Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
Scientific Name: Opuntia humifusa
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2010
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This cactus of sandy habitats is restricted in Canada to two very small locations in extreme southwestern Ontario along the north shore of Lake Erie. The two native populations are primarily at risk from habitat loss and degradation due to vegetation succession and shoreline erosion. Stochastic events could readily eliminate the population on Pelee Island consisting only of a few plants.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1985. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1998, May 2000, and April 2010.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05
Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.
Image of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus is a low succulent plant. The green stems are flattened and are formed of segments; barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments. Yellow to gold flowers are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers; they measure 4 to 6 cm wide. The juicy and edible fruit measures 3 to 5 cm. The fruit changes colour, from green to red, as it matures; fruit often remain on the cactus until the next spring. There are 6 to 33 seeds in each fruit; the small seeds are flat and of light color.
Distribution and Population
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus occurs in the United States from New England and Wisconsin south to Texas and Florida. In Canada, it only occurs in southwestern Ontario. By 1985, the plant was only found in Point Pelee National Park (where the population was fairly extensive and consisted of thousands of plants), and three other locations where the populations were small and vulnerable. Since then, the plants at two of the small sites have been determined to be transplants from Point Pelee. The third small site is in a very precarious state. The Point Pelee population appears to be in very good condition, but it is not known whether the population in the Park has declined, increased or remained stable.
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus grows in dry sandy areas that are in the early stages of succession, usually sandy ridges or sandy dunes. Habitat changes that are detrimental to the cactus on Pelee Island and in Point Pelee Park are mainly habitat losses due to winter storms and natural succession by woody vegetation that shades out the cactus.
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus flowers in June. This plant does not tolerate shade. Reproduction occurs mostly through seeds. It is believed that insects are the main pollinators of the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. Small mammals, especially rabbits, are the main dispersers of the seeds.
Loss of habitat is the most important limiting factor for the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. Habitat loss is due to both natural factors (shoreline erosion, especially during winter storms, and natural succession by woody vegetation) and human factors (trampling, logging, plantation activities, agricultural activity, leveling of sand dunes and use of fertilizers and herbicides). The collection of specimens for horticultural purposes is also posing a threat to the Canadian populations of the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus.
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus occurs in Point Pelee National Park, where it is protected by the Canada National Parks Act. It is also protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act in specific locations. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry
Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus - Lake Erie Sand Spit Savannas
Vicki McKay - Chair/Contact - Parks Canada
Phone: 519-322-2365 Fax: 519-322-1277 Send Email
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
13 record(s) found.
- Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Status Reports (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Action Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Permits and Related Agreements (2 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette (1 record(s) found.)
Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation
COSEWIC Status Reports
Response Statement - Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (2010-12-02)This cactus of sandy habitats is restricted in Canada to two very small locations in extreme southwestern Ontario along the north shore of Lake Erie. The two native populations are primarily at risk from habitat loss and degradation due to vegetation succession and shoreline erosion. Stochastic events could readily eliminate the population on Pelee Island consisting only of a few plants.
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010-09-03)Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.