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Cactaceae of San Diego County, California

San Diego County contains 30 total taxa in the Cactaceae. Of these, 23 are native species, 1 species has escaped from cultivation, and 3 species are of putative hybrid origin. There are 6 cactus genera listed for the county and 66.7% of the total diversity is within the genus Opuntia.

This list with its updated nomenclature does not occur in one reference alone, but is an accumulation of previous species lists, recently published name changes, and even a few nomenclatural changes that are currently in the process of being published. See List of References.

Bergerocactus emoryi (Engelmann) Britton & Rose

Golden Snake Cactus/Golden Cereus

Echinocactus polycephalus Engelm. & J. Bigelow var. polycephalus

Cotton-top Cactus/Mound Cactus/Clustered Barrel Cactus

Echinocereus engelmannii (Parry ex Engelm.) Lemaire var. engelmannii

Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus

Echinocereus engelmannii (Parry ex Engelm.) Lemaire var. munzii (Parish) Pierce & Fosberg

Munz's Hedgehog Cactus

Echinocereus triglochidiatus Engelm. var. mojavensis (Engelm. & J. Bigel.) L. Benson

Mojave Hedgehog Cactus/Claret-cup Cactus

Ferocactus cylindraceus (Engelm.) Orcutt var. cylindraceus

California Barrel Cactus/Biznaga

Ferocactus cylindraceus (Engelm.) Orcutt var. lecontei (Engelm.) H. Bravo-Hollis

California or Desert Barrel Cactus/Biznaga

Ferocactus viridescens (Nutt.) Britt. & Rose var. viridescens

Coast Barrel Cactus

Mammillaria dioica K. Brandegee

Fish-hook Cactus/Nipple Cactus/Pin-cushion Cactus

Mammillaria tetrancistra Engelmann

Desert Fish-hook Cactus/Yaqui Mammillaria

Opuntia acanthocarpa Engelm. & J. Bigel. var. coloradensis L. Benson

Buckhorn Cholla

Opuntia basilaris Engelm. & J. Bigel. var. basilaris

Beavertail Cactus

Opuntia basilaris Engelm. & J. Bigel. var. brachyclada (Griffiths) Munz

Short-joint Beavertail Cactus

Opuntia bigelovii Engelm. var. bigelovii

Teddy-bear Cholla/Jumping Cholla

Opuntia californica (Torr. & A. Gray) Coville var. californica

Snake Cholla
*synonym = O. parryi var. serpentina

Opuntia californica (Torr. & A. Gray) Coville var. parkeri (J. Coult.) D. Pinkava

Valley Cholla
synonym = O. parryi var. parryi

Opuntia chlorotica Engelm. & J. Bigel.

Pancake or Golden Prickly-pear

Opuntia echinocarpa Engelm. & J. Bigel.

Silver or Golden Cholla
synonym = O. wigginsii L. Benson

Opuntia engelmannii Engelm. var. engelmannii

Engelmann's Prickly-pear

Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Miller

Indian-fig/Mission Prickly-pear/Nopal
*not a native species, but has escaped from cultivation

Opuntia ×fosbergii C. Wolf

Pink Teddy-bear Cholla
*putative hybrid: O. ganderi var. ganderi × O. bigelovii var. bigelovii

Opuntia ganderi (C. Wolf) J. Rebman & D. Pinkava var. ganderi

Gander's Cholla
synonym = O. acanthocarpa var. ganderi (see Pinkava 1996)

Opuntia littoralis (Engelm.) Cockerell

Coastal Prickly-pear

Opuntia occidentalis Engelm.

hybrid: O. littoralis × (O. engelmannii × O. phaeacantha)

Opuntia oricola Philbr.


Opuntia phaeacantha Engelm.


Opuntia prolifera Engelm.

Coastal Cholla

Opuntia ramosissima Engelm.

Diamond Cholla/Pencil Cactus

Opuntia ×vaseyi(J. Coult.) Britt. & Rose

hybrid: O. littoralis × O. phaeacantha

Opuntia wolfii (L. Benson) M. Baker

Wolf's Cholla

References for identifying the Cacti of San Diego County, California

Beauchamp, M. 1986. A Flora of San Diego County, California. Sweetwater River Press, National City, CA.

Benson, L. 1969. The Native Cacti of California. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA.

Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA.

Bravo-Hollis, H. and H. Sanchez-Mejorada. 1978-91. Las Cactáceas de México. 3 vols. Universidad Nacional de Mexico, Mexico D.F.

Britton, N. L. and J. N. Rose. 1919-23. The Cactaceae. 4 vols. Publ. Carnegie Inst., Washington, D.C.

Dawson, E. Y. 1966. Cacti of California. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Hickman, J. ed. 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Kearney, T. and R. Peebles. 1960. Arizona Flora. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Lindsay, G. 1963. Cacti of San Diego County. Occ. Pap. San Diego Soc. Nat. Hist. #12.

Pinkava, D. 1996. Nomenclatural changes in Opuntia (Cactaceae). Haseltonia 4 (1996): 103-104.

Wiggins, I. 1980. Flora of Baja California. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.