Grazing Oklahoma: Prickly Pear

By Josh Gaskamp

Characteristics: The prickly pear cactus is a perennial, cool-season succulent plant that can be utilized by wildlife, livestock and humans alike. It is native to arid regions of North America and can be found in the western half of the United States and in coastal shrub habitat along the East Coast. The prickly pear is a true cactus that produces flat, rounded green or blue-green pads armed with two kinds of spines: large, fixed spines up to two inches long and small, hairlike prickles that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. In Oklahoma, prickly pears flower from May to June. The flowers are showy (two to three inches in diameter), funnel-shaped and yellow to copper in color with yellow to reddish centers. Each plant will produce multiple spineless red to purple colored egg-shaped fruits called pears or tunas.

Area of Importance: In Oklahoma, prickly pears will grow on most soil types but are most abundant on shallow soils of dry rocky prairies and overgrazed pastures.

Learn more by reading the December issue of OKFR!