Opuntia monacantha/monacanthos (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat, Etc.)

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) at 4 3/4″ tall x 2 1/4″ wide after I brought it home on 3-28-20, #680-3.

Joseph’s Coat, Irish Mittens, Dildo, Eltham Indian Fig, Pak’an, Sweet Prickly Pear

Opuntia monacanthos…

op-UN-shee-a  mon-ah-KANTH-?

(Syn. Opuntia monacantha var. variegata)

op-UN-shee-a  mon-ah-KANTH-uh  var-ee-GAY-tuh

Synonyms of Opuntia monacanthos… (12) (Updated on 11-13-21 from Plants of the World Online): Cactus indicus Roxb. (1824), Cactus monacanthos Willd. (1814), Cactus opuntia var. parvifolius Risso (1826), Cactus urumbeba Vell. (1829), Opuntia deflexa Lem. (1839), Opuntia gracilior Lem. (1839), Opuntia inermis Moris & De Not. (1839)(nom. illeg.), Opuntia lemaireana Console ex Bois (1898), Opuntia monacanthos var. deflexa Salm-Dyck (1850), Opuntia monacanthos var. gracilior Lem. (1839), Opuntia monacanthos var. variegata Anon. (1874)Opuntia roxburghiana Voigt (1845), Opuntia urumbeba (Vell.) Steud. (1841), Opuntia vulgaris var. lemaireana (Console ex Bois) Backeb. (1958)

Opuntia monacantha var. variegata Anon. is the scientific name of the variegated variety of Opuntia monacantha. It was first mentioned in the Gardener’s Chronicles in 1874. This variety is considered a synonym of Opuntia monacantha. Maybe someday this variety will once again be accepted as it is a legitimate name since it vas validly published.

Opuntia monacantha Haw. is the accepted scientific name for this species of Opuntia. It was named and described as such by Adrian Hardy Haworth in Supplementum Plantarum Succulentarum in 1819. It was first named and described as Cactus monacanthos by Carl Ludwig von Willdenow in Enumeratio Plantarum Supplementum in 1814.


While updating this page on 12-11-22, I noticed the scientific name on Plants of the World Online had changed from Opuntia monacantha HAW. to Opuntia monacanthos (Willd.) Haw. I read the original publication from 1819 via BHL and it definitely says Mr. Haworth changed the name from Cactus monacanthos to Opuntia monacantha. SO, why in the heck did Plants of the World Online (and IPNI) change the name? I sent an email to the editor and he said, “Yes, it is not allowed to change from a Greek ending to a Latin one so this must be corrected.” HMMMMM….. I replied with another email with further questions… Apparently, monacanthos is Greek and monacantha is Latin. I talked to myself for several hours about this. But, I don’t understand how you can take a name validly published in 1819 and just now realize it isn’t correct and then change it and say it was named as such by the author in 1819 when it wasn’t… It is clearly visible what Haworth wrote. I’m sure there is supposed to be 1-2 commas in there somewhere. 🙂 At any rate, I changed the name under the top photo but that’s all for now. The name could change back… I am interested to see how many websites and databases update the name within the next year. Of course, none have to change it based on the original publication details… It’s a good thing I am already bald. 🙂

OH, I forgot to mention something. Other databases use either Opuntia monacantha (Willd.) Haw. and some use Opuntia monacantha Haw… Using (Willd.) Haw. indicates the basionym Cactus monacanthos was used and just Haw. indicates it was a new name. The latter, in my opinion would be more relevant since both the genus and species name were changed.

The genus, Opuntia (L.) Mill., was named and described as such by Philip Miller in The Gardener’s Dictionary in 1754. Until then most genera of cactus were simply in the genus Cactus as described by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

As of 12-11-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 139 species in the Opuntia genus. It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 150 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.


Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 3-28-20, #680-4.

