Some of the flat-stemmed members of the subfamily Opun-tioideae in South America have long troubled researchers, for they do not seem to fit into the usual mold of the platy-opuntias of North America. The studies of Steven Dickie and Robert Wallace (2001), Wallace and Dickie (2001), James Iliff (2001), and Wolfgang Stuppy (2001) indicate that a number of species that were sometimes referred to by botanists as the Airampo group is most closely related to the genus Miqueli-opuntia. Byles (1955) argued that the genus name Airampoa was validly published by Alberto Fric in 1929 but it appears that there are serious questions about its typification and validity. Therefore, this assemblage of plants has been placed in the genus Tunilla by David Hunt and Iliff (2000). Tunilla is the Spanish name applied to some of the species and it means small tuna, tuna being the common name of many opuntioids.
Tunilla has stem segments that are somewhat to markedly flattened, determinate, close set, and small, with needle-like spines. The unique fruits are fleshy but thin walled and de hisce by single lateral slits, which then open widely. Stuppy (2001) also noted that the seeds are unusually small, laterally compressed, and have a distinctive, soft funicular envelope that is nearly glabrous. The approximately nine species are mostly poorly known, and few are in cultivation.
Tunilla D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000
Subfamily Opuntioideae. Plants low growing, jointed, often forming cushions but with the appearance of small clusters of platyopun-tias. Stem segments globose, cylindrical, or compressed, tubercu-late. Areoles white to brown, 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) apart. Glochids present. Spines numerous, needle-like. Flowersyelloworred or violet-red, sometimes white. Fruits fleshy, thin walled, dehiscing by single lateral slits. Seeds distinctive: small, 2.5-4.5 mm long, laterally compressed, irregularly kidney shaped with wrinkled surface; funicular envelope soft, almost glabrous; perisperm much reduced. Distribution: southern Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and northwestern Argentina.
Tunilla albisetacens (Backeberg) D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Opuntia albisetacens Backeberg 1936, Platyopuntia albisetacens (Backeberg) F. Ritter 1980
Plants low growing. Stem segments somewhat rounded in cross section, tapered toward the tip, to 5 cm (2 in) long. Spines as many as 10, white, flexible, twisted and interlacing, to 6 cm (2.4 in) long. Flowers red or at times white, to 5 cm (2 in) long; pericarpels tuberculate, with many bristly spines to 1.5 cm (0.6 in) long. Distribution: Bolivia.
Tunilla chilensis (F. Ritter) D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Platyopuntia chilensis F. Ritter 1980, incorrect name, not Tephrocactus chilensis Backeberg 1953 (see Malhuenlopsis camachoi) Opuntia alcerrecensis Iliff 1997
Plants semiprostrate, fragile, with beadlike branching. Stem segments small, dark green, somewhat rounded in cross section, to 2.5 cm (1 in) long. Spines as many as 7, borne mostly from areoles on upper parts of segments, erect to bent somewhat downward, blackish red, to 3 cm (1.2 in) long. Flowers small, yellow, borne infrequently. Distribution: vicinity of Arica, Tarapaca, Chile, north to the Peruvian border.
Tunilla corrugata (Salm-Dyck) D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Opuntia corrugata Salm-Dyck 1834, Tephrocactus corrugatus (SalmDyck) Kreuzinger 1935, Platyopuntia corrugata (Salm-Dyck) F. Ritter 1980
?0puntia longispina Haworth 1830 ?0puntia eburnea Lemaire 1838
?0puntia microdisca F. A. C. Weber 1898, ?Platyopuntia microdisca (F. A. C. Weber) F. Ritter 1980, nunilla microdisca (F. A. C. Weber) D. R. Hunt & Iliff (2000)
distinctly tuberculate, to 6 cm (2.4 in) long. Areoles as many as 140 per segment, close set. Spines 4-7 and inconspicuous, bent backward and lying next to the surface, to many, spreading, 0.4-1 cm (to 0.4 in) long. Flowers reddish orange to carmine red; pericarpels elongate, tuberculate, bristly. Distribution: Salta, Argentina.
