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Origin and Habitat: Mexico (Coahuila, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas). This species is widespread and common.
Habitat and ecology. They are usually found in desert hills and uplands at 1700–2100 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology: The species grows in xerophyllous scrub and matorral in sandy to loamy calcareous soils. There are no threats to this species due to its abundance and wide distribution. Vegetative spread is the most common form of dispersal. This can occur all year round when segments break off and fall to the ground and start growing. Being drought resistant they survive where other plants can’t and are easily transported by animals, people, water and vehicles. Opuntia microdasys is commonly cultivated and sometimes naturalized in Central and South America, Southern USA, Northern Africa, Southern Europe, Australia and elsewhere in open habitats within arid and semi-arid areas. Opuntia microdasys has the potential to become an abundant and widespread noxious weed.
Opuntia microdasys (Lehm.) Lehm. ex Pfeiff.
Enum. Diagn. Cact. 154 1837
- Opuntia microdasys (Lehm.) Lehm. ex Pfeiff.
- Cactus microdasys Lehm.
- Opuntia macrocalyx Griffiths
- Opuntia microdasys var. albiflora Backeb.
- Opuntia microdasys var. albiglochidiata Backeb.
- Opuntia microdasys var. albispina Fobe & Backeb.
- Opuntia microdasys var. laevior Salm-Dyck
- Opuntia microdasys var. minor Salm-Dyck
- Opuntia microdasys f. minor (Salm-Dyck) Schelle
- Opuntia microdasys var. pallida f. cristata hort.
- Opuntia microdasys f. monstruosa hort.
- Opuntia microdasys var. pallida f. undulata
- Opuntia microdasys cv. Contorta
- Opuntia pulvinata DC.
ENGLISH: Angel's Wings, Golden Bristle Cactus, Bunny Ears Cactus, Bunny Cactus, Polka-dot Cactus, Bunny-ear Prickly Pear
RUSSIAN (Русский): опунция мелковолосистая
SPANISH (Español): Nopalillo Cegador, Nopal Cegador, Cegador
Description: Opuntia microdasys (bunny ears), is usually low, much branched, and creeping but sometimes nearly erect and to 1 metre hight, forming low clumps. The small pad-like stems are without spines, but with closely set golden-yellow glochids (hair-like prickles). It can produce yellow flowers but they rarely appear in cultivation. There are many varieties of Opuntia microdasys; among other things, they may be distinguished by the shape and size of the joints and the colour of the glochids. It is very popular with all types of collectors, easy to cultivate, and is without a doubt a most attractive plant.
Stem segments: Joints flattened, oblong to orbicular, 5-15 cm long, 4-12 broad, low tuberculate, nor disarticulating, soft-velvety, usually pale green, spineless. There is no central stem and pads often grow in pairs giving the appearance of bunny ears.
Areoles: Conspicuous, 9-16 per diagonal row across midstem segment, large, round, closely set, filled with numerous glochids (barbed bristle) 2–3 mm long that are easily removed. Glochids numerous, usually yellow (var. pallida), brownish (var. microdasys), or whitish (var. albispina), nearly filling the areoles.
Spines: Spines usually absent, rarely one.
Flowers: Usually produced in abundance, perfect, 4 to 5 cm long, 2.5-3(4) cm in diameter, pure yellow or tinged with red, outer perianth segments acuminate; inner perianth segments broad, retuse. Stamens are inserted in a dense circle at the base of the gynoecium where the nectary chambers lie. Filaments and style white. Anthers yellowish. Stigma-lobes 6 to 8, green. O. microdasys is self incompatible and is found as a complete outcrosser.
Blooming season: The flowering period (in habitat) is from April to mid-May , and fruits ripen from June to August.
Fruit: Green when immature, dark red when mature, and yellow during the last stage, juicy, nearly globular, to 2.5(-3) cm long with many areoles bearing dense glochids spineless, and pubescent.
Seeds: Small, tan, nearly spherical, slightly flattened, 1-1.2 mm broad.
Similar species: Opuntia rufida is a similar cactus with red glochids instead of white or yellow.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Opuntia microdasys group
- Opuntia microdasys (Lehm.) Lehm. ex Pfeiff.: has small pads without spines with closely set white, golden-yellow or brownish glochids. Distribution: Mexico, naturalized elsewhere.
