Not all cactus are large, perennially apparent plants. In the case of Opuntia pulchella, the above ground portion of the plant is deciduous, and shed each year. In the fall, the plant will die back to a large underground rhizome, going dormant. In the spring, the stems will re-sprout, and produce a short, highly spiny hedge of stems. In late spring, early summer, the cactus will put on its flowers, which are an intense pink-purple.
O. pulchella has an unusual status in the California state BLM. Though unusual, and protected in multiple states, it is only considered a species of interest. This means, that while it is uncommon, it is not rare enough to warrant legal protection. There are many plants that fall into this category across the country, and while they are unusual, and rare in some cases, they are not under threat of becoming endangered or rare. Were that to happen, then the plant's status could change.