Your support is critical to our success.
Accepted Scientific Name: Opuntia quitensis F.A.C.Weber
Dict. Hort. [Bois] 894 1898. Bois
Origin and Habitat: Opuntia quitensis occurs in Colombia, Peru (Apurimac department) and the Provinces of El Oro, Pichincha, Chimborazo, Azuay, and Loja in Ecuador. This is an abundant species.
Altitude range: It grows at altitudes of 0 to 3,000 metres above sea level. It is one of the few cacti which is found both in the Andes and on the coast.
Habitat and Ecology: Opuntia quitensis is found in shrub vegetation in the dry coastal or Andean areas. In Ecuador, it grows in dry scrublands, dry mountain forests and dry inter-Andean forests. Opuntia quitensis is used locally as a natural fence. This species is not exposed to any threat.
Opuntia quitensis F.A.C.Weber
Dict. Hort. [Bois] 894 1898.
- Opuntia quitensis F.A.C.Weber
- Platyopuntia quitensis (F.A.C.Weber) F.Ritter
- Opuntia johnsonii
- Opuntia macbridei Britton & Rose
- Opuntia macbridei var. orbicularis Rauh & Backeb.
ENGLISH: Red Buttons
SPANISH (Español): penco, tunilla
Description: Opuntia quitensis sprawling to somewhat erect succulent bush, with single stems but forming large thickets usually 0.4-2 meters high, but becomes considerably higher in dense vegetation (to 3 metres tall). This species is very variable in habit, for when grown in the open it is low and bushy with rather small joints, but when growing in thickets it becomes tall and has large joints (pads). It is often spineless, and when the spines are present they are usually few and weak, but occasionally the joints have stout subulate spines. Plants are functionally unisexual (dioecious ) with male and female blossoms in separate plants. Opuntia quitensis sometimes produces peculiar "terminal flowers", which are embedded in a flattened joint, replacing the pericarpel. The raw fruit is edible.
Derivation of specific name. 'quitensis' is a geographic epithet alluding to its occurrence near Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
Stem segments: Joints not detaching easily, flattened, narrowly obovate to nearly round, 6 to 40 cm long, 5 to 13 cm. broad glabrous.
Areoles: Small, distant, 2 cm apart, bearing some white tomentum. Glochids inconspicuous, brown, 2-4 mm long.
Spines: Wanting, or 1 to 3 (sometimes as many as 7 on old joints), spreading, unequal, with slightly barbed tips, straight, yellowish brown white with darker tips, or nearly white when young, acicular or awl-like, sometimes slightly flattened, somewhat flexuous, 0.5 to 8 cm long.
Leaves: Green, minute, acute.
Flowers: Red or orange, 23-70 mm long, 12-50 mm broad, and often "terminal” that is to say that they are embedded in a flattened joint, replacing the pericarpel. Tepals erect, obtuse. Anthers white. Style white, short and thick; stigma-lobes 13, white, about as long as the style. Flowers are functionally unisexual. Staminate flower may have a few ovules, but lack stigmas.
Fruits: Obovoid to barrel shaped, deeply umbilicate, brownish-green to red, nearly spineless, about 2-4 cm long, 2-4 cm in diameter, with glochids, sometimes with spines or bristles. The pulp is greenish
Seeds: About 3 cm broad.
Chromosome number: 2n= 22.
Notes: This opuntia is often encountered as Opuntia johnsonii, named after Harry Johnson, owner of big garden in Fallbrook, California, USA.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Opuntia quitensis group
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Loaiza, C. 2013. Opuntia quitensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T151698A551173. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T151698A551173.en. Downloaded on 25 March 2016.