Tunilla ianthinantha (F. Ritter) D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Platyopuntia ianthinantha F. Ritter 1980, incorrect name; Opuntia ianthinantha (F. Ritter) Iliff 1997
Plants forming prostrate cushions, branching from lower sides of previous shoots. Stem segments elongate to obovate, somewhat tuberculate, to 8 cm (3.1 in) long. Areoles about 100 per segment. Spines 3-8, unequal, mostly straight, spreading, brownish, becoming whitish, to 6 cm (2.4 in) long. Flowers violet-red, to 6 cm (2.4 in) long; pericarpels with areoles throughout, bristles near rims to 5 mm long. Fruits pear shaped. Distribution: Jujuy, Argentina.
Plants very low, partially buried, crowded. Stem segments very small, sometimes only 1 cm (0.4 in) long, globose to somewhat flattened, blue-green, with very low tubercles, nearly spineless. Spines 0-2, later 3-4, very thin, unequal, not sharp, gray, to 3 cm (1.2 in) long. Distribution: puna vegetation at an elevation of4000 m (13,000 ft) in northern Bolivia. Tunilla minuscula is poorly known.
Plants low, shrubby or prostrate, densely branched and forming clumps. Stem segments round to cylindrical, often erect, tapering at both ends, light green, the terminal segments often flattened, to 3.5 cm (1.4 in) long, 0.8-1.2 cm (0.3-0.5 in) in diameter. Spines 6-8, needle-like, whitish, bent backward, to 1.2 cm (0.5 in) long. Flowers red or orange-red. Fruits red. Distribution: documented from Argentina but probably more widespread.
Tunilla erectoclada (Backeberg) D. R. Hunt & Iliff2000
Opuntia erectoclada Backeberg 1935
Opuntia picardoi Marnier-Lapostolle 1960, not validly published
Plants prostrate. Stem segments narrow, triangular to tongue shaped, blue-green to bright green, erect in young growth,
Tunilla orurensis (Cárdenas) D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Opuntia orurensis Cárdenas 1956, Platyopuntia orurensis (Cárdenas) F. Ritter 1980
Plants prostrate. Stem segments round or slightly flattened, to 4 cm (1.6 in) long, slightly tuberculate. Areoles about 35 per segment. Spines as many as 8, erect, purplish brown, to 2.5 cm (1 in) long. Flowers yellow with orange tips, to 4 cm (1.6 in) long; pericarpels with dark purple bristles. Fruits red, frequently sterile. Distribution: Oruro south to Tarija, Bolivia.
Tunilla silvestris (Backeberg) D. R. Hunt 8c Iliff 2000 Opuntia silvestris Backeberg 1932, Tephrocactus silvestris (Backeberg) Backeberg 1936
Plants prostrate, partially hidden in the ground, branching like a string of beads. Stem segments small, round, pure green, nearly spineless. Spine 0-1, to 1.7 cm (0.7 in) long, occasionally with a single subsidiary one. Distribution: north of La Paz, Bolivia. Tunilla silvestris is possibly the same as T. minuscula.
Tunilla soehrensii (Britton & Rose) D. R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Opuntia soehrensii Britton & Rose 1919, Platyopuntia soehrensii (Britton & Rose) F. Ritter 1980 Opuntia boliviensis Backeberg 1935 Opuntia cedergreniana Backeberg 1935 Opuntia tilcarensis Backeberg 1935, Tunilla tilcarensis (Backeberg)
D.R. Hunt & Iliff 2000 Opuntia multiareolata Backeberg 1962, not validly published Opuntia obliqua Backeberg 1962, not validly published
Plants low growing, often prostrate and creeping, rooting from edges of growth. Stem segments flattened, sometimes crescent shaped, somewhat tuberculate, to 6 cm (2.4 in) long. Areoles close set, as many as 60 or more per segment. Spines 2-12, usually 5-8, needle-like, stout, yellowish to brownish, unequal, spreading, on most areoles, to 7 cm (2.8 in) long.
Flowers yellow, to 5.5 cm (2.2 in) long; pericarpels with areoles nearly to bases, bristly above. Fruits to 2.5 cm (1 in) long, lacking areoles below, with some spines to 2 cm (0.8 in) long above. Distribution: widely distributed in Peru, south through the Bolivian Altiplano into Chile. The seeds of Tunilla soehrensii are used as a red food coloring (Chapter 2, under Cacti as a Source of Dyes).
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