Imbricate prickly pear

Imbricate prickly pear

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Cactaceae)

Common Name:

Imbricate prickly pear

Scientific Name:

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Cactaceae)

Alternative common names:

Imbricate cactus Kabelturksvy (Afrikaans)


A spiny, much-branched succulent shrub growing up to 2m high with an erect main stem. Old branches hang downwards and the stems are dull grey-green with raised edges giving the effect of woven rope. The spines, which are up to 30mm long, are initially covered with loose, white papery sheaths. It has small leaves and showy purple-red flowers appear from November to January followed by yellow succulent fruit.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

North and Central America (southern United States & Mexico)

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

Existing legislation: CARA 2002 - Category 1 NEMBA - Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

All provinces of South Africa

How does it spread?

Seed dispersal.

Why is it a problem?

Competes with and replaces indigenous species. Dense infestations reduce the grazing potential and hence the carrying capacity of the land. Thickets restrict access of domestic and wild animals. The very spiny cladodes adhere to passing animals and the barbed spines can penetrate their skin and feet causing severe injuries. Spines become entangled in sheep's wool and cause downgrading of the wool. All these factors combine to cause the drastic devaluation of agricultural land.

What does it look like?

General description: Spiny, much-branched succulent shrub up to 2m high with an erect main stem.
Leaves: Small leaves.
Flowers: Showy purple-red flowers appear from November to January.
Fruit/seeds: Yellow succulent fruit.

Does the plant have any uses?

Ornamental. Birds eat the fruits.

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