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Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) in Canada

Executive Summary

The Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is a perennial, low-spreading, succulent cactus with jointed, rounded, but flattened, green stems measuring 5 to 12 cm in length. Stem segments are fleshy or firm, and sparsely covered with clusters of barbed bristles and spines. It occurs in small patches or large, scattered colonies of thousands of stems.

An Endangered plant species in Canada, it reaches the northern edge of its range in the southern tip of Ontario. It occurs there in two protected areas: two native populations in Point Pelee National Park and one in Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve on Pelee Island. These populations are threatened mainly by loss and degradation of suitable habitat and by collection. In Canada, the species is limited to dry, sandy substrates, typically dunes, that are in the early stages of succession in habitats known collectively as Lake Erie Sand Spit Savannas.

The population and distribution objectives for the recovery of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus are as follows:

  1. To maintain the current number of microsites (345) of the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus in Point Pelee National Park over the next five years, and to increase the total number of microsites by 5% over the next 10 years.
  2. To maintain the population size (five microsites) at Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve on Pelee Island over the next five years.

The primary threats to the species, critical information requirements for recovery, and additional steps needed to attain these objectives are addressed within the Broad Strategies and Approaches to Recovery section.

Critical habitat for the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus is identified in the recovery strategy for all three native populations. Where conditions appear to be suitable, critical habitat is identified by vegetation communities using the standardized Ecological Land Classification system. In degraded, secondary successional habitats and areas where the vegetation has succeeded beyond optimal growing conditions for Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, the species' critical habitat is identified using an occupancy-based approach.

One or more action plans identifying specific actions in relation to this strategy will be completed within five years of the final posting of this recovery strategy.