Opuntia fragilis
Fragile prickly pear
Image of Opuntia fragilis

Photo by Christopher Heckel 

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Key Characteristics

Small cactus of rock outcrops; plants low and prostrate with swollen (not flat), elliptical, pad-like stems separated into 2-5 cm long segments, covered with clusters of 3-7 sharp spines.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: E
  • State Rank: S1
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Distribution map for Opuntia fragilis

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Fragile prickly-pear is found on steep, south facing exposed slopes of granitic bedrock. A collection from an excessively dry, sandy hill in northern Lower Michigan has led to numerous surveys in that area, but the species has never again been found in the state outside of the Upper Peninsula.

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Red oak, white pine, bearberry, ground juniper, rusty woodsia, pale corydalis, wild rose, bastard toadflax, sand clubmoss, smooth sumac, pink corydalis, and maidenhair spleenwort.


This species is protected in its sole western Upper Peninsula locality, where surveys may reveal additional populations. It primarily requires maintenance of its open, rocky outcrop habitat.

General Survey Guidelines

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/explorer [Accessed Jul 20, 2018]


Survey References

Technical References

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