Opuntia humifusa is a perennial herb from fibrous roots, forming mats, stems segmented, photosynthetic, formed of thick, fleshy, flat oval pads 4-12 cm long, 2-8 cm wide with small bristly-spiny cushions scattered over the surface, gray-green turning reddish in winter.
Flowers yellow, showy, 4-8 cm wide, numerous petals, sepals greenish, grading into petal; stamens numerous; blooming June-July.
Fruit fleshy, oval, red, with depressed top, 2.5-5 cm, 2 cm wide, top depressed, tapered to base; seeds numerous 0.3-0.5 cm long (Radford et al. 1968), black, flattened, embedded in red, edible pulp.
Wetland status: UPL.
Frequency in NYC: Infrequent.
Habitat: Dry sand of back dunes. Occasionally on cliff faces or rocky sites. Possibly planted in some sites and escaped. Common on Sandy Hook, NJ.
Notes: Eaten by raccoons, which disperse seeds (Gargiullo personal observation). Also eaten by coyotes, foxes and skunks (Wilson 1993). .