Cactus ferox Nuttall, Gen. Pl. 1: 296. 1818. Not Willdenow. 1813. Opuntia media Haworth, Suppl. Pl. Succ. 82. 1819. Opuntia missouriensis De Candolle, Prodr. 3: 472. 1828. Opuntia splendens Pfeiffer, Enum. Cact. 159. 1837.
Opuntia missouriensis albispina Engelmann and Bigelow, Proc. Amer. Acad. 3: 300. 1856. Opuntia missouriensis microsperma Engelmann and Bigelow, Proc. Amer. Acad. 3: 300. 1856. Not
O. rafinesquei microsperma Engelmann, Proc. Amer. Acad. 3: 295. 1856. Opuntia missouriensisplatycarpa Engelmann, Proc. Amer. Acad. 3: 300. 1856. Opuntia missouriensis rufispina Engelmann and Bigelow, Proc. Amer. Acad. 3: 300. 1856. Opuntia missouriensis subinermis Engelmann, Proc. Amer. Acad. 3: 300. 1856. Opuntia polyacantha albispina Coulter, Contr. U. S. Nat. Herb. 3: 437. 1896. Opuntia polyacantha borealis Coulter, Contr. U. S. Nat. Herb. 3: 436. 1896. Opuntia polyacantha platycarpa Coulter, Contr. U. S. Nat. Herb. 3: 436. 1896. Opuntia polyacantha watsonii Coulter, Contr. U. S. Nat. Herb. 3: 437. 1896. Opuntia schweriniana Schumann, Monatsschr. Kakteenk. 9: 148. 1899.
Low, spreading plants, with fibrous roots, usually forming small clumps; joints not very thick, orbicular, usually less than 10 cm. in diameter, generally light green; areoles small, closely set, usually less than 1 cm. apart, all spiny; spines numerous, often 9, those from the sides mostly short, appressed, and white, but often 1 or 2 of these elongated and like those from the upper and marginal areoles, dark brown, with lighter tips and about 3 cm. long; glochids yellow; flowers small, to 5 cm. long, including the ovary; sepals tinged with red; petals lemon-yellow; stigmalobes green; fruit dry, oblong, 2 cm. long, bearing small clusters of white, acicular spines at the areoles; seeds white, 6 mm. long, acute on the margin.
Type locality: Arid situations on the plains of the Missouri.
Distribution: North Dakota to Nebraska, Texas, and Arizona to Utah, Washington, and Alberta.
Opuntia sphaerocarpa utahensis Engelmann (Trans. St. Louis Acad. 2: 199. 1863) can not be referred to O. sphaerocarpa, where Dr. Engelmann only provisionally placed it when he first described it. On account of its yellow flowers we have referred it here. Opuntia poly-
acantha microsperma and O. polyacantha rufispina, mentioned in Bailey's Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (3: 2363. 1916), belong here.
Opuntia polyacantha was one of the first of our western opuntias to be collected and described. It was first collected by Thomas Nuttall on his memorable trip to the Upper Missouri. He described it in 1818 as Cactus ferox, a name which had been previously used by Willdenow, which led A. H. Haworth in 1819 to rename Nuttall's plant, calling it Opuntia polyacantha. At the same place Haworth published a second name, Opuntia media, undoubtedly based on a less spiny form of O. polyacantha. In 1828 Nuttall's plant was again renamed, this time by A. De Candolle, who called it Opuntia missouriensis, under which name it was known for many years. In 1896 Dr. John M. Coulter very properly restored Haworth's name O. polyacantha.
This species has a wide distribution laterally and altitudinally. It is properly a plains' species, but is found in mountain valleys and on dry hills, usually in the open, but sometimes in sparse pine woods. In a species of such wide distribution and growing under such diverse circumstances, a wide range of forms is to be expected and a number of varieties have been proposed for the various races, some of which may perhaps have red flowers. The plant is hardy at New York, flowering freely in June.
Illustrations: Curtis's Bot. Mag. 115: pl. 7046; Illustr. Fl. 2: f. 2531; ed. 2. 2: f. 2990; N. Mex. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 78: pl. ; Cact. Journ. 1: 167; Gard. Chron. 50: 340, the last two as Opuntia missouriensis; Pac. R. Rep. 4: pl. 14, f. 8 to 10; pl. 23, f. 18, the last two as Opuntia missouriensis albispina; Pac. R. Rep. 4: pl. 14, f. 5 to 7; pl. 24, f. 1, 2, the last two as Opuntia missouriensis microsperma; Pac. R. Rep. 4: pl. 14, f. 4; pl. 23, f. 17, these last two as Opuntia missouriensis platycarpa; Pac. R. Rep. 4: pl. 14, f. 1 to 3; pl. 23, f. 16. these last two as Opuntia missouriensis rufispina; Monatsschr. Kakteenk. 9: 148, this last as Opuntia schweriniana.
Plate xxxv, figure 3, represents a flowering joint of the plant collected by Dr. Rose in western Kansas in 1912. Figure 247 represents joints of the plant from Colorado, photographed by T. W. Smillie.
This is an anomalous group in Opuntia, since the flowers are diœcious and the petals are linear and more or less erect. It contains three species which are very different in habit and color of spines, but which were all united into a single species by Professor Schumann. Dr. Engelmann was so much impressed by the peculiar structure of the flowers of this group that he proposed for it a new subgenus, Stenopuntia.
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