Opuntia engelmannii is a prickly pear common across the south-central and Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It goes by a variety of common names, including desert prickly pear, discus prickly pear, Engelmann's prickly pear in the US, and nopal, abrojo, joconostle, and vela de coyote in Mexico.
Opuntia engelmanni (a common lapsus)
The nomenclatural history of this species is somewhat complicated due to the varieties, as well as its habit of hybridizing with Opuntia phaeacantha. It differs from Opuntia phaeacantha by being green year round instead of turning reddish purple during winter or dry seasons, as well as having yellow flowers with red centers.
- Opuntia engelmannii var. cuija — nopal cuijo; endemic to Mexico, in Guanajuato, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí.
- Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii — Engelmann's prickly pear; Mexico, southwestern U.S., California 
- Opuntia engelmannii var. flavispina — yellow-spined prickly pear; Arizona, Mexico
- Opuntia engelmannii var. laevis — smooth prickly pear; Arizona
- Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri — Texas prickly pear; endemic to U.S. in Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas.
- Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis — cow's tongue cactus, cow tongue prickly pear; Texas 
O. e. var. engelmannii
O. e. var. flavispina
An unusual orange-red form of O. e. var. lindheimeri
O. e. var. linguiformis
O. e. var. laevis (right)
In the Sonoran Desert, terminal pads face predominantly east-west, so as to maximize the absorption of solar radiation during summer rains. Although found occasionally in the Mojave Desert, it tends to be replaced by Opuntia basilaris, which does not need the summer rain.
The overall form of Opuntia engelmannii is generally shrubby, with dense clumps up to 3.5 metres (11 ft) high, usually with no apparent trunk. The pads are green (rarely blue-green), obovate to round, about 15–30 cm long and 12–20 cm wide.
The glochids are yellow initially, then brown with age. Spines are extremely variable, with anywhere from 1-8 per areole, and often absent from lower areoles; they are yellow to white, slightly flattened, and 1–6 cm long.
The flowers are yellow, occasionally reddish, 5–8 cm in diameter and about as long. Flowering is in April and May, with each bloom lasting only one day, opening at about 8AM and closing 8 hours later. Pollinators include solitary bees, such as the Antophoridae, and sap beetles.
The purple fleshy fruits are 3–7 cm long.
The fruits were a reliable summer food for Native American tribes. The Tohono O'odham of the Sonoran Desert, in particular, classified the fruits by color, time of ripening, and how well they kept in storage.
- Corral-Díaz, R.; Goettsch, B.K.; Gómez-Hinostrosa, C.; Heil, K.; Hernández, H.M.; Terry, M. (2017) [amended version of 2013 assessment]. "Opuntia engelmannii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T152531A121598710. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T152531A121598710.en. Retrieved 1 January 2023.
- "Opuntia engelmannii". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
- Felger, R.S; Hawkins, J.A.; Verrier, J. (2017-07-18). "New combinations for Sonoran Desert plants" (PDF). Phytoneuron (48): 1–6.
- "Opuntia engelmannii var. cuija". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- "Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Jepson Manual treatment for Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii
- USDA: var. lindheimeri
- "Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- "Opuntia aciculata". Opuntia Web. 2011-12-23. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
- "Opuntia engelmannii var. flexospina (Griffiths) B.D.Parfitt & Pinkava". Plants of the World Online. Kew Science. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
- "Factsheet - Opuntia engelmannii (Prickly Pear Cactus)". Lucid Key Server. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
- "Opuntia engelmannii, original description" (PDF). 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2016-09-16.
- U. of Michigan: Native American Ethnobotany Database
- Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension — Opuntia engelmannii
- Edward F. Anderson, The Cactus Family (Timber Press, 2001), pp. 497–498
- Raymond M. Turner, Janice E. Bowers, and Tony L. Burgess, Sonoran Desert Plants: an Ecological Atlas (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1995) pp. 291–293