Opuntia Species, Cow's Tongue Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Opuntia (op-UN-shee-a) (Info)
Species: engelmannii var. linguiformis
Synonym:Opuntia linguiformis


Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Foliage Color:



36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


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

Bloom Color:

Gold (yellow-orange)

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

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

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

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama

Gadsden, Alabama

Eloy, Arizona

Goodyear, Arizona

Kingman, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Tempe, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Acton, California

Ontario, California

Sacramento, California

San Marino, California

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Wister, Oklahoma

Austin, Texas

El Paso, Texas

Kerrville, Texas

Munday, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Seattle, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Feb 25, 2017, floramakros from Sacramento Valley, CA wrote:

Another must have species for a blue cactus lover. Vicious tiny glochids feel like fire when pressed against skin. For this reason the other common nickname "lawyer's tongue" is very appropriate!


On Nov 19, 2009, Menk from Darling Downs,
Australia wrote:

Does this plant ever produce seed? There is some suggestion that it is a self-sterile clone. At least I have never seen seed advertised.

A word of warning, there are some imposters out there pretending to be this species. There is for example a "cow tongue" form of Opuntia ficus-indica which is a giant by comparison with lindheimeri var. linguiformis. There is also an elongated form of microdasys (var. linguiformis) which can be mistaken for lindheimeri var. linguiformis, especially in the shrivelled state. This plant grows on dry hills in Mexico, and looks nothing like the "bunny ears" forms that we are all familiar with in cultivation. It has greatly elongated segments and rather sparse glochids. It grows much smaller than lindheimeri var. linguiformis and has pale greenis... read more


On Jul 9, 2006, aw12345 from Ontario, CA wrote:

Love this plant roots very easily and grows moderately fast
We stuck some cut branches from an old big plant in the ground in early may and they have rooted and grown very happily since . We broke of some pads and they all rooted and some even flowered.


On Jun 9, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Very attractive pale blue-green plant densely packed with long, sort of pointed, flat pads and prickly pears. From Texas.