Opuntia erinacea, Grizzly Bear Cactus or Old Man Prickly Pear, is endemic to the western states of the USA, mainly California and Nevada but also just across the borders into SW Utah and NW Arizona. It grows in arid scrubby chapparal often together with Larrea tridentata and up to elevations of 2800 metres above sea level on rocky slopes and among dry pine and oak forest in the mountains of the High Sierra Nevada, San Bernardino Mountains and San Jacinto Mountains and further west into the Mojave Desert in a landscape often dominated by Yucca brevifolia.
It is a distinctive Opuntia, with long white downward-pointing spines that are brittle and hairlike and somewhat less fierce than many prickly pears. It is hardy in the UK if kept dry in the winter and will withstand temperatures down to at least -20C, surviving long freezes. Even old half-rotted fragments can re-root and start growing again as soon as the weather warms up.
There is a certain amount of healthy debate about the correct taxonomy for this species and it has several synonyms. It is most often referred to as Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea or Opuntia erinacea var. ursina.
This is a great hardy cactus for UK gardens and with its distinctive shaggy white coat it has loads of personality.
|Synonyms||Opuntia erinacea var. hystricina, Opuntia erinacea var. ursina, Opuntia hystricina, Opuntia hystricina var. ursina, Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea, Opuntia ursina|
|Geographical Origin||USA: California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona|
|Cultivation||Full sun. Very free-draining alkaline substrate with very little organic matter. Keep dry from October to March|
|Hardiness||Hardy down to -20C if kept dry. A simple glass or plastic rain-shelter during the winter months is all that is needed|
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