South Dakota Native Plant Research
Cactaceae : Opuntia polyacantha

Cactaceae : Opuntia polyacantha


Download Mature plant (1.5 MB)

Download Stems and spines (2.1 MB)

Download Flower (2.0 MB)

Family Name


Common Name

Plains pricklypear

Native American Name

Lakota: uŋkčéla blaská,


Opuntia polyacantha is a prostrate, clump-forming perennial, evergreen shrub, rising only to the height of one stem segment (pad). Each stem segment is orbicular, flattened, bluish green to gray, growing to about 12 cm in diameter. The areoles are crowded, generally < 1 cm apart, with 1-10 spines, 2-5 cm long, and various numbers of glochids on each. The upper areoles have more spines than the lower. The flowers develop along the upper edge of the pads, each 4-7 cm wide with numerous tepals, 25–35 mm long, yellow, pink or red. The fruit is globose to ovoid, 2-4 cm long, dry and spiny. The seeds are tan to white and discoid. Prairie pricklypear blooms in May and June (rarely again in September) on dry plains and pastures, especially in sandy soils, in western South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Plains pricklypear is an attractive native plant that adds color and texture to an arid garden. The flowers attract many species of native bees. The spines and glochids make it hard to plant in areas where children and pets may come into contact

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in September after fruit has ripened.

Germination: The seeds have a hard seedcoat that prevents germination. Fall planting will generally require 2 years for germination. Scarifying the seed coats with a file, being careful not to damage the soft tissues inside, will hasten germination.

Vegetative Propagation: Stem segments root easily.

Soils: Sandy, gravelly or rocky well drained soils.
Light: Full sun
Water: Dry
Notes: Plants will propagate themselves by their broken stem segments

Cactaceae : Opuntia polyacantha