Santa Rita Pricklypear

Santa Rita Pricklypear (Opuntia santa-rita) has been added to my Wildflowers of Tucson, Arizona website. Santa Rita Pricklypear are more common in grassland and hillside areas south of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains, but some of these purple cacti can be found growing around Tucson, usually as cultivated plants because of their attractive coloration. I found this particular cactus growing wild in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Santa Rita Pricklypear (Opuntia santa-rita) pad and fruit

These blue-green, purple, and magenta cacti become more vividly colored if stressed by cold or drought. The cactus pads are usually spineless, but they do have numerous glochids, which in many ways are far worse than spines. The glochids are like microscopic spines and will penetrate the skin if touched even lightly. They are quite irritating and difficult to remove because of their small size.

The best way to remove glochids is to apply adhesive tape to the skin and then very gently pull it off. When handling or moving cultivated Santa Rita Pricklypears, wet down the plants to prevent the easily dislodged glochids from becoming airborne and possibly getting into the eyes or being inhaled.