Any plant of the genus Opuntia, the largest genus of the cactus family. Native to the New World, it has characteristic small bristles with backward-facing barbs. Subgroups are based on the form of the stem segments: chollas have cylindrical joints, while prickly pears have flat joints. Sizes range from tiny, cold-hardy forms to treelike varieties. In the Northern Hemisphere, opuntia is found farther north than any other cactus.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on opuntia, visit Britannica.com.

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