I found this interesting cactus at Wagler’s Greenhouse on March 28, 2020, so I brought it home. It measured 4 3/4” tall x 2 1/4” wide at the time. I didn’t know what it was because it had no label as many of their “in-house” plants don’t. They have quite a collection of larger plants they take cuttings from that are unlabeled. When I take plants to them I always include a label… I wasn’t sure what the name of this plant was so posted the photos on Succulent Infatuation (a Facebook group) and a member suggested it was an Opuntia monacantha var. variegata. As always, they were correct. 🙂

Even though the “variety” name is not an “accepted” scientific name, I will use it anyway because this “variety” is different from the species. I can use it because the name was validly published.

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 3-28-20, #680-5.

Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) lists this plant as Opuntia monacantha f. monstruosa variegata hort. and says it is one of very few naturally occurring white-variegated cacti. It says it is a dwarf, teratological variant of the larger Opuntia monacantha. This variegated variety can be variegated or marbled with white, creamy-white, yellow, green, and sometimes with pink in various patterns.

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 3-28-20, #680-5.

Because it is a monstrous form, it looks nothing like the species. Supposedly, this form grows less than 20″ tall but it can grow taller, up to maybe 36″. The species in the wild is a bushy or tree-like cactus that can grow from 6 to about 20′ tall. In the wild, the species grows huge pads like Prickly Pears normally do, but this monstrous form grows much differently. There are photos online of this variegated variety that shows a multitude of shapes and sizes so it will be interesting to watch grow.

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 3-28-20, #680-7.

The above photos show the areolas with a small amount of wool, small spines, and a pinkish color.

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 3-28-20, #680-8.

From the side, the main stem of the Opuntia monacantha is very thin. Sorry, this photo isn’t focused very well…

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 3-28-20, #680-9.

The above photo is a close-up of the numerous side branches.

Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) at 6 1/4″ tall x 2 1/4″ wide on 10-15-20, #747-83.

I had to bring in the potted plants on October 15 (2020) because an “F” was in the forecast. I always take photographs and measurements to see how they have progressed over the year. Just since March 28 when I brought this plant home, it has grown from 4 3/4″ tall to 6 1/4″ tall on October 15.

Opuntia monacantha (var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) on 10-15-20, #747-84.

As it grows, the lower branches seem to become longer and flatter. I am not normally a big fan of most Opuntia species, but this one is an exception. I think it is very neat.


Opuntia monacantha (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat) at 8 1/2″ tall on 8-17-21, #826-38.

The Opuntia monacantha var. variegata has done quite well and has grown to 8 1/2″ tall when the above photo was taken on August 17. The top broke off earlier in the summer but it grew a new pad to replace the one that fell off.

Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay
Zones: USDA Zones 9a-10b (20-35° F)
Size: Usually less than 20” but can grow up to 3’or more.
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Very fast-draining soil. Potting Soil with additional perlite and chicken grit or 50/50 potting soil and pumice.
Water: Regular watering during the summer but barely during the winter.


Opuntia monacantha (var. variegata) at 12 3/8″ tall x 4 1/2″ wide on 10-16-22, #919-29.

I had to bring the potted plants inside for the winter on October 16 in 2022. I put all the cactus on the front porch with the succulents in the spring and most of them did quite well. The Opuntia monacantha grew to 12 3/8″ tall and 4 1/2″ wide (at the widest point). That is over triple in size since 2020 and over 4″ taller than last October.

Opuntia monacantha (var. variegata)(Joesph’s Coat) on 10-16-22, #919-30.

The above photo is the top portion of the Opuntia monacantha

You can read my Cactus Talk & Update and Cactus & Succulent Tips to get my opinion about growing cactus and succulents.

When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.

The Opuntia monacantha var. variegata has definitely be an interesting cactus to watch grow. There is apparently a cultivar called ‘Maverick’ available… There isn’t a whole lot of information online about this plant, but I have found LLIFLE (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) has a lot of useful information.

I will continue adding photos and information as time goes by.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. If you feel I have made an error, please let me know.


2 comments on “Opuntia monacantha/monacanthos (syn. var. variegata) (Joseph’s Coat, Etc.)

  1. Raina says:

    I was looking for something totally different and saw this pic. Which answers another question about the cactus I brought home with no name. This is it! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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