Opuntia, or prickly pear cactus, is native to Mexico but grown all across its possible habitat of USDA zones 9 through 11. It usually grows to between 6 and 20 feet in (2-6 m.) height. Opuntia diseases occasionally occur, and one of the more common is Sammons’ Opuntia virus. Keep reading to learn more about Sammons’ virus of Opuntia cactus.

Treating Virus in Cactus Plants

Opuntia vulgaris, also known as Opuntia ficus-indica and more commonly as Indian fig prickly pear, is a cactus that produces tasty fruit. The pads of the cactus can be cooked and eaten as well, but the main draw is the edible orange to red fruits. There are a few common Opuntia diseases. Identifying a virus in cactus plants is essential, as some are much more of a problem than others. Sammons’ virus, for instance, is not a problem at all. It may make your cactus look a little strange, but it doesn’t affect the health of the plant and may, depending upon who you ask, make it look a little more interesting. That being said, it’s always better not to spread disease if you can help it.

What is Sammons’ Opuntia Virus?

So, what is Sammons’ virus? Sammons’ Opuntia virus can be spotted in light yellow rings that appear on the pads of the cactus, earning the disease the alternate name of ringspot virus. Often, the rings are concentric. Studies show that the virus has absolutely no negative effects on the plant’s health. This is good, because there is no way to treat Sammons’ virus. Opuntia is the only known carrier of Sammons’ virus. It doesn’t seem to be spread by insects, but it is borne through the plant’s sap. The most common means of spread is human propagation with infected cuttings. To keep the disease from spreading, make sure to propagate your cactus only with pads that show no signs of the disease.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.