- Opuntia microdasys var. albispina Fobe & Backeb.: has numerous pure white hair-like glochids 2-3 mm long in dense clusters.
- Opuntia microdasys var. pallida f. cristata hort.: twisted pads with bright yellow glochids.
- Opuntia microdasys cv. Caress: glochidless no prickly form, gentle to the touch.
- Opuntia rufida Engelm.
- Opuntia rufida f. minima hort.
Notes: Its closest relative is Opunti rufida, another spineless prickly pear, endemic to Texas (southern Presidio and Brewster counties, along and near the Rio Grande) and Adjacent Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Zacatecas. Opuntia microdasys reportedly hybridizes with O. rufida at their contact zone in southeastern Coahuila and in adjacent northeastern Zacatecas; Opuntia macrocalyx apparently pertains to one of these intermediates.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) N. L. Britton, J. N. Rose: “The Cactaceae. Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family.” Vol I, The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington 1919
2) Curt Backeberg “Die Cactaceae: Handbuch der Kakteenkunde”, Volume 6 G. Fischer, 1962
5) Anderson, E. F. “The cactus family” 2001
6) Bárcenas Luna, R., Goettsch, B.K., Gómez-Hinostrosa, C., Guadalupe Martínez, J. & Sánchez , E. 2013. Opuntia microdasys. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T152311A622350. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T152311A622350.en. Downloaded on 28 March 2016.
7) Kishan Gopal Ramawat “Desert Plants: Biology and Biotechnology” Springer Science & Business Media, 16 December 2009
8) Hernández, H.M., Gómez-Hinostrosa, C. and Goettsch, B. “Checklist of Chihuahuan Desert Cactaceae.” Harvard Papers in Botany 9(1): 51-68. 2004
9) Hunt, D., Taylor, N. and Charles, G. (compilers and editors). “The New Cactus Lexicon”. dh Books, Milborne Port, UK. 2006
10) A. Michael Powell, James F. Weedin “Cacti of the Trans-Pecos & Adjacent Areas” Texas Tech University Press, 2004
11) Hans Hecht “Cacti & succulents” Sterling Pub. Co., 1997
12) Opuntia microdasys in: Gardeners' Chronicle, Horticultural Trade Journal, Volume 155 Haymarket Publishing, 1964
13) Fact sheet DECLARED CLASS 1 PEST PLANT “Bunny ears Opuntia microdasys” The State of Queensland, Depar tment of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestr y, 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2016 from: <https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/137048/IPA-Bunny-ears.pdf>
14) N. Pallerio, M. C. Mandajano, and J. Gobulov “Aborted fruits of Opuntia microdasys (Csctaceae): insurance against reproductive faillure.” American Journal of Botany 93(4): 505–511. 2006.
15) “Fruit abortion in the Chihuahuan-Desert endemic cactus Opuntia microdasys Hugo H. Piña, Carlos Montaña, Marıa del Carmen Mandujano, Plant Ecol 193:305–313. 2007
16) Mario Sanz-Elorza, Elías D. Dana Sánchez, & Eduardo Sobrino Vesperinas “Further naturalised Cactaceae in northeastern Iberian Peninsula” Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid Vol. 63(1): 7-11 January-June 2006
17) Hassiba Chahdoura, João C.M. Barreira, Lillian Barros, Celestino Santos-Buelga, Isabel C.F.R. Ferreira, Lotfi Achour. “Phytochemical characterization and antioxidant activity of Opuntia microdasys (Lehm.) Pfeiff flowers in different stages of maturity” retrieved 27 March 2016 from <https://bibliotecadigital.ipb.pt/bitstream/10198/10157/4/JFF%20corrected.pdf>
Cultivation and Propagation: They are easy to culture. Require full sun to partial shade with a well-drained soil mix. The plants are watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again. During the winter months, the plants enjoy a cold place where the temperature is dropped to 5/10° C, but hardy to -5° C for short periods of time if very dry. During this period water only enough to keep the pads from shrivelling.
Propagation: Cuttings taken at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a porous compost. Very easy, rooting within a month.
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