One of the taller growing US prickly pears, opuntia oricola
may reach heights of 8 feet or more and can become tree-like, with a central trunk, though some plants remain close to the ground and form rather smaller clumps. The oval-shaped pads are dark green in color, up to 7 inches long and have the usual regular pattern of areoles bearing light brown glochids and 5 to 13 short, yellow spines, which become dark brown with age. The spring flowers are bright yellow, reddish on the underside of the outermost petals, while the fruits are red-purple.
The plant grows in a thin band, about 20 miles wide, along the coast of southern California, extending a little way south into Baja California. Opuntia chlorotica
is the most similar species, but in California this is only found further east.