Page authors: Don Knoke, David Giblin
Opuntia fragilis
brittle prickly-pear, little prickly-pear

Distribution: Occurring chiefly west of the Cascades crest in Washington; British Columbia to California, east the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Great Lakes region.

Habitat: Dry, open, often sandy soil.

Flowers: May-July

Origin: Native

Growth Duration: Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern


Fleshy, prostrate perennials, forming mats 0.5-2 dm. tall; stems jointed, the sections nearly as thick as broad, obovoid to sub-globose, 2-5 cm. long.


Leaves scale-like, early-deciduous; the stem sections have several special cushions which bear white-woolly hair, a few yellowish bristles, and 2-7 straight, brownish spines 1-3 cm. long.


Flowers solitary on special cushions, yellow, 3-5 cm. long and broad; sepals many, imbricate, greenish; petals and stamens numerous, the filaments reddish; style 1, stigma lobed; ovary inferior, 1-celled.


Berry pear-shaped, dry, 1.5-2 cm. long, somewhat spiny.

Accepted Name:
Opuntia fragilis (Nutt.) Haw.
Publication: Suppl. Pl. Succ. 82. 1819.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Opuntia fragilis (Nutt.) Haw. var. brachyarthra (Engelm. & J.M. Bigelow) J.M. Coult. [KZ99]
Opuntia fragilis (Nutt.) Haw. var. fragilis [KZ99]
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Opuntia fragilis in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database.

WA Flora Checklist: Opuntia fragilis checklist entry.

OregonFlora: Opuntia fragilis information.

E-Flora BC: Opuntia fragilis atlas page.

CalPhotos: Opuntia fragilis photos.

USDA Plants: Opuntia fragilis information.

33 photographs:
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