Big Green Cactus Questions

Hello! I’m wondering if you might be able to help me identify this plant . . . and then help me figure out what to do with it.

Last year my husband and I bought a house in El Cerrito with a front yard sporting several cacti and succulents, including the large bushy thing in the attached photo. It’s currently about 5 feet tall, and has long spines intermingled with leaflike protrusions along its branches. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. It has grown extremely fast, to the point that a couple of neighbors have said they’re scared of it!

We are wondering what kind of plant it is, and how large it is likely to get. Since its size and prickliness are a little overwhelming for a spot so close to the sidewalk, we’ve also been contemplating removing it and replacing it with something a little softer. Do you know of anyone who might like to dig up and “adopt” a plant like this, or even just take some branches to transplant? If we have to take the plant out, I’d hate for it to go to waste.




Your cactus is a lovely Opuntia (Austrocylindropuntia) subulata or “Eve’s Needle”. An amazing tree cholla from the Andes. In the wild it only gets about ten to twelve feet high and around, due to the cold. Here in the bay area it lives up to the tree description and can get about 25 feet high with time. However with pruning it can be kept much smaller. It also has wonderful red blooms.


The trick with this plant is to not water it in the ground after it’s first year, otherwise it grows too fast and does not develop the internal wood to support its weight and the branches will break off in storms and high winds.

It is the wrong time of year to transplant cactus and digging a five foot O. subulata is not easy to do safely, so usually I would recommend just cutting it up and saving pieces to re-root, but again that has to be done in the spring or summer. If you do decide you want to remove it please feel free to contact us in the spring and we can discuss the options.

Take care,

  Cactus and Succulents
  Carnivorous Plants

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October 2023

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