Opuntia microdasys subs rufida indigo
Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida
Opuntia microdasys var. rufida
Opuntia rufida var. tortiflora
O. microdasys subs. rufida is native to Mexico Northeast, Texas where the plant grows in desert, in flats and on hillsides in sandy to loamy calcareous soils and can spread up to 1300 m of altitude. The plant was introduced also in Greece and Spain.
O. microdasys subs. rufida is a rare succulent 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 1,5 m tall and 2,5 m wide. The plant has an erect habit and sometime a creeping habit. The stem segments are flat, oblong, light green and spineless and are called cladodes. The cladodes have the function of conserving water and photosynthesizing. The stem is grey green or bluish green and for cladodes the plant is also called “rabbit-eared cactus”. The areoles are many, large, round 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. 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 changing to orange and red and last for a day. The fruit ripen in summer and are fleshy, spineless, bright red 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. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly in Spring and Summer: 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. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant 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. The name of the subspecies comes from the Latin “rufus” which means reddish referring to the color of the glochids. The dislodged glochids may get into the eyes of animals and cause severe problems, so be careful.
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