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Opuntia monacantha var. variegata
op-UN-shee-a mon-ah-KANTH-uh var-ee-GAY-tuh
Synonyms of Opuntia monacantha (12) Last updated 11-12-20): Cactus indicus Roxb., Cactus monacanthos Willd., Cactus urumbeba Vell., Opuntia deflexa Lem., Opuntia gracilior Lem., Opuntia inermis Moris & De Not., Opuntia lemaireana Console ex Bois, Opuntia monacantha var. deflexa Salm-Dyck, Opuntia monacantha var. gracilior Lem., Opuntia monacantha var. variegata Anon., Opuntia roxburghiana Voigt, Opuntia vulgaris var. lemaireana (Console ex Bois) Backeb.
Opuntia monacantha var. variegata Anon. is the scientific name of the variegated variety of Opuntia monacantha. It was first described 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 described and published (even though it says “Anon.” for the author). HMMM… Maybe it wasn’t validly published? There are rules, you know. 🙂
Opuntia monacantha Haw. is the correct and 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 possibly first named and described as Cactus monacanthos by Carl Ludwig von Willdenow in Enumeratio Plantarum Supplementum in 1814. I say “possibly” because sometimes it is seen as Opuntia monacantha (Willd.) Haw. (the parenthesis indicates its previous name was used as a basionym).
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.
There are several links at the bottom of the page for further reading.
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.
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.
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.
The above photos show the areolas with a small amount of wool, small spines, and a pinkish color.
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.
I like to start with a good potting soil such as Miracle Grow or Schultz because that is the best I can find locally in big bags. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts don’t recommend using a “peat-based” formula like that but I can’t find a good “humus-based” potting soil unless I get it from the yard. There are many cactus and succulent potting soil recipes online but you will probably experiment and use what is best and readily available for you. I used to mix 2 parts of potting soil with an additional 1 part perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Then I started reading where enthusiasts were using pumice instead of additional perlite and grit so I bought pumice from General Pumice online in 2018 because it is not available locally. They suggested mixing it 50/50 with potting soil. They have three sizes available depending on your pot size. SO, that is what I have been using lately. You can re-pot cactus and succulents anytime, but I find repotting in the fall is good so their potting soil will be nice ad loose over the winter months. After watering throughout the summer, I find their potting soil can get kind of hard. Using a “peat-based” formula you will find it hard to reabsorb after it completely dries out.
The main stem is wide but thin with a lot of side branches.
Cactus, in general, are an easy group to grow as long as you follow a few basic rules. Usually, they like bright light throughout the day during their growing period but up to part-shade is acceptable. They aren’t as picky about light during the winter when they are supposedly dormant. I say supposedly because sometimes I question if they are actually dormant. Some flower over the winter so how could they be dormant? Anyway, the soil is also very important and it should fairy loose and always very well-draining. I like water to drain out almost as fast as I put it in. Water thoroughly when watering over the summer when they are actively growing. During the winter, I rarely water any of the cactus. This is because they are supposed to be dormant and their roots aren’t absorbing water. If you water, do it very sparingly but only toward the end of winter when spring is close. Avoid putting your cactus in too large of a pot. They don’t normally have an extensive root system so soil under the roots can become damp and cause their roots to rot, which is why you shouldn’t water over the winter. If your cactus is taller and it becomes top-heavy, you can always put the pot in a larger pot and put rocks between the two for weight.
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.
As it grows, the lower branches have become longer and flatter.
The Opuntia monacantha var. variegata will 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.