related species (opuntiads) are unique cacti with unusual shapes and beautiful flowers. Common in parts of the United States and Mexico, they also occur throughout most of the Americas. There are over 100 species in the USA. Opuntia Web primarily describes opuntias of the United States. Cholla Web is our sister Website and it describes other opuntiads of the USA.
Of the many opuntias in the USA, some have been forgotten by time because they were discovered over 100 years ago. Some opuntias look superficially alike and only close inspection can tell them apart. Thus, casual observation might indicate one species where there are actually two. Early botanists identified them and understood their uniqueness, and we use those historical records along with field studies to identify them, their differences, and their similarities.
What We Do
We describe the various species, and we have large photographs so you can see details. We try to take photos in habitat so that you can see how the plants grow and what they look like in different seasons. The goal is to describe them in easy-to-understand terms. A group of editors verifies all the information in this Website, and we strive to present accurate information. We’ve traveled to many places to photograph opuntias, and we’ve visited many libraries to find relevant printed information. But we’re always happy to learn new things. Maybe you have new information or spotted an error or a typo. If you find an opuntia, maybe we can help you identify it. Just write to us.
Why We Do It
Opuntias are unique and worth studying. This Website helps you understand and enjoy this group of easy-to-grow cacti. One reason we study them is that they are so numerous in the warmer parts of the county, but a few species grow up into Canada. Also, we study them because they are so confusing in the literature and on the Web. It is a fun detective story to find the original publications and match them with the plants. Opuntia make wonderful garden plants if you match the right ones with your climate. Through mostly desert species, there are species that will grow in the southeast, the northeast, and the upper Midwest. Many Opuntia grow in climates without strong freezes, but some fly through winters of exceptional cold. We like to grow Opuntia and writing about them helps others understand the species and decide what to grow.