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Opuntioideae is a subfamily of the cactus family, Cactaceae. It contains 15 genera divided into five tribes.[1] Members of this subfamily have diverse habits, including small geophytes, hemispherical cushions, shrubs, trees, and columnar cacti consisting of indeterminate branches or determinate terete or spherical segments.[2]

Cylindropuntia ramosissima 11.jpg
Cylindropuntia ramosissima
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae



Synapomorphies of Opuntioideae include small deciduous, barbed spines called glochidia born on areoles and a bony aril surrounding a campylotropous ovule (inverted and curved, such that the micropyle almost meets the funiculus).[3] Other prominent morphological characters for this subfamily are presence of cylindrical, caducous leaves that tend to be shed by maturity and the sectioning of the stem into joints or pads known as cladodes.

Opuntioideae are unique among cacti for lacking in the stem a thick cortex, an extensive system of cortical bundles, collapsible cortical cells, and medullary bundles. Typically, the epidermis consists of a single layer of irregularly shaped cells, a cuticle at least 1-2 microns thick, and long, uniseriate trichomes in the areoles. Opuntioideae have a hypodermis of at least one layer, very thick walls, and druses (aggregations of calcium oxalate crystals), and their cortical cells have enlarged nuclei; the reason for this is unknown. They also possess mucilage cells.

Notably, their lack of collapsible cortical cells, ribs, and tubercles mean that they cannot absorb water or transfer it intercellularly as easily as the other cacti, so this may place evolutionary constraints on the aridity of habitats and maximum adult size. One adaptation around this problem is the evolution of flattened cladodes that allow opuntioids to swell up with water, increasing in volume without an increase in surface area risking water loss. Opuntioids also lack fiber caps to their phloem bundles, which in other cacti protect against sucking insects and stiffen developing internodes.[4]

Tribes and generaEdit

Tribes and genera of the subfamily Opuntioideae include:[5]


Cylindropuntieae – round stems

Opuntieae – flattened stems


Tephrocacteae – round stems

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Family: Cactaceae Juss., nom. cons. subfam. Opuntioideae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2004-02-13. Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  2. ^ Ritz, C.M.; Reiker, J.; Charles, G.; Hoxey, P.; Hunt, D.; Lowry, M.; Stuppy, W.; Taylor, N. (2012). "Molecular phylogeny and character evolution in terete-stemmed Andean opuntias (Cactaceae−Opuntioideae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 65 (2): 668–681. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.07.027. PMID 22877645.
  3. ^ Griffith, M. Patrick; Porter, J. Mark (2009-01-01). "Phylogeny of Opuntioideae (Cactaceae)". International Journal of Plant Sciences. 170 (1): 107–116. doi:10.1086/593048. ISSN 1058-5893.
  4. ^ Mauseth, James D. (2005-12-01). "Anatomical features, other than wood, in subfamily opuntioideae (cactaceae)". Haseltonia. 11: 113–125. doi:10.2985/1070-0048(2005)11[113:afotwi];2. ISSN 1070-0048.
  5. ^ "GRIN Genera of Cactaceae subfam. Opuntioideae". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2011-12-05.