Flowers: large; solitary; sessile; axillary from the side of the stem joints. Calyx: of numerous sepals. Corolla: of eight to twelve petals arranged in ranks. Stamens: numerous. Pistil: one; stigmas, numerous. Fruit: pear-shaped; edible. Stem: successively jointed; fleshy, spiny, and provided with tufts of stiff, reddish-brown bristles.
As the camel is adapted to the desert so is the cactus to sandy soil, and in its firm, patient growth it is not unlike that unwearying beast. Its succulent, fleshy parts retain within themselves all the moisture it needs for existence, and the leathery, non-porous skin prevents evaporation. It loves the burning rays of the sun and will often choose to grow on rocks where the heat is longest retained. Among the hills of New Jersey and about Connecticut it is not unusual to find it covering large boulders.
Our flower is one of the two species with which we are most familiar. O. Opuntia, the other species, has a western range, from Minnesota to Texas, smaller flowers, few spines or none, and greenish-yellow bristles. In other respects it is almost identical with the above.