Opuntia tuna f. crested


The crested form has no synonym: here below are the ones for Opuntia tuna.
Cactus horridus
Cactus humilis
Cactus opuntia var. tuna
Cactus polyanthos
Cactus tuna
Cactus tuna var. flava
Opuntia coccinea
Opuntia flexibilis
Opuntia horrida
Opuntia humilis
Opuntia jamaicensis
Opuntia ledienii
Opuntia maidenii
Opuntia megalantha
Opuntia multiflora
Opuntia polyantha
Opuntia pseudotuna
Opuntia spinaurea
Opuntia tuna var. cubaguensis
Opuntia tuna var. manse


Opuntia tuna f. crested is a nursery cultivar and thus doesn’t exist in nature. Opuntia tuna, instead, has a large area of occurrance including also the Mediterrean (mainly Italy).


Opuntia tuna f. crested is a rare cacti, sought after for the its wavy, odd stem, so irregularly convoluted that it does not look like an Opuntia at all. The typical cladodes of Opuntias are, in this species, totally unrecognizable, and the stem consists of a single, intricate, wavy structure. Crested and monstrous varieties are the result of a phenomenon called “Fasciation”. Fasciation is an abnormal growth condition of vascular plants where the apical meristem, or either cellular tissues of other vegetative and flowering buds, produces new cells in only two opposite directions, becoming elongated and flattened perpendicularly to the normal direction of cellular growth. In Opuntia tuna f. crested, the flattened stem curls to form the wavy, intricate structure. Although the cladodes are unrecognizable, areoles and glochids are still present. We remind that areoles are the typical buds of cacti, from which the spines sprout. The above mentioned “cladodes”, instead, are the oval, flattened bodies that characterize the plants of the genus Opuntia. In Opuntia tuna f. crested, areoles are densely crowded on the plant and are located at the top of nipple-like, small tubercles. “Glochids”, instead, are the typical small bristles of the genus Opuntia, kind of microscopic thorns that readily adhere to skin, causing itching and discomfort. In this cultivar, glochids are replaced by white bristle, hairy and less irritating. They grow in tufts at the top of the areoles. The areoles are scattered all over the surface of the stem, and become more densely crowded at the top of the crest, which therefore results in being whitish. Being a genetic mutation, It is rare to see it bloom, as the altered ability to perform cell division alters the production of flower buds. Nevertheless, a common phenomenon is the growth of normal stems from the crested structure: flowers, if the plant’s healthy, might be formed from buds grown from these normal stems. These stems have the typical structure of Opuntias, a series of cladodes growing on each others.


Although Opuntias are usually tough plants, crested form are usually more fragile and difficult to grow. Here below are our tips:

Place it in a bright spot, directly exposed to sunlight for a large part of the day. Avoid direct sunlight during the hottest hours of Summer days.
Its minimum tolerated temperature is 3ºC. We advise to shelter it or moving it indoors if you live in zones with rigid Winters. Also, Winter rainfalls might damage it, causing stem and root rot.
In Spring and Summer, water it regularly but only when the soil dries completely up. In Winter, suspend completely any irrigation.
Choose a well-draining substrate, made of a standard compost with some perlite, pumice, or sand added, or either a specific substrate for succulents.
Fertilize once a year, during the growth season (Spring and Summer), using specific products for cacti and succulents, rich in Phosphorus and Potassium and poor in Nitrogen.
Repot once a year, choosing pots that are only slightly larger that the previous ones.


The propagation of Opuntia tuna f. crested works only by cuttings. Seeds, obviously, are not available as this plant is rarely capable to produce flower and, thus, healthy seeds. It might happen, though, that some flowers sprout at the top of the normal stem growing from the top of the crest, that are able to produce fruits and, later, seeds. These seeds, though, won’t turn into crested plant, and they will form the regular Opuntia tuna. The genetic mutation can be conserved only by reproducing it agamically. Cuttings work by detaching a part of the stem and replanting it in a sandy, fresh substrate. A little bit of rooting hormone will help, as crested forms are steady and they struggle to take root.


Opuntia was named after “Opunte”, the capital of Locride region in ancient Greece. The species name “tuna”, instead, is a spanish word for the fruit of the prickly pear. It seems like the term “tuna” was originated in Haiti, where it has been introduced by the spanish “Conquistadores”, who first saw this plant in the period of colonial imperialism. Some authors, instead, think that it’s from the term “tyn”; an arab word for “fig”.

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