The coast of southern California, and scattered urban locations in south USA, from California to Florida
Tall, wide, treelike plant, highly branched
Scrubland or gravelly flats, but usually associated with settlements
Distribution map for opuntia ficus-indica
Although found in many, scattered locations across the southernmost states, from California to Florida, it is likely that all examples of opuntia ficus-indica derive from introduced plants, and the ultimate origin is Mexico. The species is fast growing and eventually becomes tree-like, many feet high and wide, with a thick, woody central trunk and hundreds of light green pads, up to 2 feet across. Most examples lack glochids and are also completely spineless, but some have short white or brownish spines along pad edges.
Flowers are light orange or reddish, and long-lasting, blooming in spring and early summer, while the fruits are pale pink or sometimes yellow. The species was probably cultivated long ago in Mexico to have no spines and hence be easier to eat, and was gradually introduced to lands further north.