Opuntia robusta Wendland in Pfeiffer

Opuntia flavicans Lemaire, Cact. Gen. Nov. Sp.

Opuntia larreyi Weber in Coulter, Contr. U. S.

Opuntia gorda Griffiths, Monatsschr. Kakteenk.

23: 134. :9:3.

Often erect, sometimes 5 meters high, usually much branched; joints orbicular to oblong, 20 to 25 cm. long by 10 to 12.5 cm. broad, very thick, bluish green, glaucous; leaves 4 mm. long, reddish, acute; spines 8 to 12, stout, very diverse, brown or yellowish at base, white above, up to 5 cm. long, but often wanting on greenhouse specimens; flowers 5 cm. broad, yellow; stigma-lobes green; fruit globular to ellipsoid, at first more or less tuberculate, deep red, 7 to 9 cm. long.

Type locality: In Mexico.

Distribution: Central Mexico; cultivated in Argentina.

This is one of the few species of Opuntia of which we have not been able to verify the original publication. It was redescribed by Pfeiffer in 1837.

Opuntia camuessa Weber (Dict. Hort. Bois 895. 1898) was given as a synonym of O. robusta, but was never described; and the same is true of O. piccolominiana Parlatore (Schumann, Gesamtb. Kakteen 741. 1898).

The variety Opuntia robusta viridior Salm-Dyck (Förster, Handb. Cact. 487. 1846) was never described.

Opuntia albicans Salm-Dyck (Hort. Dyck. 361. 1834) we do not know, but A. Berger, who has grown a plant under that name at La Mortola, says it is closely related to O. robusta, while in the New York Botanical Garden are specimens labeled O. albicans which are difficult to distinguish from O. ficus-indica. Here belong the following: O. prate Sabine (Pfeiffer, Enum. Cact. 155. 1837), given as a synonym of O. albicans; O. albicans laevior Salm-Dyck (Cact. Hort. Dyck. 1849. 67. 1850), name only; and O. pruinosa Salm-Dyck (Cact. Hort. Dyck. 1849. 67. 1850) given as a synonym of O. albicans laevior.

Opuntia larreyi, a manuscript name of Weber, which was published by Coulter in 1896, is based on the plant known to the Mexicans as camuessa. Weber gave it the name of O. camuessa, as shown above, but did not publish it; it is usually considered to be only a race of O. robusta, but Dr. Griffiths considers it a distinct species, even referring it to a different series, the Ficus-indicae (N. Mex. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 64: 56. 1907).

Fig. 237.—Opuntia quimilo.

Berger remarks that this species is very variable, but that it can not well be divided even into varieties.

Opuntia megalarthra Rose (Smiths. Misc. Coll. 50: 529. 1908), in its very spiny joints, yellow spines, and small fruits, seems very different from the common cultivated O. robusta; yet when grown in the greenhouse for several years it takes on much the appearance of O. robusta. If this view is correct, O. megalarthra represents the wild form of the species.

Opuntia cochinera Griffiths (Rep. Mo. Bot. Gard. 19: 263. pl. 26. 1908) from Zacatecas, Mexico, is, perhaps, a hybrid between Opuntia robusta and one of the Streptacanthae.

Illustrations: N. Mex. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 60: pl. 5, f. 1; Monatsschr. Kakteenk. 23: 135; Journ. Inter. Gard. Club 3: 14, the last two as Opuntia gorda; U. S. Dept. Agr. Bur. Pl. Ind. Bull. 74: pl. 5, as Tapuna pear. ? N. Mex. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 64: pl. 1.

Plate xxxiv, figure 4, represents a joint of the plant collected by Dr. Rose in Hidalgo, Mexico, in 1905, and described by him as Opuntia megalarthra. Figure 238 is from a photograph taken in Zacatecas, Mexico, by Professor F. E. Lloyd in 1908.

Cactus Alto Ereto Sem Flor
Fig. 238.—Opuntia robusta.

214. Opuntia guerrana Griffiths, Rep. Mo. Bot. Gard. 19: 266. 1908.

Plant 9 to 12 dm. high, with an open, branching top; joints oblong to orbicular, 15 to 25 cm. long, thick, glaucous; areoles 5 mm. in diameter, filled with tawny wool; spines white to yellow, I to 6, flattened, twisted; petals yellow; filaments greenish white; stigma-lobes green; fruit globose greenish white, 4 to 5 cm. in diameter.

Type locality: Near Dublin, Hidalgo, Mexico. Distribution: Known only from type locality.

Except in size and color of fruit this species is very much like the common Opuntia robusta of this part of Mexico.

215. Opuntia fusicaulis Griffiths, Rep. Mo. Bot. Gard. 19: 271. 1908.

Plant 5 meters high or less, the branches erect or spreading; joints oblong, elongated, 4 dm. long or less, much longer than wide, glaucous, bluish green, spineless, narrowed at both ends; glochids often wanting; areoles small, filled with tawny wool; fruit greenish white.

Type locality: Described from cultivated plants. Distribution: Known only from cultivated specimens. Illustration: Rep. Mo. Bot. Gard. 19: pl. 23, in part.

The following may be referable to this ''Series: Opuntia crystalenia Griffiths, Bull. Torr. Club 43: 528. 1916.

Erect, 2 to 2.5 meters high; joints broadly obovate, 25 cm. long, 18 cm. Wide, glaucous, bluish green, becoming yellowish in age; leaves 4 mm. long, subulate; spines white, porrect, only on the upper parts of the joints, 1 to 4, usually only 2, the longest 1 to 1.5 cm. long; glochids yellow; flowers yellow; stigma-lobes 10, dark green; fruit subglobose, 4 to 4.5 cm. in diameter.

Type locality: Cardenas, Mexico.

Distribution: Highlands of Mexico, where it is also cultivated.


This series is confined chiefly to plains of the western United States. The species are all low, creeping plants, very spiny, with dry fruits. On account of the dry fruit this series forms a natural group, although some species in the series Basilares also have dry fruits. One species of series Polyacanthae has fragile branches, in this respect resembling the Curassavicae. The species hybridize with those of the Tortispinae.

Continue reading here: Key to Species

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