Opuntia basilaris is an extremely distinctive Opuntia in a world where it is often hard to tell one Opuntia from another. It has unique beaver-tailed cladodes, reddish-brown glochids in spineless areolae and mauve-purple flowers - combined characteristics which set it apart from any other species. Opuntia basilaris is a true desert cactus and is found in rocky arid areas in and around the Mojave and Colorado deserts and across the Mexican border into northern Sonora and Baja California. These locations are among the driest desert areas in North America and tell you all you need to know about the required cultivation of this Prickly Pear: little or no water! A gritty, sandy, alkaline, mineral-rich, free-draining substrate with plenty of chunks of limestone mixed into it, is the growing medium that Opuntia basilaris needs. If you can mix in volcanic rock-dust so much the better but there should be little or - preferably - no organic matter. Needless to say, it requires full sun.
Opuntia basilaris is not fully hardy in all areas of the UK but in sunny sheltered free-draining sites in southern or coastal locations it is certainly worth experimenting with. In less-favoured areas it will need to be grown in a container and brought inside for the winter.
|Synonyms||Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris, Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada, Opuntia basilaris var. ramosa, Opuntia brachyclada, Opuntia whitneyana|
|Geographical Origin||USA: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah; Mexico|
|Cultivation||Full sun. Well-drained gritty, gravelly alkaline substrate. Add limestone to the substrate. Keep as dry as possible in winter|
|Hardiness||Only hardy in the UK if kept completely dry in winter. Southern and coastal locations only. A very free-draining substrate is essential. A sloping gradient is ideal. Further north and inland grow in containers and bring indoors for the winter|
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