Sunday, June 9, 2013

Only Cactus Native to Maryland

Opuntia humifusa  -  The Eastern Prickly Pear

Opuntia humifusa (aka Opuntia compressa) is the only cactus native to the Mid Atlantic and New England States of the U.S.

It is a low growing, nearly, or totally, spineless cactus with bright yellow flowers.  It does have glochids.  These are tiny, hair-like barbed spines that look like tiny tufts of reddish brown hair.  When touched, or even slightly brushed, they go into the skin and become very irritating. 

In winter the oval or elongate stems
dehydrate and shrivel.  In this state they are very resistant to cold, and wet conditions.  The plants shown  are in my winter hardy cactus and other succulent planting here in Southern Maryland.   As with many opuntias, the stems (pads) can be easily detached and rooted. 

I am using rooted pads of Opuntia humifusa for grafting stock.  I don't do a lot of grafting, but I sometimes want to speed the growth of promising cacti seedlings and grafting can achieve this.  

Opuntia humifusa was the first cactus I ever saw.  I found a naturally growing clump of plants here in Maryland when accompanying my father on a fishing trip.  I remember my amazement of these strange looking plants.  Unfortunately, that was the day I also learned about "glochids," a painful lesson. 



  1. Gorgeous flowers! My new cactus is going to flower soon as well, from the looks of it they're likely going to be yellow too.

  2. Thank you Ellie T. And what is the new cactus you have that's expecting a flower? You could grow the Opuntia humifusa in a large container outside if you have a fair amount of sun. It would never have to be brought inside, it can take the cold, even in Toronto. If you ever have space for one, let me know.

  3. An Opuntia...! But such lovely flowers. I had no idea it was a Maryland native.

  4. It's the only cactus native to the Mid-Atlantic and most of the New England States (it is not found in Maine). It has few if any spines, but it does have lots of glochids.

  5. Hi,
    I have a few cuttings of this plant and I would lie to know how to root them. I got a wonderful sunny place planned for them in my front yard. I'm in Baltimore, Maryland.
    thank you
    Robin Andersen