Opuntia humifusa – Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus


The only cactus native to the Northeast. It occurs primarily on coastal dunes and sandy beaches but grows wild in Ulster County as well, on sunny, shale ledges. Very easy to grow even in the poorest of soils, mulch with pebbles, not wood. Do not ‘Pet’ – the stems are covered in tiny spikes called glochids that enter the skin at the slightest brush and cause an irritating itch. Deflates in winter and plumps up in spring followed by stunning, satiny yellow flowers with orange interiors in summer. The dull red fruits are edible when ripe – they are the “pear” in the common name. An alternative common name, Indian Fig, also is an allusion to the edible fruits and their use by Native Americans.

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Cactus family (Cactaceae)

Updated 6 November 2023

Additional information

Pot size

1-Quart, 5-Pint