U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

Kids' Species Information

Bakersfield Cactus

Photo by Adam Zennerer, USFWS

Bakersfield Cactus


Endangered. This means they are in danger of going extinct.

Bakersfield cactus thicket

Photo: Adam Zennerer, USFWS


Plants have pads that look like beaver tails. These are flattened stems. They are up to about 18 cm long by 1 to 1.5 cm thick. (7 inches by 1/2 in.) They have small, sharp bristles but not spines .Flowers are magenta. They usually appear in May.


Sandy soil in the grasslands of Kern County. Plants spread to thickets as wide as 10 meters. (33 ft)


This has not been studied much. The flowers do produce seeds. But most new plants probably don't start that way. Here's what usually happens. Pads fall off and take root. They become new plants.

Bakersfield cactus and agriculture

Photo: Adam Zennerer, USFWS


Central Kern County near Bakersfield. The remaining populations are highly fragmented.


Residential development. Agriculture.

Other threats: flooding, pesticides, off-road vehicles, sand and gravel mining, oil and gas drilling, and competition from nonnative annual grasses.


If you live around Bakersfield, see if you can find this species. Beware of the bristles. Don't get too close! Wherever you live, you can find beavertail cacti in garden stores.

Photo Credits: Adam Zennerer, USFWS

Words to Learn

The plural of cactus is cacti. Cacti are in the Cactaceae family.

We call the Bakersfield cactus Opuntia treleasei. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.

But most botanists now say the Bakersfield cactus is a variety of the beavertail cactus - Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei.

The Bakersfield cactus is a perennial. That means it lives for more than one year.

Cacti are succulents. They store lots of water it their stems. This lets them live in dry places.

Bakersfield cacti use vegetative reproduction. That means reproduction by some other way than seeds. See Reproduction (left) to learn how this happens.

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Last updated: November 29, 2017