Here we have one of the little understood members of the tribe Opuntia. Grusonia pulchella's range is from the eastern edge of the Sierras in California across central Nevada into the western counties of Utah. It is found growing in sandy dry habitats around the shore lines of playas, dry drainage channels, and sandy slopes. G. pulchella produces a large tuberous roots that store reserves of moisture.It grows in areas that receive about six inches of moisture per year.
You are indeed fortunate to come across this short clumping "Cylindropuntia / Grusonia / Opuntia" as it is not common, with widely dispersed populations. This little Opuntiad does not fit neatly into any of the current standard Opuntia categories. It has had a multitude designated names, assigned to it through the years. Here is a link that discusses it's relationship to other Opuntias. This article was first published in the Haseltonia, No.9, 2002 and is available through the web sight Opuntiads.com .
I grow G. pulchella in a lean well drained substrate, irrigating it sparing in warm weather, once every two weeks. I find it takes temps down too zero Fahrenheit and can take a reasonable amount of winter moisture if grown in a well drained sandy soil. Too wet of a sight in hot weather causes it to rot more readily than in cool damp weather conditions. I start it from stem cuttings, but they may take up to six months to root.
G. pulchella produces two to three inch, hot pink, double blossoms with a golden boss of stamens. They have a lovely, satin sheen and crepe paper texture.