Known as the Nopal in Spanish, the Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris) is a low-spreading cactus with jointed, oval-shaped stems resembling the tail of a beaver. These stems grow in low clumps up to six feet wide and produce a brownish-gray fruit, oval in shape and about an inch long with many seeds. The Beavertail Cactus does not have large spines, but rather tiny glochids, or tiny hair-like spines.
Native to southern California and the American southwest, you can see the Beavertail Cactus throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Look for its brilliant red-lavender flowers blooming from the top edge of their stems from March to June.
To see photos of the Beavertail Cactus in its natural habitat, visit the San Diego Natural History Museum’s San Diego County Plant Atlas.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Melli, SDNHM