Opuntia basilaris, Beavertail Pricklypear
Scientific Name: Opuntia basilaris
Common Name: Beavertail Pricklypear
Also Called: Beaver Tail Cactus, Beavertail Prickleypear (Spanish: Nopal)
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Size: Up to 15 inches or so.
Growth Form: Shrub; clumping, stem (flattened) pads sprawling to ascending or erect, stem segments blue- to yellow-green, sometimes tinged maroon-purple.
Leaves: Spines lacking or few; glochids numerous, yellow to red-brown or dark brown.
Flower Color: Pink to magenta throughout, rarely white; filaments red-magenta (purple); anthers yellowish, style white to pink; fruit spine-less except var. treleasei; seeds yellowish to tan.
Flowering Season: * February to June (* variable per variety).
Elevation: Up to 3,000 or * 5,500 feet (* depending on variety).
Habitat Preferences: Variable depending on variety; slopes, desert flats, hills sandy to rocky soils; woodlands, Mojave an Great Basin deserts; oak-pine woodlands.
Recorded Range: In the United States Opuntia basilaris is found in AZ, CA, NV, UT. It is also found in northern Mexico. In Arizona it is found generally in western parts of the state.
North America & US County Distribution Map for Opuntia basilaris.
U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Opuntia basilaris is salvage restricted; Opuntia basilaris var treleasei is a species of conservation concern and in the Center for Plant Conservation's National Collection of Endangered Plants; Opuntia basilaris var longiareolata is a species of conservation concern.
Genus Information: In North America there are 52 species for Opuntia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 194 accepted species names and a further 203 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.
In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 16 species of Opuntia, California and Utah each have 10 species, Nevada has 6 species, New Mexico has 13 species, Texas has 23 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.
There are 4 varieties in Opuntia basilaris;
Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris, Beavertail Pricklypear; (AZ, CA, NV, UT)
Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada, Beavertail Pricklypear; (CA, NV)
Opuntia basilaris var. longiareolata, Beavertail Pricklypear; (AZ)
Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei, Trelease's Beavertail Pricklypear (CA).
Comments: There are 4 varieties of Beavertail Pricklypear and their flower blooming dates, habitats and preferred elevations are extremely variable.
In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Cactus Apple, Opuntia engelmannii; Long-spined Prickly Pear, Opuntia macrocentra; Twistspine Pricklypear, Opuntia macrorhiza; Tulip Pricklypear, Opuntia phaeacantha and Santa Rita Pricklypear, Opuntia santa-rita.
Beavertail Pricklypear has been used for food by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.
See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.