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Opuntia fragilis   (Nutt. ) Haw.
(Craig Freeman photo)
Height: .8 to 4.8 inches
Family: Cactaceae - Cactus Family
Flowering Period:   June, July
Also Called: Brittle pricklypear.
Stems: Plants prostrate to ascending, forming clumps or mats. Stem segments readily detaching, green, succulent, nearly cylindric to flattened, elliptic-obovoid, .6 to 2.4 inches long, .4 to 1.2 inch wide, tuberculate, not glaucous; areoles oval, wool white.
Leaves: Cylindric or narrowly conic, succulent, soon deciduous. Spines abundant, on most areoles, 3-8 per areole, gray, spreading, straight, strongly barbed, .08 to 1 inch; glochids inconspicuous, tan to brown, up to .12 inch long.
Flowers: Flowers rarely produced, when present borne on marginal areoles of old stem segments; tepals yellow or greenish yellow, inner sometimes basally red; filaments white or red; anthers yellow; style white; stigma lobes green.
Fruits: Tan, ovoid, .4 to 1.2 inch long, .3 to .6 inch wide, dry; seeds tan to gray, flattened, oblong to nearly circular, .2 to .24 inch, margin wavy, .04 to .06 inch.
Habitat: Sandy or gravelly shortgrass, sandsage, and sand prairies
Distribution: West 1/2 of Kansas
Origin: Native
Comments: Fragile pricklypear is inconspicuous. By late summer or fall, the season's new segments have matured and will detach easily from the plant. If caught in fur or clothing, the segments can be transported long distances before falling to the ground and rooting. Opuntia, uncertain etymology, and fragilis, fragile, alluding to the ease with which segments detach.

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