- Take our Quiz of the Week
Test your knowledge of Wisconsin's rare plant, animals and natural communities. Win a prize!
- Contact information
- For information on Wisconsin's rare plants, contact:
- Kevin Doyle
Brittle Prickly-pear (Opuntia fragilis)
Brittle Prickly-pear (Opuntia fragilis), a State Threatened plant, is found in thin, dry soil over rock, as well as sand prairies. Blooming occurs early June through late July; fruiting occurs early July through late August. This species can be identified year-round.
Synonyms: Cactus fragilis, Opuntia fragilis var. denudata, Opuntia schweriniana
- Distinguishing characteristics: Pads round, not flattened in cross section, joints turgid, easily detatched, 2 to 5 cm.
- Flower characteristics: Yellow to greenish, 4 to 5 cm wide.
- Fruit characteristics: Fleshy and greenish to reddish when young, dry and tan at maturity, inedible, 1.2 to 1.5 cm; seeds discoid, with an irregular margin.
- Leaf characteristics: Strongly barbed spines, 1.2 to 2.5 cm.
- Blooming phenology: early June through late July
- Fruiting phenology: early July through late August
- Optimum time to identify: all year
- Growth form: Shrub
- Vegetative reproduction:
- Life cycle: Perennial
- Comments: Associated Species: Quercus macrocarpa, Q. velutina, Selaginella rupestris, Juniperus virginiana, Rhus glabra.
Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin
The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Brittle Prickly-pear (Opuntia fragilis). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.
|Federal Status in Wisconsin||none|
|Tracked by NHI||Y|
Habitats and landscapes
The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.
General habitat information
- Habitat description: Found in thin, dry soil over rock, as well as sand prairies.
- Soils: Dry soils.
This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Brittle Prickly-pear. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).
This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Brittle Prickly-pear. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.
The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.
These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.
- Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
- Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
- Avoid locating landings, staging areas, or access routes in open sandy areas dominated by native grasses.
Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species
- Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
- Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.
Links to additional Brittle Prickly-pear information
Other links related to vascular plants (all exit the DNR website)
- Wisconsin Vascular Plants
- Freckmann Herbarium
- Atlas of Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Flora - Wisconsin State Herbarium
- USDA - NRCS Plants Database
- USGS Midwestern Wetland Flora - field office guide to plant species
- Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Herbarium
- Intermountain Herbarium Grasses of North America
- Orchids of Wisconsin
Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.