Opuntia x demissa Griffiths

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)



Prickly Pear 


                                          October Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Fleshy, large, spreadingly-branched shrub to 2 m. high; joints elliptic to obovate to nearly round, to 33 cm. long, 23 cm. wide, slightly glaucous; areoles elliptic, 2-4 cm. apart, containing a tuft of short brown glochids and 2-5 spines, the margins having the closest areole spacing; spines straight, flattened, rigid, unequal, deflexed, to 2.5 cm. long, newer spines yellow, older light brown to gray, spines missing from lowest areoles of some joints; lvs. awl-shaped, 10 mm. long, early deciduous; fls. yellow, 6-7 cm. broad; filaments yellow; style pink or white, stigma green; fr. obovate, 5-7 cm. long, bearing glochids, the umbilicus depressed, red-purple throughout.


Habitat:  Coastal Sage Scrub, V. Grassland, etc. below 1000 ft. mostly fairly near the coast from Ventura Co. s. Catalina Id. (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 316).      Locally the species covers a large section of hillside along the path from 23rd St. to Mariners Dr.  Blooms April-May.  (my comments).


Name:  N.L., opuntia, name of a cactus, said to be derived from Greek, Opous, genit. Opountos, a town in Greece, where a cactus-like plant "herba Opuntia" grew.  Latin, demissus, let down, fallen.  (Jaeger 176, 78).  Latin, demissum, to lower, put down or let down.  Hor. tunica demissa, with tunica being a jacket or coating.  (Simpson 177, 618).  Trans., a coating or membrane that falls off?  Possibly referring to the missing spines on some of the joints?  (my comment).  John Johnson speculates that the author was implying that the species is derived from or sent down from the original species as a hybrid form.


General:  Very common on about 100 yards of bluff-side described above.  This species has taken over the area and O. littoralis, the usual common form on these bluffs, is not evident except in the transition zone between the two species. (my comments).        The cacti are exclusively American plants.  Although we find them scattered over much of the world today, those outside America have been carried about and planted since the first European saw a cactus when he disembarked with Columbus at Hispaniola.  They range all the way from Ecuador south into Patagonia and north into central Canada.  They are on most of the Caribbean islands; and in the Galapagos Islands they got as far from the continent as 600 miles, but no farther. (Dawson 7).      Abrams, Vol. III 152, lists O. demissa as another name for O. occidentalis; Munz, Flora So Calif. 318 lists O. occidentalis separately and states on page 316 that O. demissa is related to O. ficus-indica.       The 1993 Jepson Manual does not list O. demissa, however, in the description of O. oricola, there is a statement that O. demissa could be a hybrid with O. oricola as one parent.  (Hickman, Ed. 455).       Roberts in his 1998 edition of A Checklist Of The Vascular Plants of Orange County California, lists Opuntia demissa as a native while Munz does not.  

Text Ref:   Abrams, Vol. III 150; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 316.

Photo Ref:  July-Oct 91 # 23,24,29A; May-July 92 #10; May-Aug 94 # 12.

Identity: by John Johnson.  

First Found:  October 1991.


Computer Ref: Plant Data 438.

No plant specimen.

Last edit 6/9/05.  


                                          May Photo                                                                May Photo