Stems succulent and shrubby, usually angular or 2-edged or jointed. Leaves almost always wanting; prickles numerous and formidable. Flowers solitary, usually showy and of short duration. Sepals and petals often indefinite and confounded with each other, the sepals from the surface, and the petals from the summit of the ovary. Stam. ∞; filaments long and filiform; anth. ovate, versatile. Ovaries inferior, 1-celled, fleshy, with parietal placentae. Style single, filiform, with several stigmas in a star-like cluster. Fr. succulent. Seeds numerous, parietal or in the pulp, exalbuminous. (Illust. in fig. 47, b.)
Genera 18, species about 800, all peculiarly American, no one having ever been found in any-other quarter of the globe. They abound in thE deserts of New Mexico and southward. ThE prickly pear (Opuntia vulgaris) is the only species found native as far north as N. York. Their aspect is peculiar, usually distinguishable at sight.
Stigmas. ∞ Calyx tube not prolonged. Berry tubercular, umbilicate
Stigmas ∞. Calyx tube prolonged above the ovary. Berry areolate, &c
Stigmas 5 to 7. - Calyx tube prolonged. Berry smooth. Axis grooved
- Calyx tube short. Berry smooth. Axis mammiferous
1. OPUN'TIA, Tourn. Prickly Pear. (Opuntiana was a country-near Phocis, where this was said to be naturalized.) Sepals and petals numerous, adnate to the ovary, not produced into a tube above it; stamens go, shorter than the petals; style with numerous, thick, erect stigmas; berry umbilicate at apex, tuberculate, cotyledons semiterete. - Shrubby plants, with articulated branches, the joints usually broad and flattened, with fascicles of prickles, regularly arranged upon the surface.
O. vulgaris Mill. Prostrate, creeping; joints ovate; prickles numerous in each fascicle, often with several subulate spines; lvs. minute, subulate from a broad base; fls. yellow. - A curious, fleshy plant, native in rocky and sandy places, Mass. to Fla. W. to Iowa. The singular form resembles a series of thick, fleshy leaves, 4 to 6' long, 2/3 as wide, growing from the tip or sides of each other, and armed with orange-colored spines from the edge of the joints, large, bright-yellow, and succeeded by a smooth, crimson, eatable fruit. † (Cactus opuntia L.)
2. CE'REUS, DC. Sepals very numerous, imbricated, adnate to the base of the ovary and united into a long tube above it, the outer shorter, the inner petaloid; stamens indefinite, coherent with the tube, stylo filiform, with many stigmas; berry scaly with the remains of the sepals; cotyledons none? - Fleshy shrubs, with woody, prismatic axes, armed with clusters of spines. Fls. from the clusters of spines.
Stock and branches compressed, somewhat leaf-like....................................
Nos. 1 - 3
Stock and branches angular-cylindrical, creeping...........................................
Nos. 4, 5
1 C. phyllanthus DC. Spleenwort. Branches ensiform, compressed, serrate; fls. with the terete, slender tube much longer than the limb of the petals. - From S. Am. The articulations of the stem are 2f or more long, 2' wide, weak, bordered with large, obtuse serratures, and traversed lengthwise by a central, cylindrical, woody axis. Fls. white, 9 to 12' long, expanding by night, fragrant. †
2 C. phyllanthoides DC. Branches ensiform, compressed, obovate, with spreading, rounded teeth; fls. arising from the lateral crenatures of the branches; tube shorter than the limb of the petals - From Mexico. A splendid flower, with leaf-like, fleshy joints, each 6 to 10' long, 1 to 2' wide. Fls. rose-colored, 4' in length, expanding by day.
3 C. truncatas L. Branching; joints short-compressed, serrate. truncate at the summit; fls. arising from the summit of the joints; sty. longer than the stam. or reflexed pet. - From Brazil. A very distinct species, a foot or more high. Joints 2 to 3' long, 1 to 1 1/2' wide, leaf-like. Fls. 2 to 3' long, pink-colored. † (Cactus L.)
4 C. grandiflorus DC. Creeping, rooting; st. with about 5 angles; fls. terminal and lateral, very large, nocturnal; petals spreading, shorter than the linear-lanceolate sepals. - Mexico. West Indies. Sts. cylindric or prismatic, branching, the angles not very prominent Fls. expanding by night, and enduring but a few hours, 8 to 12' diam. Sepals brown without, yellow within. Petals white. A magnificent flower, of difficult culture. †
5 C. flagelliformis DC. Snake Cactus. St. creeping, with about 10 angles, hispid; fls. lateral, diurnal; tube slender, longer than the limb of the petals. - From S. Am. St. about the size of the little finger, cylindric, indistinctly articulated, 2 to 5f long. Fls. of a lively pink color, smaller than those of the last, and continuing in bloom several days, †
3. MELOCAC'TUS, Bauh. Melon Thistle. Turk's Cap. (Compounded of melon and cactus, from its form.) Calyx tube adherent to the ovary, lobes 5 to 6, petaloid; petals as many as sepals, united with them into a long, cylindric tube; stamens and style filiform; stigma 5-rayed; berry smooth, crowned with the withered calyx and corolla.- Suffruticous, fleshy, leafless. Spadix simple, crowning the globular deeply-furrowed axis. Fls. terminal.
M. communis Link. Axis ovate-subglobous, dark green, 12 to 18-angled; ribs straight; spines fasciculate, subequal. - Native of the Caribbean Islands. This remarkable plant appears like a large. green melon, with deep furrows and prominent ribs, and is lull of juice. It is surmounted with a spadix, which is cylindric, tuberculate, densely tomentous, bearing the red flowers at the summit. †
4. MAMMILA'RIA, Hawarth. (Lat. mamma, the breasts; alluding to the tubercles.) Flowers and fruit similar to the preceding genus.- Stock roundish or cylindrical, covered with conical or mammaeform tubercles, spirally arranged and tipped with a cluster of spines in wool. Fls. sessile among the tubercles.
M. macromeris Engelm. Bright green, with large, pear-shaped tubercles, each surmounted by a cluster of straight, slender spines, and large (near 3 diam.) carmine-roseate (lowers, † From New Mexico. - Other species are cultivated in the green-house.