Opuntia Species, 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:Cactus pusillus
Synonym:Cactus pusillus
Synonym:Opuntia drummondii
Synonym:Opuntia pusilla


Cactus and Succulents

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round

Suitable for growing in containers


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

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

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

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


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

Lindstrom, Minnesota

Grove City, Ohio

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

Bluffton, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Santaquin, Utah

South Jordan, Utah

Leesburg, Virginia

Vancouver, Washington

Great Cacapon, West Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 11, 2015, jv123 from Washougal, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Extremely hardy opuntia, survives down to -40 degrees F. It is one of Washington's 4 native species of cactus. This particular opuntia is tolerant of extreme heat and drought as well as the cold and wet, as long as drainage is excellent. Found across several areas of desert eastern Washington, as well as some areas of western WA, a place not normally thought of as cactus territory. It is also found on the San Juan Islands! The spines are barbed, so be careful if you are replanting. Blooms yellow. An impressively hardy, and interesting cactus.


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


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


On Jul 21, 2007, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

This plant grows extensively on NC's Barrier Islands. Incredibly easy to propagate from cuttings. Jointed pads break off readily. EXTREMELY sharp, barbed spines- use gloves when handling. Also beware of the glochids. Being a prickly pear, the plant and fruit are edible. Fruit is kind of sweet.


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.


On Nov 30, 2004, Xenomorf from Phoenix, 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.


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.