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Opuntia cymochila


Common Name(s):
Synonym(s): Opuntia mackensenii
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Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe:
Distribution: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming - United States (North America)
Habit: Flattened-Padded
Flower: YellowEncounterability: Unusual in Collections
Species Notes: Comment from Dave Ferguson -Associate Curator, Rio Grande Botanic Garden:
The most common species of juicy-fruited Pricklypear on most of the Great Plains in the United States is Opuntia cymochila. It was described originally from near Tucumcari, New Mexico, with the synonym "oplocarpa" described from Golden Colorado, and the synonym "fusiformis" desribed from eastern Kansas and Fort Smith Arkansas. These locations come close to defining the boundaries of the species, but we can add Wyoming, North Dakota, Ohio, Missouri, central Texas, southern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah. In between, it is pretty much the dominant grassland species of Opuntia with juicy fruit. Britton and Rose described it under the name of Opuntia tortispina, and defined most of its distribution fairly well, but for some reason most people ignored their treatment. In reality, the name O. tortispina was given to a similar, but slightly larger and more southern species that is distinct and different (described from near Borger Texas). O. cymochila is a spinier plant (usually) than O. macrorhiza, with pads usually a bit wider, with more and closer areoles, and with spines usually in most areoles. The fruits are usually a bit more barrel-shaped, with a sharper rim, often with short spines (may fall off), usually of a duller color, and usually much much sweeter in flavor. Seeds average larger and more irregular, with wider rim. The roots are less likely to bear fleshy tubers. The flowers are a bit more ruffled-looking because they tend to open slightly less widely and to have the margins of the tepals more rolled under. The stigmata are rich green instead of the pale color (often white) typical of O. macrorhiza. Also, the flowers rarely have red centers in O. cymochila, but this is common in O. macrorhiza. O. cymochila is common on short grass steppe, particularly in heavier soils, and it is often found with O. polyacantha. O. macrorhiza is usually found on sand or loose gravelly soils, and is often found alongside O. fragilis. It is more common in the sandhills districts and east of the great plains, and in some areas in mountainous terrain. In the usual grassland habitats of the Great Plains, O. cymochila tends to be the one present. O. macrorhiza has a similar distribution, but ranges further south (to the Gulf Coast) and further east (to near the west side of the Appalachians). O. macrorhiza is also more varied, with obvious regional subspecies - some of which bear names. O. macrorhiza and O. humifusa are very closely akin and their relationship needs study. O. cymochila is quite distinct from both. I have seen hybrids between O. cymochila and O. macrorhiza. They are intermediate in character and quite confusing.
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Opuntia cymochila
O. cymochila
Picture taken at: Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Photographer: Daiv Freeman
Opuntia cymochila
O. cymochila
Picture taken at: Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Photographer: Daiv Freeman
Opuntia cymochila
O. cymochila
Picture taken at: Habitat Near Philip, South Dakota

Photographer: Daiv Freeman

Opuntia cymochila
O. cymochila
Picture taken at: Habitat Near Philip, South Dakota

Photographer: Daiv Freeman

Opuntia cymochila
O. cymochila
Picture taken at: Habitat Near Philip, South Dakota

Photographer: Daiv Freeman

Opuntia cymochila
O. cymochila
Picture taken at: Habitat Near Philip, South Dakota

Photographer: Daiv Freeman


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