Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida

Synonyms:

O. herrfeldtii
O. lubrica
O. microdasys var. rufida
O. rufida
O. rufida var. tortiflora

Habitat:

Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida (Opuntia rufida) is native to an area that includes Texas, and part of Mexico. Its habitat are xerophyllous scrubs with a main presence of low, succulent, drought-resistant bushes, on sandy or gravelly soils, made of limestone often mixed with volcanic material. Like all Opuntias, this species tend to grow in colonies and thus, in its natural habitat, it is not threatened with extinction and it’s widly widespread. The altitude range of its native environment goes from 600 to 1300 meters above the sea level. Its preferred spots are south-facing rocky slopes, directly exposed to sunlight. A recent threat to this species is a moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, which can exterminate populations completely, feeding on the Opuntias cladodes.

Description:

Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida is a large succulent shrub, highly-branched, without a definite central trunk, that reaches a maximum height of 1,5 meters and a maximum width of 2,5 meters. Its stems are more or less erect and, like in all Opuntias, formed by rounded, paddle-shaped, fleshy units called “cladodes”. In this species, cladodes are bright green, with a subtle pruine, barely hinted, pointed with areoles from which the glochids are formed. Glochids are the typical short, hairy-like spines of Opuntias and some other succulent plants families. In some species, like the common prickly pear, O. ficus-indica, and also in the here descripted Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida, glochids easily detach from the plant and lodge in the skin, causing irritation upon contact. In this species, glochids show a typical orange-reddish colour, that earned it the name “Rufida”.
Flowers, like in almost every Opuntia, are solitary and very beautiful, and sprout from the areoles on the top of the terminal cladodes. They are born pale yellow and become golden-orange as they age, are 5 to 7.5 centimeters long and wide. The blooming season of Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida occurs from Spring to early Summer. Flowers open in the morning, and close at night and often don’t open again.
Fruits are fleshy, not edible, globose, 4 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide.

Cultivation:

Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida is a large succulent shrub, highly-branched, without a definite central trunk, that reaches a maximum height of 1,5 meters and a maximum width of 2,5 meters. Its stems are more or less erect and, like in all Opuntias, formed by rounded, paddle-shaped, fleshy units called “cladodes”. In this species, cladodes are bright green, with a subtle pruine, barely hinted, pointed with areoles from which the glochids are formed. Glochids are the typical short, hairy-like spines of Opuntias and some other succulent plants families. In some species, like the common prickly pear, O. ficus-indica, and also in the here descripted Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida, glochids easily detach from the plant and lodge in the skin, causing irritation upon contact. In this species, glochids show a typical orange-reddish colour, that earned it the name “Rufida”.
Flowers, like in almost every Opuntia, are solitary and very beautiful, and sprout from the areoles on the top of the terminal cladodes. They are born pale yellow and become golden-orange as they age, are 5 to 7.5 centimeters long and wide. The blooming season of Opuntia microdasys subsp. rufida occurs from Spring to early Summer. Flowers open in the morning, and close at night and often don’t open again.
Fruits are fleshy, not edible, globose, 4 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide.

Propagation:

O. sulphurea, like most Opuntias, is propagated mainly through the separation and consequent replanting of the cladodes (the flattened, rounded stem organs). It is sufficient to detach one of them and leave it lying down on the ground: it will put roots in any time during the growing season, that goes from March to October. Propagation by sowing is also possible. Sow in Spring, providing a temperature between 20-28ºC, maintaining the substrate slightly moist until germination occurs (it usually does in 7-14 days).

Curiosity:

The name of the species comes from the Latin “rufus”, = reddish, referring to the reddish colour of its glochids (spines). Instead, the common names in English (blind prickly pear) and Spanish (nopal cegador) come from the belief that the glochids are loose and supposedly may fly into the air when the plants are shaken. The dislodged glochids may get into the eyes of animals and cause severe problems.

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