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Photo Credit: Molly Murphy

image description

Photo Credit: Molly Murphy

image description

Photo Credit: Molly Murphy

image description

Photo Credit: Molly Murphy

image description

Photo Credit: BIISC

QUICK FACTS

  • FAMILY Cactaceae
  • CATEGORY Trees

Brazilian prickly pear, cactus papaya tree, prickly Pear Cactus (Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis)

Considered one of the tallest members of the cactus family, Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis reaches heights up to 66 feet. Armed with visible spine clusters, the cylindrical trunk tapers with height. Leaf-like pads adorn Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis, much thinner and more flexible than typical Opuntia species, gives the cactus a tree-like construction. Fruit, flowers, and hair-thin thorns are produced on both leaf pad edges and in the pad centers. Flowers are pale yellow to bright yellow/orange. Fruiting occurs multiple times a year with one black seed per fruit. Leaf pads fall from the tree when they are heavy with fruit, resulting in vegetative growth of new individuals from the ground. The plant is shade tolerant for much of its life. A slow grower at a young age in the understory, it grows faster as it peaks out above the canopy reaching full sun. It was found naturalizing in the understory of a dry forest dominated by haole koa and christmas berry in the Ka’u area of Hawai’i Island and in Oceanview near its original cultivation point. Considered by some as “the most dangerous of all cacti”, BIISC staff experienced the painful reality of persistent hair-like thorns in their hands after handling the cactus. Pressed and dried samples grew in the herbarium cabinet proving its great ability to thrive in the shade. This tropical cactus is difficult to eradicate, stem injections with 100% Garlon 4, had with some success.

  • Tall arboreal cactus
  • Thin leaf-like pads
  • Pale yellow to bright orange flowers
  • Small globular fruit, pale yellow in color
  • Visible and invisible thorns on woody trunk and leaf pads

Harm

  • Tropical cactus
  • Harmful thorns
  • Resistent to herbicidal control
  • Shade tolerant
  • Bird and Human dispearsed
  • Vegetative reproduction