Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Opuntia, Brittle Cactus, Fragile Prickly Pear, Loose Prickly Pear
Opuntia fragilis

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: fragilis (FRAJ-ih-liss) (Info)

Synonym:Cactus fragilis
Synonym:Terecaulis fragilis

8 members have or want this plant for trade.

Cactus and Succulents

under 6 in. (15 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
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)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow
Pale Green

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

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 herbaceous stem cuttings
From woody stem cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 19 photos.
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3 positives
1 neutral
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Alexwtf_93 On Dec 6, 2010, Alexwtf_93 from Susanville, CA wrote:

i have several different varieties of this cactus, they are all hardy enough to grow all year in northern california (hot dry summers, cold snowy winters) i have ones that get pink, yellow, and white flowers, and a few that have never bloomed, but they are more interesting-looking than the ones with flowers

Negative 1cros3nails4gvn On Aug 18, 2008, 1cros3nails4gvn from Bluffton, SC (Zone 9a) wrote:

awful plant to encounter! the spines have barbs, and are impossible to pull out. i find it rather ugly looking. the smaller bristles are worse than the big spines because they are the exact same, but break when you try to pull them out

Neutral darylmitchell On Nov 15, 2005, darylmitchell from Saskatoon, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

These cacti grow readily in the northern prairies, sharing dry hillsides with native grasses. They are easily pulled apart. While taking photos I discovered that two pads were stuck in the sole of my shoe. Good thing they were thick soles or I would have been stabbed in the foot.

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

Other synonyms include: Tunas fragilis & Opuntia fragilis ssp. brachyarthra.
This Cactus species is the most Northern found of all cacti.
Hybrids are common, and the spines are used as fishhooks because of their strong barbs.
Used medicinally to treat sores, sore throat, as a diuretic, and to facilitate childbirth.

Positive lupinelover On Sep 7, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

A hardy cactus! It is very low-growing, small pads that remove and root easily.


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

Phoenix, Arizona
Sunol, California
Susanville, California
Chicago, Illinois
Parsons, Kansas
Westport, Massachusetts
Stephenson, Michigan
Grove City, Ohio
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Bluffton, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Santaquin, Utah
Leesburg, Virginia
Great Cacapon, West Virginia

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