Opuntia macrocentra, often called the Purple Prickly Pear, is a branched shrub in the cactus family. The purple comes from a pigment – betalain – and is most prominent when the plants are stressed from either cold or drought. It is most prominent around the areoles and edges of the branches, although it can spread to the entire plant in winter.
Pads are a blue/gray. There are typically 1 to 4 spines in each areole towards the top of each pad only. They can get to be up to 2″ long. It can reach 2′ tall and up to 4′ wide.
It flowers in each Summer and each flower supposedly only lasts a day, opening mid morning and closing at night, but for us it seems to last a couple of days at least, perhaps because of our milder climate. Blooms can be 6″ wide. They are a bright yellow with red throat. Fruits are ovoid, succulent and juicy at maturity with a few areoles. 1″ to 2″ long, purple to red and edible.
Pronunciation: op-UN-shee-a mak-roh-SEN-truh
Species Meaning: may either mean large center or long spines.
Warning: Care should be taken in handling this plant, since the minute, tufted, barbed bristles (glochids) at the base of the spines can be more troublesome than the spines typical of most cacti; they are lined with backward-pointing hooks, making them nearly impossible to remove from the skin.
Needs to be kept fairly dry in winter. Bring into the greenhouse. During the vegetative growing period, it must be regularly watered, allowing the substratum to completely dry out before watering again.
Outside full sun or afternoon shade, inside needs bright light, and some direct sun. Do not plant where leaf litter is likely to fall on them because it becomes difficult to remove and can induce it to rot.
In Our Garden
Plant ID: P20111
We acquired this plant from Xera Plants.