Previously, two species of Opuntia were recognized as present in British Columbia: O. fragilis and O. polyacantha. However, the BC Conservation Data Centre, and E-Flora BC, follow Flora North America, and no longer recognize O. polyacantha as present in the province.
Identification of cacti in the province is not completely clear, however, and different 'forms' of Opuntia have been observed here. Read more about Opuntia in BC and Washington.
Perennial herb from a fibrous root; mat-forming; stems prostrate, succulent, subglobose to rounded, fleshy, 5-20 cm tall; stem segments not much flattened, readily detaching from the plant, round to egg-shaped, 2-5 cm long; areoles coarsely white-woolly with a few yellowish, spiny bristles and 2-7 straight, yellowish to brownish, 1-3 cm long spines.
Reduced to 2-7, large yellowish to brownish spines 1-3 cm long, strongly barbed.
Inflorescence of single flowers with paper-thin petals, borne on previous year's pits, yellow, 3-5 cm across, stamens numerous with reddish stalks.
Dry, spiny berry, 1.5-2 cm long, pear-shaped.
If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.
Illustration Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia
||Value / Class
Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
of field plots
species was recorded in:
BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in
|BG(402), BWBS(1), IDF(43), PP(64)|
Source: Klinkenberg 2013
Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Cactus fragilis Nutt.
Opuntia brachyarthra Engelm. & Bigelow
Opuntia fragilis subsp. brachyarthra (Engelm. & Bigelow) W.A. Weber
Opuntia fragilis var. brachyarthra (Engelm. & Bigelow) Coult.
Opuntia fragilis var. denudata Wieg. & Backeberg
Opuntia fragilis var. fragilis (Nutt.) Haw. [superfluous autonym]
Fragile prickly pear is a native BC cactus with small pads that can be cylindrical (usually in the interior of the province) or larger and somewhat flattened (coastal forms). The pads can be upright or prostrate. In summer they produce bright yellow cactus flowers. Plant in full sun in sharply draining soil.
Note Author: Gary Lewis, Phoenix Perennials