Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Beavertail Cactus
Opuntia basilaris

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: basilaris (bas-il-LAIR-iss) (Info)

Synonym:Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris

20 members have or want this plant for trade.

Alpines and Rock Gardens
Cactus and Succulents

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)
12-18 in. (30-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

3-6 in. (7-15 cm)
6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

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)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

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

Bloom Color:
Magenta (Pink-Purple)

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds
Provides winter interest
Suitable for growing in containers

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 seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; direct sow after last frost

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

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By Lophophora
Thumbnail #1 of Opuntia basilaris by Lophophora

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By Xenomorf
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There are a total of 52 photos.
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8 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Kell On Mar 21, 2015, Kell from Northern California, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Per Jan Emming owner of the Destination:Forever Ranch and Gardens, a 40 acre desert botanical garden and sustainable living homestead in the Arizona desert with a nursery:

I passed by this beavertail prickly pear cactus (Opuntia basilaris) in full glorious bloom while shooting images of sand dune wildflowers nearby at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge on the Colorado River. The photo opportunity jumped right out at me from a hundred yards away. In fact, the plant is finishing off its final set of flowers since most of the buds have already opened and then closed, so I was lucky to catch a decent bunch still open. Cacti like this are notorious for putting on an extremely showy but very short-lived display lasting only a week or two at most, with individual flowers usually lasting one single day or possibly two at most. But when you are living in such an arid, rocky site in such a hot climate (the marshes in the background notwithstanding) and with summer rapidly approaching, there's no ecological benefit to dragging out your show. The ecological strategy is to be brilliant, attract lots of bugs, get pollinated, close up shop, and set seeds ASAP before the inexorably long, hot summer arrives again. There's a reason for why cacti are so noticeable and also so ephemeral, and this is it.

Neutral kinderegg On May 27, 2014, kinderegg from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

This plant comes with trade offs. The big plus is, it need no water even in the Mojave desert, and has stunning magenta flowers. The big negative is it is covered in glochids (tiny spines resembling fiberglass). These glochids will cover a glove and render it unuseable, stick to a hose or anything that comes in contact with it and find their way into your skin. They are highly irritating, and difficult to remove with either a pair of tweezers, razor blade or duct tape. Only suitable to plant in an area you will observe from afar.

Positive idahocactus2 On Jan 7, 2013, idahocactus2 from Boise, ID wrote:

Opuntia basilaris is found quite abit in the desert yards here in southwest Idaho. Our low elevation and dry climate makes it ideal for many of the varieties of this plant. The pads can get up to a foot long, depending on the variety, and covered with many blooms every season. They do better when they are planted on well draining loose gravelly to sandy/volcanic soils which are raised about 2 feet or more. Very little damage is noted even in severe below zero weather, except on some of the most southerly varieties from Arizona.

Encredible blooms and lightly scented. The fragrance is more pronounced especially on hot days.

Easily grown from cuttings.

Positive beckstrommarc On Feb 13, 2012, beckstrommarc from Livermore, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I am doing a Taxonomic Revision on Opuntia basilaris, there will be lots of changes many new varieties and several natural accruing hybrids.

Positive DMersh On Apr 13, 2011, DMersh from Perth
United Kingdom (Zone 7b) wrote:

There seems to be some variation in the hardiness of different varieties, a plant I had disintegrated at the joints after being snow covered

Positive BobBrins On May 22, 2009, BobBrins from Norwood, PA wrote:

A neighbor gave me this. It flowered last year, 2008. This year it looks like there will be many more flowers than just the two we had last year.

Positive Scorpio_69 On Jun 4, 2008, Scorpio_69 from Show Low, AZ (Zone 6b) wrote:

Grows wild (in my yard) here in Zone 6b at 6,300 ft elevation. Did fine with a fair amount of snow this winter. Gave a little attention and some extra water in spring, many new pads and buds. I'm looking forward to experimenting with eating the fruit and pads.

Positive nevadagdn On Mar 31, 2005, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

Go figure. THIS opuntia survived 4 feet of snow piled on top of it and a Zone 7 winter. It looked pretty awful right after the snow melted, but it's perked up must faster than its hardier cousins.

Neutral smiln32 On Nov 9, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Oval shaped, upright, blue-gray in color. Spineless with pink flowers which are up to 3" in diameter.

Positive palmbob On Sep 26, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

plant labeled as this in Huntington Gardens has attractive pale purply leaves all heart-shaped and spines barely protruding from the surface of the pads. Pads up to 6" long and 5" across.

Neutral Xenomorf On Sep 4, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

This variety is the most common occuring throughout the species. It has more obovate pads to more than 6 inches long.

I've seen this growing in the wild on the 'El Camino Del Diablo Trail' (Devils' Highway) that runs between Ajo and Wellton in Arizona through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.


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

Ajo, Arizona
Chandler Heights, Arizona
Gilbert, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Queen Creek, Arizona
Salome, Arizona
Show Low, Arizona
Wellton, Arizona
Anza, California
Bostonia, California
Inyokern, California
Livermore, California
Ontario, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
Spring Valley, California
Boise, Idaho
Meridian, Idaho
Owatonna, Minnesota
Lucedale, Mississippi
Henderson, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada (2 reports)
Sparks, Nevada
Norwood, Pennsylvania
Austin, Texas

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