Opuntia brasiliensis – Brazilian Prickly Pear

Brasiliensis FLOWER


Opuntia brasiliensis, Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis ,Brazilian Prickly Pear or Brazilian Opuntia, is a cactus that has the shape of a shrub.

Opuntia brasiliensis with yellow flower flowers
Opuntia brasiliensis with yellow flower flowers

Native to the South American area, specifically native to Brazil (Western Paraíba, Eastern Pernambuco and Central-South, Alagoas, Sergipe, Northwestern, Eastern and Northern Bay, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo of the Northeast and Center-South).

In the Atlantic, towards the east of the Andes in Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia, it is naturalized in several places, among them Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and even in the USA.  Florida and Puerto Rico.

It is also known as Nopalito, Brazilian Cactus, Chumbera del Brasil, etc.

In Portuguese it has several common names, such as the following, Palmatória, Palmatória-do-diabo, Palmatória-grande, Rumbeba, Urumbeba, Xiquexique-do-sertão, Palmadora, Mumbeca, Mumbebo, Ambeba, Arumbeva, Cumbeba, Facho-de-renda , Gerumbeba, Jurubeba .

Description of the Opuntia brasiliensis.

This cactus is perennial, similar to a tree, with a peculiar habit and a mode of growth, which at the same time distinguish those of this species.

It rises with an erect trunk perfectly straight, thin but firm and rigid, up to a height of 4 meters or more.

Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis
Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis

It is provided with short branches, mostly horizontal or in decline, bright green, oval and flattened and spiny segments.

The whole plant resembles a conical, straight stick artificially adorned with branches. The main stem is perfectly round.


The flowers, diurnal, are pale yellow and open in a long succession in spring-summer. They only come out in adult plants, 6 to 10 cm in diameter, shaped like a saucer and are followed by small yellow fruits.

It blooms in spring summer and fructifies in autumn-winter.

Opuntia brasiliensis - flower
Opuntia brasiliensis – flower

Some of the segments can be cylindrical up to 1 m long and other flat and irregularly oval, about 15 cm long and about 6 cm wide.

Both branches and young segments, have small leaves of about 2 to 3 mm, fleshy cylindrical that remain very little time in the plant.

The leaves are small, fleshy, ovoid and bright green.


These fruits are of various colors and shapes, measuring about 4 cm., Spherical in shape and with spiny borders 3 to 6 cm long and with up to 5 seeds, usually one to five per fruit.

The fruits and can be yellow, orange red, red or purple, with a low or almost truncated navel, which contain large isolates with different groups of dark brown glochids.

The fruit is rather juicy, with a delicate acidity that resembles that of a plum, with an odor and a slight flavor, like the stems of rhubarb leaves.


The fruits are edible. Fruits and cladodes (  a flattened leaflike stem)  are used in folk medicine.

Also, cladodes are used for fodder and wood has been used in the manufacture of furniture.

How to grow Opuntia brasiliensis.

This cactus is resistant to the cold and in soft frosts, it supports the severe drought well. It is slow growing and does not need a lot of maintenance.

It is not a cactus very resistant to frost, not less than -2 ° C, if it is very dry.

However, in cultivation it is best not to expose it to temperatures below 10 ° C, even in an aerated and protected place, to avoid the formation of unsightly spots on the epidermis, requiring some treatment .

In the presence of high atmospheric humidity, avoid frost, as it is particularly sensitive to root rot.

However, it can withstand extremely high temperatures in summer.

Opuntia brasiliensis, is a very decorative cactus that is easily grown and without difficulties.

This cactus can be grown as a tree and is sometimes grown as ornamental in gardens and is sometimes used for hedges.

He likes the semi-shade or direct sun, but not long continued. In garden, rockery or large pots, it goes well.

Inside, you need bright light and some direct sunlight.

Substrate, irrigation and pruning.

The brasiliensis, will grow in any type of well-drained soil and will resist droughts, but will prefer regular irrigations.

In potting , use a non-caked substrate that drains well, as it is sensitive to rot when in the presence of moisture and low temperatures.

The indicated substrate will be formed by more organic matter than in most cacti.

We will use a substrate with a mixture of 65% leaf mulch and 35% coarse sand. The transplant will be carried out preferably at the beginning of spring.

Compost fertiliser can be paid in spring and summer.

Allow the substrate to dry between waterings. In summer, during the vegetative period, you should water regularly, but allowing the substrate to dry completely before re-watering, but do not water in excess.

In winter, you have to keep it dry. It is preferable not to water on cloudy, humid or cold days in winter.

The only pruning that Opuntia brasiliensis may need is the elimination of damaged or dry segments.


These cacti are quite resistant to pests and diseases .

However, they can be attacked by mealybugs in case of prolonged drought or by fungi if irrigation is excessive. They can also be attacked by snails, on the outside.

How to reproduce Opuntia brasiliensis.

This cactus can be propagated by cuttings and seeds .

The cactus pads, easily root and grow quickly when placed on loose, well-drained soil.

Reproduction occurs very well by means of cuttings of segments or fragments of stems, separated from the mother plant.

It is possible to reproduce by seeds in the spring, which must be soaked before planting and sown in peat and sand.

Preparation of cuttings.

First wash the leaves well, cut with a sharp knife.

Let it sit for a couple of days. Prepare the substrate, mulch of leaves and sand, for example and moisten.

Opuntia brasiliensis 

Introduce the leaf cutting on the substrate, according to the size (at least 6 cm long), about two centimeters. Tighten the earth around the cutting and leave in the shade.

Do not water the planted cuttings, until about 20 days later. Then carry the same irrigation pattern as with adult plants.

At least it will take a month or a month and a half to take root, so until two months, we will not know if it has taken root well.


It is armed with extremely sharp treacherous thorns, which is why it is one of the most dangerous cacti.

Handle it with extreme caution, use glove,  and tweezers and keep it away from the corridors and areas frequented by children and animals.

The thorns must be removed meticulously with tweezers.


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