Opuntia mesacantha subsp. lata

Species:Opuntia mesacantha Raf. subsp. lata (Small) Majure
Common Name:Prickly Pear
Habitat:Dry sandy soil, sand hills; most common in the coastal plain.
Associated Ecological Communities:**
Growth Habit:Shrub
USDA Symbol:**
Plant Notes:Prickly Pear is a native perennial in the Cactus family (Cactaceae). It can be found mostly on the coastal plain. Prickly Pear occurs on dunes, in sandhills, and on deep sand deposits along rivers. Prickly Pear is a perennial from a fibrous root system. The stems are creeping, forming mats, or are sometimes upright. The stems are divided into segments that do not easily detach. The stems segments are known as pads or cladophylls (flattened stems that take on the function of leaves). The pads are flattened, ovate to obovate in outline, with a waxy surface. The pads are glabrous and dark green in color or purple-red when stressed by cold or drought. Small bumps on the surface of the pads are known as areoles. There are 0-2 stout, retrorsely barbed-spines per areole and a crescent area of smaller bristles known as glochids. The spines are firmly attached, but the glochids are easily detached. Flowers are produced singly from the areoles. The outer tepals (petals and sepals) are bright lemon yellow with traces of green on the outer surface, the inner tepals are bright yellow throughout. The fruit is a berry containing many seed. This is the most common native cactus in Alabama. Individuals, even within the same population can vary greatly in size and number of spines. This species sometimes hybridizes with Cock Spur Prickly Pear (Opuntia drummondii Graham [=pusilla]) when the two co-occur. Hybrids are intermediate between the parents in characteristics. Eastern Prickly Pear is available from nurseries specializing in cacti and succulents. It requires a well-draining sandy soil and full sun. Plants can also be grown by rooting stem segments or from seed.--A. Diamond
Taxonomic Notes:For many decades, most Alabama native Opuntia were identified as O. pusilla [=drummondii] or O. humifusa. Maclure et al (2017) found that most of the Alabama "humifusa" determinations were in fact O. mesacantha (both subsp.) or O. cespitosa. While Maclure et al did not see any true O. humifusa specimens from Alabama in their study, that taxon is to be expected be part of the flora but less common than O. mesacantha and O. cespitosa. All specimens below that remain identified as O. humifusa should be reevaluated and placed accordingly.
References:Majure, L.C., W.S. Judd, P.S. Soltis, and D.E. Soltis. 2017. Taxonomic revision of the Opuntia humifusa complex (Opuntieae: Cactaceae) of the eastern United States. Phytotaxa 290 (1): 001-065.
Specimen: View specimen details in the Alabama Herbarium Consortium Specimen Database

** Not applicable or data not available.


FamilyCACTACEAE - Cactus family
Genus Opuntia
Species Opuntia mesacantha Raf. subsp. lata (Small) Majure - Prickly Pear


Citation Opuntia mesacantha Raf., subsp. lata (Small) Majure, Phytoneuron 106: 1. 2014.
Basionym: Opuntia lata Small 1919.
Type: FLORIDA: [Alachua Co.,] pine-woods, 12 mi west of Gainesville, 13 December 1917, Small s.n. (holotype: NY).

** Not applicable or data not available.


SynonymFull CitationBasionymType
Opuntia eburnispina Opuntia eburnispina Small ex Britton & Rose, Cact. 4: 260, f. 237. 1923. FLORIDA: Collier Co.: Cape Romano, 10 May 1922, Small s.n. (holotype: NY).
Opuntia impedata Opuntia impedata Small ex Britton & Rose, Cact. 4: 257, f. 235. 1923. FLORIDA: Duval Co.: Atlantic Beach E of Jacksonville, Apr 1921, Small s.n. (holotype: NY; isotypes: US).
Opuntia lata Opuntia lata Small, J. New York Bot. Gard. 20: 26. 1919. FLORIDA: Alachua Co.: 12 mi. W of Gainesville, 13 Dec 1917, Small s.n. (holotype: NY).
Opuntia youngii Opuntia youngii C. Z. Nelson, Chicago Examiner 13 Jun 1915; Trans. Illinois Acad. Sci. 12: 119. 1919. FLORIDA: Hillsborough Co.: 9 mi. N of Tampa (no specimen ever found. (Neotype: ,Florida: Hillsborough Co., Little Manatee River State Park, E side of main park drive, 250 ft, S of Ranger Station, 27 Apr 1999, J. Myers 360 (USF)--Neotypication by Majure et al 2017.
Opuntia macrarthra Opuntia macrarthra Gibbes, Proc. Elliott Soc. Nat. Hist. Charleston 1: 273. 1859. SOUTH CAROLINA: Charleston Co., Isle of Palms, near Charleston, 14 Feb 1916, J.K. Small s.n. (Neotype: US; isoneotype: NY).--Neotypification by Majure et al 2017.

Specimens and Distribution

This species has been reported in the following counties by the herbaria listed. An overview of the individual specimens are provided in the table that follows. Click on the accession number to view details; click on column headers to sort; choose a county or herbaria to filter the specimen data.

Counties included on distribution map: Butler, Coffee, Dale, Henry, Pike

Counties represented by specimen data listed below:

Herbaria represented by specimen data listed below: TROY

Range of years during which specimens were collected: -

Barcode / Accession No. County Coll. Date Collector &
Collection No.
Herbarium &
Herbarium Name Used
TROY000003392 Dale 6 Jun 2000 Michael Woods
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000029560 Butler 17 May 2008 Alvin R. Diamond
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000017035 Henry 23 Jul 2003 Robert R. Haynes
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000003389 Coffee s.d. K. E. Childree
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000003388 Coffee 03 May 2000 Brian H. Martin
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000003390 Dale 10 May 1997 Hannelore Rundell
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000003393 Pike 30 May 1996 Jeanese Holmes
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
TROY000003391 Dale 7 May 2000 Tiffany Pennington
Opuntia mesacantha Rafinesque ssp. lata (Small) Majure
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