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Accepted Scientific Name: Opuntia anacantha Speg.
Bull. Mus. Hist. Nat. (Paris) 10: 391 1904
Origin and Habitat: Northern Argentina, in the provinces of Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Santa Fe, Chaco, Formosa, Salta, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Córdoba, Jujuy, and La Rioja. It is also present in Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
Altitude range: 10 and 1,000 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology: Opuntia anacantha grows in humid and dry forests, both in their interior and on edges, as well as in shrublands on sandy soil. It is present in the lower portion of the Yungas forest.
This species is common and abundant throughout its range, and there are no major threats affecting it.
It is almost entirely without spines and is used for forage. The cattle belonging to the Indians of the Chaco eat the stems greedily, and Dr. Spegazini believes that they live during the summer months principally upon this species.
Opuntia anacantha Speg.
Bull. Mus. Hist. Nat. (Paris) 10: 391 1904
- Opuntia anacantha Speg.
- Platyopuntia kiska-loro (Speg.) F.Ritter
- Opuntia bispinosa Backeb.
- Opuntia canina Speg.
- Opuntia grosseana F.A.C.Weber
- Opuntia roborensis Cárdenas
- Opuntia vitelliniflora (F.Ritter) P.J.Braun & Esteves
- Platyopuntia vitelliniflora F.Ritter
Opuntia anacantha var. kiska-loro (Speg.) R.Kiesling
Candollea 53: 475. 1998
Opuntia anacantha var. retrorsa (Speg.) R.Kiesling
Candollea 53: 475. 1998
- Opuntia anacantha var. retrorsa (Speg.) R.Kiesling
- Opuntia platynoda Griffiths
Opuntia anacantha var. utkilio (Speg.) R.Kiesling
Candollea 53: 476. 1998
ENGLISH: Spineless cactus, Orange Tuna Cactus
Description: Opuntia anacantha is a jointed shrubby cactus, usually decumbent and rooting along the under surface, sometimes ascending and clambering, forming low clumps to 60 cm high and 2.5 m wide. The joints are typically unarmed or with sharp spines. This species presents a large morphological variability and has a large distribution area. This accounts for the numerous controversial synonyms. The user-friendly spineless forms appear to be the more common in cultivation.
Stem segments (joints): Shiny dark green except for purple spots under the areoles, flat, elliptic to lanceolate, narrowed toward each end, 15 to 40 cm long, 3.5 to 7 cm broad.
Spines: 2-4 sometimes absent, unequal, whitish, 4-6 cm long either retrorse or erect.
Flowers: Large, numerous, yellowish orange to orange, to 4 cm long and 6 cm across. Sepals large,
reddish, obtuse, emarginate or even 2-lobed. Petals 12. Style white, stigma-lobes white or rose colored.
Fruit: Pubescent, 3-5 cm long, red to violet-purple, the pulp yellowish or white edible, acid, with many seeds.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Opuntia anacantha group
- Opuntia anacantha Speg.: (var. anacantha) has dark green stem segments usually spineless and yellow flowers. Distribution: Southern Gran Chaco region of Argentina.
- Opuntia anacantha var. kiska-loro (Speg.) R.Kiesling: has light green stem segments and orange flowers. Distribution: far north of Argentina into Bolivia.
- Opuntia anacantha var. retrorsa (Speg.) R.Kiesling: has light green stem segments with sharp spines turned backward and has violet stripes downwards from the areoles. Flowers are yellow. Distribution: grassland in southern part of the range, Argentina.
- Opuntia anacantha var. utkilio (Speg.) R.Kiesling: has elliptical, green stem segments and yellow flowers. Distribution: near Tucuman, Argentina.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Edward F. Anderson “The Cactus Family” Timber Press, 2001
2) Curt Backeberg “Cactus Lexicon” Sterling Publishing Company, Incorporated, 1978
3) David Hunt, Nigel Taylor “The New Cactus Lexicon” DH Books, 2006
4) James Cullen, Sabina G. Knees, H. Suzanne Cubey “The European Garden Flora Flowering Plants: A Manual for the Identification of Plants Cultivated in Europe, Both Out-of-Doors and Under Glass” Cambridge University Press, 11/Aug./2011
5) Brighton & Rose "The Cactaceae" Vol I, pag 215.1919 [21 Jun 1919]
6) Roy Wiersma “Luther Burbank Spineless Cactus Identification Project” AuthorHouse, 01/Oct/2008
7) Oakley, L., Pin, A. & Duarte, W. 2013. Opuntia anacantha. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 12 August 2014.
8) Nee, M. 2004. “Magnoliidae, Hamamelidae y Caryophyllidae”. 2: 1–209. In M. Nee Fl. Reg. Parque Nac. Amboró Bolivia. Editorial FAN, Santa Cruz.
9. Taylor, N. 2007. “Cactaceae of Bolivia: additional departmental records”. Cactaceae Syst. Initiat. 22: 10–11.
Cultivation and Propagation: Opuntia anacantha is a a much decorative cactus not very comon in cultivation. It is a summer grower species that offers no cultivation difficulties. It is a user-friendly pear, with joints typically unarmed and the plant can also be grown in gangways and areas frequented by children and animals.
Soil: Use a very a particularly draining substratum, as it is sensitive to rottenness when in presence of humidity and low temperatures and let the soil dry out between waterings, since it's natural habitat is in sandy or gravelly, well draining soils.
Repotting: Repot in the spring, when their roots become cramped. Generally, they should be repotted every other year in order to provide fresh soil. After repotting, do not water for a week or more.
Water: In summer, during the vegetative period, it must be regularly watered, but allowing the substratum to completely dry up before irrigating again (but do not overwater ); in winter, it’s to be kept dry. Preferable not to water on overcast days, humid days or cold winter days.
Hardiness: It is a quite frost resistant cactus, hardy to -7° C. However in cultivation it is better not to expose it to temperatures lower than -0° C, even if in an aerated and protected location, in order to avoid the formation of anti-aesthetic spots on the epidermis. In presence of high atmospheric humidity avoid any frost as it is particularly sensitive to root rot. USDA Zone 7-10. It can handle extremely high temperatures in summer.
Exposure: Outside full sun or afternoon shade, inside needs bright light, and some direct sun.
Use: It is suitable for “desert” gardens, in association with other xerophytes. Where the open air cultivation is not possible due to the climate, it is to be cultivated in pot in order to shelter it in winter.
Propagation: Stem division. Prickly pear pads root easily and grow rapidly when placed in loose, well-draining soil.
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