Opuntia macrocentra


Opuntia violacea
Opuntia violacea var. castetteri
Opuntia violacea var. macrocentra


O. macrocentra is native to Arizona, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, New Mexico and Texas. The plant was introduced also into Canary Is. The plant grows in desert, in flats and on hillsides but also in the mountains in sandy to rocky soils and can spread up to 1600 m of altitude.


O. macrocentra is a rare cactus belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The plant is a prickly pear and develops a trunk from which form several branches. The shrub can reach up to 1,2 m tall and 3 m wide. The plant has an erect habit and sometime a creeping habit. The stem segments are flat, oblong, dark green and are called cladodes. The cladodes have the function of storing water and photosynthesizing. The stem is dark green or bluish green and can change to purple hues if cold and drought conditions occur such as in winter. The areoles are numerous, arranged in diagonal rows, round and covered with numerous reddish bristles-like glochids. The glochids are short spines, barbered at the tip, extremely hurtful and a characteristic, only of the subfamily, Opuntioideae, of the family Cactaceae. On the areoles are inserted 1-3 long spines. The spines are flat, straight, golden yellow in color. Blooming occurs in late spring to early summer and blossom are borne at the tips of the 1-year-old cladodes. The flowers are, cup-shaped, bright yellow with red stripes in the center and last only for a day. The yellow stamens and red stripes of the tepals make the flowering of this Opuntia amazing. The fruits ripen in summer-autumn and are fleshy, spineless, edible, pinkish berries. The seeds are small and bronze colored.


This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The plant does not like temperatures below 3°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The soil should be mixed with pumice, clay and loam to allow the drainage and prevent the root rot, the plant is prone to it indeed. Using a perforating pot, you can drain excess water. Watering is very important for this species and should be done well: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. About fertilization, for this plant is sufficient to fertilize moderately during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents and stop fertilizing during the winter. You should repot the plant every 2 years in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.


Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.


Opuntia was named after “Opunte”, the capital of Locride region in ancient Greece.

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