Velvet tree pear

Velvet tree pear

Opuntia Tomentosa

Common Name:

Velvet tree pear

Scientific Name:

Opuntia Tomentosa

Alternative common names:

Opuntia hernandezii DC, Opuntia macdougaliana, Rose Opuntia sarca Griffiths ex Scheinvar.


Velvet tree pear ( Opuntia tomentosa ) is an erect shrub or small tree 1-8 m tall often with a well-developed trunk to over 40 cm diameter. The dull green stem segments (pads) are flattened, oblong to narrowly elliptic, 15 to 30 cm long, 6 to 16 cm broad and 1.5 to 2 cm thick. It is a weed of roadsides, railways, pastures, grasslands, open woodlands, rangelands, disturbed sites and waste areas.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Mexico and Guatemala

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA-category 1b.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Eastern Cape.

How does it spread?

This species reproduces by stem fragments (i.e. stem segments may become dislodged and produce roots) and also by seeds. They are also dispersed in dumped garden waste. The fruit are eaten by various small animals (e.g. birds and foxes) and the seeds spread in their droppings.

Why is it a problem?

Injures human and animals

What does it look like?

The leaves are reduced to tiny cylindrical or cone-shaped structures. These leaves are also velvety hairy and are quickly shed from the developing stem segments.

Flowers: The bright orange flowers (4-5.5 cm long and 4-5 cm across) usually have reddish coloured markings on the undersides of the outermost petals.

Fruit/seeds: The immature fruit are green in colour, but turn dull red or purplish-red as they mature.

Does the plant have any uses?

Ornamental and food

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