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Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear, Indian Fig, Mission Cactus, Tuberous Prickly Pear, Nopal

Opuntia ficus-indica

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: ficus-indica (FY-kuss IN-dih-kuh) (Info)
Synonym:Cactus ficus-indica
Synonym:Opuntia vulgaris
Synonym:Opuntia maxima
Synonym:Opuntia cordobensis
Synonym:Opuntia tuna-blanca
View this plant in a garden



Cactus and Succulents

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


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)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


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

Bloom Color:



Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer



This plant is fire-retardant

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

From softwood cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Black Canyon City, Arizona

Chandler Heights, Arizona

Fountain Hills, Arizona

Gilbert, Arizona

Green Valley, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Yuma, Arizona

Amesti, California

Fresno, California

Hayward, California

Knights Landing, California

Manteca, California

Pomona, California

San Francisco, California

San Jose, California

San Leandro, California

San Marino, California

Harwinton, Connecticut

Crystal River, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida (2 reports)

Lake Worth, Florida

Neptune Beach, Florida

Orange Springs, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Rockledge, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

Chicago, Illinois

Jacksonville, Illinois

Calvert City, Kentucky

Kenner, Louisiana

Smiths Creek, Michigan

Kansas City, Missouri

Henderson, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Albuquerque, New Mexico

La Luz, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico

Kings Mountain, North Carolina

Madison, North Carolina

Arlington, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Kempner, Texas

Kermit, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Santa Fe, Texas

Friendship, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 8, 2015, kinderegg from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

This is a fast growing cactus by cactus standards. It needs supplemental water here in the Mojave desert, but it is quite drought tolerant. I like the fruit, which varies wildly from plant to plant. It clones easily from a separated mature pad. If you find a plant with particularly good fruit, clone it in a loose medium and don't overwater it. This plant does contain glochids, so handle with care.


On Jan 16, 2013, martenfisher from Crystal River, FL wrote:

So much false information here about this plant. Opuntia ficus-indica is an ancient form of hybrid believed to be started in Mexico thousands of years ago. This plant has been developed to withstand different conditions in different regions. It is generalized that Opuntia ficus-indica can not survive certain conditions. Some varieties can sustain temps easily to the lower teens while others may freeze in the upper 20's. Some will rot in high humidity or rainy conditions while other varieties may survive with no problem in these conditions. I have many varieties of Opuntia ficus-indica from Mexico to Peru. I have done substantial testing on this wonderful plant the many forms of fruits they produce. If you think there is one standard for this plant then you would be wrong. Just like tomato,... read more


On Oct 5, 2012, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

They to me,taste like watermelon-strawberry light..not very sweet in bay area plants. Our cool summers have a hand in that. Still,fun to have one of these no care..and I mean,NO CARE plants.


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

O. ficus-indica is not COLD/wet winter hardy. 16F will kill them. Many in my area are dying slowly from the cold two winters ago.

I cheat and put mine on a south facing wall and they are doing ok. They survived the 31F winter. BTW the plant that I got was a natrualized plant that grew from seed in the school;s yard. Plant was going to be removed and thrown into the garbage so I dug it up roots and all.. Caution this plant HAS glochids, I got plenty of them on me. The plants around here have orange flowers and spiny trunks at the base with reddish colored glochids.
My plant hasn't bloomed yet, it's less than 2 years old with around 15 pads.


On May 4, 2009, guygee from Satellite Beach, FL wrote:

According to an article in the Arizona Journal-Miner - Oct 5, 1910, page 2 (available via Google) the USDA was cultivating 8-10 varieties of "spineless prickly pear" in Chico CA and Brownsville TX, with a planned distribution of 8-10 tons in the spring of 1911 for testing of agricultural economic viability. The varieties were not to be distributed to areas where temperatures reached below 20 degrees, and specified areas of distribution included Coastal Florida, as well as parts of Texas, California and Arizona.

Perhaps this helps explain some of the confusion that centers around the various varieties of spineless prickly pear.

The cultivar that I am growing in Central Florida is completely spineless and without glochids down to the base, The tender skin of the... read more


On Mar 12, 2008, goldenstate from Fresno, CA wrote:

There is a great confusion as to the different varieties of opuntia. This Opuntia Ficus-Indica is ONLY hardy to about 20 degrees. There are other Opuntia species that are much more tolerant of freezing temperatures, two of them being native to michigan (Opuntia Compressa and Opuntia Fragillis). Those growing Opuntia outside of zone 8 and higher, are growing a different species of opuntia, NOT Opuntia Ficus-Carica.


