Smithsonian Misc. Collect. 50: 532. 1908.
Shrubs, sprawling to spreading, to 1.2 m. Stem segments not disarticulating, green, flattened, obovate to elliptic, 7–22 × 5–12 cm, ± tuberculate, glabrous, glaucous; areoles 5–7 (–8) per diagonal row across midstem segment, subcircular to elliptic, 3–6 × 2.5–3.5 mm; wool gray. Spines absent or 1–6 per areole, over distal 0–70% of stem segment, spreading to reflexed, yellow with chalky white coat and brown to yellow basal portions, aging dark red, straight, subulate, angularly flattened, the longest 20–48 mm. Glochids moderately dense in crescent at adaxial edge of areole and sparse or poorly developed in subapical tuft, yellow, aging redbrown, of unequal lengths, to 4 mm. Flowers: inner tepals yellow, orange, or dull red throughout, 25–35 mm; filaments orange-yellow sometimes darker near base; anthers yellow; style pink to red (rarely white); stigma lobes green to yellow-green. Fruits red-purple throughout, obovoid to subcylindric, 30–55 × 20–40 mm, juicy, glabrous, spineless; areoles 20–36. Seeds tan to gray, 4.5–6 mm diam.; girdle protruding to 0.5 mm. 2n = 66.
Phenology: Flowering spring (Apr–May).
Habitat: Coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grassy hillsides, disturbed sites
Elevation: 30-600 m
The nothospecies Opuntia ×vaseyi resulted from hybridization between O. littoralis and O. phaeacantha (B. D. Parfitt and M. A. Baker 1993).