Ajuntament de Barcelona

Cylindropuntia tunicata

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Garden

    Spanish name: 
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Cactus tunicatus, Opuntia tunicata, Opuntia puelchana
    Species characteristics
    From Texas to Northern Chile
    Very poor soils in desertic areas

    Rounded yellowish perennial and medium sized succulent plant (up to 60 cm). Its green cylindric stem is completely covered of rigid and very hard prickles, 2-3 cm long, with a white papyraceous cover. The hook shape of the prickles makes them very hard to remove from the bodies into which they are sticked.

    The fruit is globose and red.

    Flowering time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    In some areas of America, it is used to make fences to protect the inside from predators.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Cylindropuntia tunicata, consists of the genus name Cylindropuntia, coming from the Latin cylindrus, “cylinder”, and Opuntia, genus from which it was moved, and the Latin term tunicata, “with tunic”, in allusion to the tunic that recovers the prickles.

    The prickles, very hard and able to go through outfits and even the sole of the mountain boots, are very dangerous. When digging under the skin, they are very painful, because the coating cover, which is irritant, comes off and stays in the flesh. Their hook shape makes very hard to pull out them, which is very painful. This dangerousness earned it the Quichua name of atoq-waqachi, “one that makes cry the fox”, and was the reason for which the Native Americans used it as a weapon against the invader cavalry troups, whom they ambushed in narrow gorges and attacked throwing against them pieces of plant helped with long sticks.

    In some habitats, it can be considered an invasive plant.