On Jan 31, 2008, ogrejelly from Gilbert, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

Not much to add based on other comments but I have found that this has to be the most hearty plant I have. I had some kids in the neighborhood smash mine down to a pile of mush with a stick and the thing just came back within a few months.

It is also about the easiest thing to transplant in the world.... just stick a broken off pad that has dried up for a week in the ground and there it goes. Survives in PHX without any water but I usually give it a little each month just to keep the pads full and lush. A terrific plant with little to no waist and zero maintenance... just be careful as it grows fast!


On Mar 31, 2005, OldeOake from Back of Beyond, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

This variety ( opuntia ficus-indica) has very edible pads and fruit. You will still need to clean off the tiny spines (versus long spines) off with a vegetable peeler.

The fruit have largish seeds, slightly smaller than a nasturtium seed.

Not all verieties of opuntia are edible, however.

The correct term in Spanish for the fruit is tuna (plural tunas) and the word is pronounced just like we pronounce in English the word for the fish; no ~ is present in the spelling or pronunciation.

The fruit can be eaten out of hand, fresh, or cooked into jelly or jam.

To prepare for eating, the pads are cleaned of any spines with a knife or vegetable peeler, then can be cooked whole or cut into julienne strips (this is the mor... read more


On Mar 29, 2005, cacti_lover from Henderson, NV (Zone 9b) wrote:

This cactus is not as hardy as listed. The pads will suffer damage below 20F, but the plant itself usually recovers. It suffers more from wind damage than frost damage in this climate.

This is a very useful cactus. It looks nice as a landscape plant but can be use as barrier fence as well. Both the fruits and young pads are edible. The ripe fruits are sweet and juicy, but the seed are very hard. The pads has a slimy texture similar to okras, but has a slight sour citrus taste to it.


On Nov 30, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

If you can pick the new pads when they still have the leaves on them (young and forming), then there will be no spines or glochids on them, only the leaves, which can be rubbed off under running water. No need to peel if picked young enough.

BTW- this species is ONLY cold hardy to zone 8b.

Other synonyms include: Cactus opuntia, Platyopuntia vulgaris, Cactus compressus, Opuntia compressa [illegitimate] & Platyopuntia cordobensis.

In a 2011 publication: Opuntia paraguayensis was re-assessed and found to be a synonym of Opuntia ficus-indica.


On Feb 2, 2004, gray48 from Kings Mountain, NC wrote:

When I lived in South Carolina, along the borderline of North Carolina as well...these cacti grew like mad! My husband would cut them back and throw the pieces over the fence into a pasture. He was hoping the pieces would die and we looked a few months later and they had continued growing and spreading, crossing the low part of the fence and into his lawn. All he could say was " you just can't kill the darn stuff! ". They were beauties every summer. He had a friend who would want the fruit part of this plant. I had no idea one could eat those things. His friend said they were good, I did not try it! I have posted a picture of our plant, still to be reviewed.


On Jan 4, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

San Antonio, Tx.
The tuberous prickly pear, native to Mexico and the southwestern regions of the United States and also found in South Africa, Spain, and Italy, is a trunk-forming segmented evergreen cactus which can grow to to 15 feet tall and to 10 feet wide. However, I have never seen any this large in my locale. They are usually up to 6 feet tall and wide. The large, oblong-shaped, pads have few spines. The old pads form woody stems.

Yellow or orange cup-shaped flowers are produced on the perimeter of the pads in spring or early summer. It performs best in full or reflected sun, adapts to various types of soil that has good drainage and is drought tolerant. The pads shrivel during severe drought which indicates a need for supplemental water; otherwise, there is n... read more


On Oct 24, 2003, pigeon1943 from Harwinton, CT wrote:

I trasplanted one from Oklahoma to CT, and with winter mulch, and planting on south side(sunny side) of house, it flourishes! Had many transplants from cuttings -dozens, and they grow fast.


On Aug 12, 2003, davecwik from Smiths Creek, MI wrote:

its a fasinating low matinence catcus hardy to cold winters. it is also edible but be very careful skining it


On Mar 28, 2003, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

It seems that every old adobe house in California is accompanied by an Opuntia ficus-indica. The young pads (nopales) and ripe fruits (tunas - that's an n with a ~ over it) are edible. These plants have also been used as a living "barbed wire" fence.