Etymology -From the Latin cumulo which means pile or heap - referring to the mounds formed by the stems.As more and more work is done on the Opuntiads, more species are broken out of the genus Opuntia and placed into separate genera. Cumulopuntia is one of the earlier groups to be recognized as distinct from the genus Opuntia, however, many were placed into the even earlier genus of Tephrocactus primarily by Backeberg in the 1950ís. Then in 1980, F. Ritter created the new genus Cumulopuntia taking species from both
Tephrocactus and Opuntia. The primary distinction was in the fruits which contain no pulp. Seed structure is also unlike other Opuntiads and overall growth is that of a compact cushion. At least 30 or more species have been described for the genus, but this was reduced by Anderson (who followed James Iliff) to just 20 species and in The New Cactus Lexicon the genus was dramatically reduced to just 4 species, one having 4 subspecies for a total of 7 taxa.
These plants are found often at high elevation in south-central South America. In cultivation, plants are only found through specialist nurseries or traded between growers. This is not unlike other Opuntiads which are often hated or loved by cactus growers with the former being more often the case.