Opuntia, commonly called prickly pear, is a genus of flowering plants in the cactus family Cactaceae. Prickly pears are also known as tuna (fruit), sabra, nopal (paddle, plural nopales) from the Nahuatl word nōpalli for the pads, or nostle, from the Nahuatl word nōchtli for the fruit; or paddle cactus.
Opuntia ficus-indica, the prickly pear, is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant grown in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. Likely having originated in Mexico, O. ficus-indica is the most widespread and most commercially important cactus.
Opuntia fragilis, known by the common names brittle pricklypear and little prickly pear, is a prickly pear cactus native to much of western North America as well as some midwestern states such as Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. It also occurs in several Canadian provinces. It is known from farther north than any other cactus, occurring at as far as 56°N latitude in British Columbia. There is an isolated and possibly genetically unique population in Eastern Ontario known as the ...
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Opuntia humifusa, commonly known as the devil's-tongue, Eastern prickly pear or Indian fig, is a cactus of the genus Opuntia present in parts of eastern North America.
As is the case in other Opuntia species, the green stems of this low-growing perennial cactus are flattened, and are formed of segments. Barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments, and longer spines are sometimes present. The flowers are yellow to gold in color, and are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers. They measure 4–6 cm across. This cactus blooms in the late spring. The juicy red or purple fruits measure ...
Some botanists treat this cactus as a variety of Opuntia compressa: hence Opuntia compressa var. humifusa, or a synonym of Opuntia compressa. Those recognizing this species treat Opuntia rafinesquii as a junior synonym.
This species naturally occurs from arid areas of Montana southward to New Mexico, and eastward to the lower Great Lakes, and along the East Coast from the Florida Keys to coastal Connecticut. Its distribution in Canada is limited to the Carolinian forest in southern Ontario, specifically in Point Pelee National Park. The Eastern prickly pear is one of the native cactus species in Canada and is considered endangered, with only two small populations known to be persisting today. Their population r
This plant is very intolerant of shade and instead thrives in sunny, hot and dry environments with well-draining, sandy soil. Opuntia humifusa will grow in open areas in sandy, rocky and coastal scrub habits. They are capable of surviving cool winters unlike many cacti, although harsh winter storms are known to cause habitat loss.
The fruits are edible, but have small spiny bristles. The pulp can be scooped and the seeds strained out to make syrup or jelly. The seeds can be briefly roasted and ground into meal. Young cactus segments can be roasted to remove spines, then peeled and sliced to be eaten like string beans; alternatively, they can be deep fried. The leafy segments can be peeled and chewed for emergency hydration.
Opuntia phaeacantha is a species of prickly pear cactus known by the common names tulip prickly pear and desert prickly pear found across the southwestern United States, lower Great Plains, and northern Mexico. The plant forms dense but localized thickets. Several varieties of this particular species occur, and it also hybridizes easily with other prickly pears, making identification sometimes tricky. Opuntia phaeacantha Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae Clade: Tracheophytes Clade: Angi
Opuntia phaeacantha has a mounding habit of flattened green pads. The pads are protected by clusters of spines. Each cluster bearing 1-4 spines. The spines are brown, reddish-brown, or gray, and often over 3 cm in length. At the base of the spine cluster is a round tuft of easily detached brown bristles called Glochids. Glochids are also present on the fruit. This is the source for the plants common name "prickly pear".
The cactus can be prepared as food in a similar fashion to Opuntia humifusa.
Nopal (from the Nahuatl word nohpalli [noʔˈpalːi] for the pads of the plant) is a common name in Spanish for Opuntia cacti (commonly referred to in English as prickly pear), as well as for its pads.
The nomenclatural history of this species is somewhat complicated due to the varieties, as well as its habit of hybridizing with Opuntia phaeacantha. It differs from Opuntia phaeacantha by being green all year around have having yellow flowers instead of turning reddish purple during winter or dry seasons and having yellow flowers with red centers.
Opuntia engelmannii var. flexospina is most likely a spiny form of Opuntia aciculata.
The Opuntia engelmannii range extends from California to Louisiana in the United States, and from Sonora and Chihuahua, to the Tamaulipan matorral in north and central Tamaulipas.
The overall form of Opuntia engelmannii is generally shrubby, with dense clumps up to 3.5 metres high, usually with no apparent trunk. The pads are green, obovate to round, about 15–30 cm long and 12–20 cm wide.
The fruits were a reliable summer food for Native American tribes. The Tohono O'odham of the Sonoran Desert, in particular, classified the fruits by color, time of ripening, and how well they kept in storage.
The coat of arms of Mexico (Spanish: Escudo Nacional de México, literally "national shield of Mexico") depicts a Mexican (golden) eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus devouring a rattlesnake. The design is rooted in the legend that the Aztec people would know where to build their city once they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a lake.
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