Shrubs, forming clumps or often prostrate, usually only 1 or 2 stem segments tall, to 0.5 m (except in Florida where they may be erect and reach to 2+ m with short trunk), flattened to obovoid, sometimes from tuberlike rootstocks. Stem segments not disarticulating, dark or bright shiny green, wrinkling when stressed, circular to broadly oblong to obovate, 5-17.5 × 4-12 cm, fleshy, usually tuberculate, glabrous; areoles 4-6 per diagonal row across midstem segment, oval to circular, 2-4 mm diam., not raised, sometimes somewhat sunken; wool tan to brown. Spines often absent or 1-2(-3) per areole, spreading, whitish to brownish, terete, straight, and usually stout, 25-60 mm; occasionally also 1 deflexed spine present. Glochids in dense crescent of adaxial edge of areole and in dense tuft overtopping crescent in age, yellow to red-brown, to 4 mm. Flowers: inner tepals pale to bright yellow throughout, 20-30 mm diam.; filaments yellow to orange; anthers pale yellow to cream; style and stigma lobes white. Fruits greenish, tardily becoming apricot to brownish red, elongate, 30-50 × 12-20 mm, fleshy, tapering at base; pulp green and sour, becoming reddish and sweet under ideal conditions; areoles 10-18. Seeds tan, 3.5-4.5 mm diam., thickish; girdle protruding to 1 mm.
Prostrate or spreading, forming large mats; roots mostly fibrous, only seldom tuberous-thickened; joints of the stem flattened, oblong to suborbicular, 4-12 cm at maturity; areoles commonly 10-25 mm apart, spineless, or some of them with 1, rarely 2 spines 1.5-3 cm; fls 4-8 cm wide, yellow, often with a red center; outer sep subulate to lanceolate; fr red or purple, 2.5-5 cm, edible; seeds discoid, with an indurate, regular margin. On rocks, shores, sand-dunes, or sandy prairies; e. Mass. to s. Ont. and s. Minn., s. to Fla. and e. Tex. June, July. (O. calcicola; O. compressa; O. opuntia; O. pollardii; O. rafinesquei; O. vulgaris, misapplied)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Common Name: devil's-tongue Duration: Perennial Protected Status: No status in Arizona. General: Shrubs forming clumps or mats that are often prostrate and usually only 1-2 stem segments tall, 7.5-10 cm in height, the larger terminal joints are green or green and gray and circular to broadly oblong to obovate, 5-17.5 cm long by 4-12 cm broad and fleshy but wrinkling when stressed, there are 4-6 areoles per diagonal row across the middle stem which are generally 1-2 cm apart and oval to circular and 2-4 mm in diameter, sometimes they are sunken and have tan to brown wool. Spines: Spines absent or 1-3 per areole, they straight and stout and whitish, brownish, or gray while spreading at right angles to the joint, 25-60 mm long with occasionally 1 deflexed spine present, the glochids are in a dense crescent of the adaxial edge around the areole and in dense tuft overtopping the crescent in age, they are yellow to red-brown and to 4 mm. Flowers: Flower 4-6 cm diameter and long with inner tepals pale to bright yellow throughout, cuneate to obovate and 20-40 mm long by 4.5-20 mm broad but short acuminate or acute with pale yellow to cream anthers and style and stigma lobes are both white. Fruits: Fruit greenish but becoming apricot to brownish-red, purple or reddish, elongate and tapering at base at 2.5-4 cm long by 2-3 cm in diameter with few glochids, they are fleshy at maturity while the pulp is green and sour but becoming red and sweet under i Ecology: Not officially found in Arizona, but is widespread throughout the eastern United States. See USDA Plants and SEINet for more locality information. Ethnobotany: Poultice of stems used on wounds, rattlesnake bites, and warts, fruit used as food stewed, fresh or dried for winter use, stems roasted and used as food in times of need. Mucilaginous stem juice used to fix the colors painted on hides. Etymology: Opuntia from ancient root puncti for prickled, while humifusa means sprawling. Synonyms: Cactus humifusus Editor: LCrumbacher, 2010