During his explorations of the Galapagos Islands, Darwin recorded Opuntia galapageia in a simple sketch of a tree-like cactus with a compact crown of pads (4) (5). While most Opuntia galapageia do indeed have well-developed trunks and rounded crowns (6) (7), some are more low-growing and shrubby in appearance (2). The flat, fleshy green pads are usually egg-shaped and dotted with evenly spaced clusters of 5 to 35 yellow to brown spines that are an obvious deterrent to predators (2) (6) (8). The trunk, when present, is initially covered with spines, but with age, develops dark reddish ‘bark’ (2) (6). Yellow flowers arise amongst the spine clusters and eventually develop into the spiny, spherical to oblong fruit, for which the genus gets the name ‘prickly pear’ (6).
- Max height: 5 m (2)