Small round-leaved prickly pear

Small round-leaved prickly pear

Opuntia engelmannii

Common Name:

Small round-leaved prickly pear

Scientific Name:

Opuntia engelmannii

Alternative common names:

 Kleinronderblaarturksvy (Afrikaans).


The small round-leaved prickly pear is a succulent branched shrub that grows up to 1.5m tall. The leaf-like pads are grey-green and egg-shaped, with the narrower end at the base, reaching 15-30cm long and 12-20cm wide. The yellow to white spines, mainly found in the top half of the cladode, are 1-6cm long, slightly curved and very hard. The flowers are yellow, occasionally reddish, funnel-shaped and 5-8cm in diameter and the same in length. The plant bears purple, fleshy, edible fruits. 

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

North and Central America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Free State.

How does it spread?

Prickly pears grow prostrate or spread out along the ground.

Why is it a problem?

It is a weed found in pasture land and the spines can injure people, livestock and wild herbivores. The plant lowers the value of pastures and also curtails movement of grazing animals. It displaces native species and prevents the free movement of wildlife. It is listed as a noxious weed in South Africa (prohibited plants that must be controlled, they serve no economic purpose and possess characteristics that are harmful to humans, animals or the environment).

What does it look like?

Pads: Yellow to white with spines, which are mainly found in the top half of the cladode, 1-6cm long, slightly curved and very hard.

Flowers: Yellow, occasionally reddish, funnel-shaped, 5-8cm in diameter and about the same in length.

Fruit/seeds: The plant bears purple fleshy fruits that are 3-7cm long.

Does the plant have any uses?

It is cultivated as an ornamental plant or live hedge. The fruit is edible.

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