[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Photo of Opuntia lagunae (Prickly-pear), Jon Rebman © 2000 SDNHM Photo of Opuntia lagunae (Prickly-pear), George Lindsay © 2000 SDNHM Photo of Opuntia lagunae (Prickly-pear), Jon Rebman © 2000 SDNHM

Opuntia lagunae
Prickly-pear, Nopal

CACTACEAE (Cactus Family)

The generic name refers to Opus, an ancient Greek city that was fabled to have "a spiny-type plant growing at the outskirts." The specific epithet refers to the lake or "lagoon" at the top of the Sierra de la Laguna to which this species is restricted. Another common name is "Tuna Morada," a reference in Spanish to the color of its fruit.


This cactus is in the prickly-pear group of the genus Opuntia and grows approximately 1 m (3 feet) high. The stems are flattened and oval in shape, typical of the pads of many prickly-pears. The pads are gray-green and glaucous in color. The white spines are 3 cm (1-1/4 inches) long. The flowers have yellow petals and are approximately 7 cm (almost 3 inches) wide. The fruit is 7 cm long, and a deep red in color. It is very sweet in flavor.

Range and Habitat

This nopal is restricted to only one mountain range of Baja California Sur in the highest part of the Sierra de la Laguna. It grows at approximately 2000 m (6600 feet) in elevation.

Text by Bob Lauri
Photographs of whole plant and fruit by Jon Rebman
Photograph of flowers by George Lindsay

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