2) 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
3) Curt Backeberg “Die Cactaceae: Handbuch der Kakteenkunde”, Volume 6 G. Fischer, 1962
4) Hunt, D., Taylor, N. and Charles, G. “The New Cactus Lexicon.” dh Books, Milborne Port, UK. 2006
5) Anderson, E. F. “The cactus family” 2001
6) Aguirre M, Z., Kvist, L.P. and Sánchez T, O. “Bosques secos en Ecuador y su diversidad.” In: M. Moraes R., B. Øllgaard, L. P. Kvist, F. Borchsenius and H. Balslev (eds), "Botánica Económica de los Andes Centrales", pp. 162-187. Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz. 2006
7) Fernández-Alonso, J.L. and Estupiñán, C. “Echinopsis pachanoi y Opuntia quitensis, dos cactáceas nuevas para la Flora de Colombia.” Boletín Informativo de la SLCCS 2(3): 3-4. 2005
8) Loaiza, C., Aguirre, Z.H. and Jadan, O. “Estado del conocimiento actual de la familia Cactaceae en el Ecuador.” Boletín de la Sociedad Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Cactáceas y otras suculentas. 6(3): 11-22. 2009
9) Brako, L. & J. L. Zarucchi. (eds.) “Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru.” Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 45: i–xl, 1–1286.1993
10) Jørgensen, P. M. & C. Ulloa Ulloa. “Seed plants of the high Andes of Ecuador - A checklist.” AAU Rep. 34: 1–443. 1994
11) Jørgensen, P. M. & S. León-Yánez. (eds.) “Catalogue of the vascular plants of Ecuador.” Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 75: i–viii, 1–1181. 1999
12) Madsen, J. E. 45. “Cactaceae.” 35: 1–79. In G. W. Harling & B. B. Sparre (eds.) “Flora of Ecuador”. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Göteborg and the Section for Botany, Riksmuseum, Stockholm.1989
13) “Haseltonia: Yearbook of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America”, editions 6-10 The Society, 1998
14) Eduardo Cueva, Omar Cabrera “Plantas silvestres comestibles del sur del Ecuador” Editorial Abya Yala, 1999
Cultivation and Propagation: Opuntia quitensis is a low maintenance plant that tolerate considerable neglect and will naturalize. Easy to cultivate outdoor in warm dry climates.
Growth rate: it is a relatively fast growing species that can form large clumps just in a few year.
Soils: It grows well in sandy or gravely, well-drained soils. May be grown in clay soils as long as drainage is good and soils do not remain wet, it is very adaptable both in acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils, but prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7,5. For pot culture it needs regular cacti soil with little organic matter (peat, humus).
Repotting: Since they are big-sized plants, they need plenty of space for their roots. Repotting should be done every other year, or when the plant has outgrown its pot. Use pot with good drainage.
Watering Needs: Must be kept fairly dry in winter but likes a reasonable supply of water in the growing season, but do not overwater and allow to dry fully before watering again, tolerate dry condition but suffer if exposed to prolonged and severe drought. A position at the base of a south-facing wall or somewhere that can be protected from winter rain is best for this plant, but is however resistant to moisture and rain. Care must be taken with watering as they tends to become swollen and untidy in growth habit if given too much water and shade.
Fertilization: During the growing season enrich the soil using a fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorous, but poor in nitrogen, because this chemical element doesn’t help the development of succulent plants, making them too soft and full of water.
Sun Exposure: Full sun (only), in semi shaded position wont produce many flowers.
Hardiness: Reputedly sensitive to frost, but less so if kept on the dry side prior to, and during, cold weather (hardy to -5° C or less for short periods, depending on clone). Outdoors this plant is very adaptable, as long as you avoid excessive humidity in the winter months (in good drained soils).
Garden uses: Excellent as landscape or patio plant. It is suitable for “desert” or “Mediterranean” 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.
Pests & diseases: It may be attractive to a variety of insects, but plants in good condition should be nearly pest-free, particularly if they are grown with good exposure and ventilation.
Warning: Opuntias bear spines and glochids (stiff bristles on the surface of the cladode) that can be very irritating to the skin.
Propagation: Propagated almost exclusively by cuttings of leaf pads at any time in the growing season. It may also be propagated by seeds. Seeds germinate in 7-14 days at 21-27° C in spring, remove the glass cover gradually as the plants develops and keep ventilated, no full sun for young plants! The seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted, after which they can be planted separately in small pots.
|Back to Platyopuntia index|
|Back to Cactaceae index|
|Back to Cacti Encyclopedia index|