Cambridge Prickly Pear

Opuntia cantabrigiensis
Opuntia cantabrigiensis was named by Richard Irwin Lynch during his curatorship of the Garden.
It first flowered in 1900 and was thought to be O. engelmannii, a species common to the south west of the United States and Mexico. After comparison with the description of this species, Lynch believed this to be wrong and he went on to name it as O. cantabrigiensis in 1903. This name was then used in many floras but the plant is now recognised to fall with in the natural variation of O. engelmannii and ours seems closest to var. lindheimeri. The fact that our plant didn’t match the original description of the plant when compared by Lynch is doubtless due to the natural variability of the species.

Commonly known as the Texas prickly pear, its pad-like flat jointed stems are oval to obovate in shape with one to five pale yellow spines and yellow flowers. It forms a plant of 1-1.5 m in height and width. We have grown it in the shelter of the glasshouse bays since 1895 with very little winter protection other than an occasional frame light. Examples can currently be seen in the Bay adjacent to the Arid Lands House.