Desert-Wise Living >> Desert-Wise Landscaping >> Plant Spotlight

Plant Spotlight: Beavertail Pricklypear

Photos by Stacy Doolittle
Opuntia basilaris or beavertail pricklypear as it is is commonly known, is native to the Morongo Basin and other areas of the southwest. It is a small to medium sized cactus with the potential for hundreds of pads on one cactus. These pads are usually a blue-green without spines. Instead, beavertail has glochids which are small barbed bristles or thorns. These easily detach so caution is recommended. 
A truly desert-wise plant, the beavertail doesn't need supplemental water except a small amount in the heat of summer. But be careful, overwatering can lead to rot. It does not need any supplemental water the rest of the year, even though it can appear parched. 
Beavertail has bright pink blooms from spring into summer. Insects such as butterflies and moths are very attracted to the blooms.
Obtain plants for your landscape by asking other gardeners for cuttings. Allow the cut end to callus by drying out for a few days before planting. 
The pads and pears of the beavertail are edible and were used by Native Americans for a number of cure-alls. For recipes and a how-to, check out this University of Nevada article

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