Opuntia leptocaulis or Tasajo is an cylindrical evergreen Opuntia that is native from Arizona to Texas and southwest Oklahoma and as far south as northern Mexico. In nature, the plants can reach up to 5 feet (1.5m) tall with a 3 foot (1 m) spread. The cylindrical stems are 3/16 inches (~5 mm) thick; joints are anywhere from 1 inch (2.5 cm) to 12 inches (30 cm) long, becoming very woody with age. Spines are slender and usually one per areole, with lengths reaching from 0.75 to 2 inches (2-5 cm) long. In early spring, the new growth has numerous small deciduous leaves. These are great cacti for containers and they are hardy in the landscape in USDA zones 7-11.
Blooming: This cactus blooms in the spring in our greenhouse. The small green to yellow flowers are 0.50-0.75 inches (1-2 cm) across. Red fruits up to 0.50 (1 cm) long follow the flowers. The fruit is persistent throughout the winter.
Culture: Opuntia leptocaulis need full sun to partial shade with a well drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam to 2 parts sand. We add small gravel to ensure good drainage. Like most cacti it is very drought resistant. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again. Once new growth starts in the spring, we fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer. This is the only time we fertilize them. During the winter months, plants are kept in the cool rooms with a nighttime temperature reaching 48°F (9°C). During this period, we only water enough to keep the stems from shriveling.
Propagation: Opuntia leptocaulis is propagated from cutting and from seed.
Opuntia leptocaulis was featured as Plant of the Week March 23-29, 2007.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.