Opuntia, commonly called prickly pear, is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.[1] 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. The genus is named for the Ancient Greek city of Opus, where, according to Theophrastus, an edible plant grew and could be propagated by rooting its leaves.[2] The most common culinary species is the Indian fig opuntia (O. ficus-indica).

Opuntia littoralis var vaseyi 4
Opuntia littoralis var. vaseyi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe: Opuntieae
Genus: Opuntia

Many, see text.

  • Airampoa Frič
  • Cactodendron Bigelow (nom. inval.)
  • Cactus Lem.
  • Chaffeyopuntia Frič & Schelle
  • Clavarioidia Kreuz. (nom. inval.)
  • Ficindica St.-Lag.
  • Nopalea Salm-Dyck
  • Parviopuntia Soulaire & Marn.-Lap. (nom. inval.)
  • Phyllarthus Neck. ex M.Gómez (nom. inval.)
  • Pseudotephrocactus Frič
  • Salmiopuntia Frič (nom. inval.)
  • Subulatopuntia Frič & Schelle
  • Tunas Lunell
  • Weberiopuntia Frič

and see text


Prickly Pear Closeup
Typical morphology of an Opuntia with fruit

O. ficus-indica is a large, trunk-forming, segmented cactus that may grow to 5–7 m (16–23 ft) with a crown of possibly 3 m (9.8 ft) in diameter and a trunk diameter of 1 m (3.3 ft).[1] Cladodes (large pads) are green to blue-green, bearing few spines up to 2.5 cm (0.98 in) or may be spineless.[1] Prickly pears typically grow with flat, rounded cladodes (also called platyclades) containing large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles called glochids that readily adhere to skin or hair, then detach from the plant. The flowers are typically large, axillary, solitary, bisexual, and epiperigynous, with a perianth consisting of distinct, spirally arranged tepals and a hypanthium. The stamens are numerous and in spiral or whorled clusters, and the gynoecium has numerous inferior ovaries per carpel. Placentation is parietal, and the fruit is a berry with arillate seeds. Prickly pear species can vary greatly in habit; most are shrubs, but some, such as Opuntia echios of the Galápagos, are trees.


O. ficus-indica thrives in regions with mild winters having a prolonged dry spell followed by hot summers with occasional rain and relatively low humidity.[1] A mean annual rainfall of 350–500 mm (14–20 in) provides good growth rates.[1] O. ficus-indica proliferates in various soils ranging from subacid to subalkaline, with clay content not exceeding 15-20% and the soil well-drained.[1] The shallow root system enables the plant to grow in shallow, loose soils, such as on mountain slopes.[1] Opuntia spreads into large clonal colonies, which contribute to its being considered a noxious weed in some places.[1][3]

Animals that eat Opuntia include the prickly pear island snail and Cyclura rock iguanas. The fruit are relished by many arid-land animals, chiefly birds, which thus help distribute the seeds. Opuntia pathogens include the sac fungus Colletotrichum coccodes and Sammons' Opuntia virus. The ant Crematogaster opuntiae and the spider Theridion opuntia are named because of their association with prickly pear cactus.


Like most true cactus species, prickly pears are native only to the Americas. Through human actions, they have since been introduced to many other areas of the world.[1][4] Prickly pear species are found in abundance in Mexico, especially in the central and western regions, and in the Caribbean islands (West Indies). In the United States, prickly pears are native to many areas of the arid, semiarid, and drought-prone Western and South Central United States, including the lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains and southern Great Plains, where species such as Opuntia phaeacantha and Opuntia polyacantha become dominant, and to the desert Southwest, where several types are endemic. Prickly pear cactus is also native to sandy coastal beach scrub environments of the East Coast from Florida to southern Connecticut (Opuntia humifusa).

Opuntia species are the most cold-tolerant of the lowland cacti, extending into western and southern Canada; one subspecies, O. fragilis var. fragilis, has been found growing along the Beatton River in central British Columbia, southwest of Cecil Lake at 56° 17’ N latitude and 120° 39’ W longitude.[5]

Prickly pears also produce a fruit, commonly eaten in Mexico and in the Mediterranean region, known as tuna; it also is used to make aguas frescas.[1] The fruit can be red, wine-red, green, or yellow-orange. In the Galápagos Islands, six different species are found: O. echios, O. galapageia, O. helleri, O. insularis, O. saxicola, and O. megasperma. These species are divided into 14 different varieties; most of these are confined to one or a few islands, so they have been described as "an excellent example of adaptive radiation".[6] On the whole, islands with tall, trunked varieties have giant tortoises, and islands lacking tortoises have low or prostrate forms of Opuntia. Prickly pears are a prime source of food for the common giant tortoises in the Galápagos Islands, so they are important in the food web.

Charles Darwin was the first to note that these cacti have thigmotactic anthers; when the anthers are touched, they curl over, depositing their pollen. This movement can be seen by gently poking the anthers of an open Opuntia flower. The same trait has evolved convergently in other species (e.g. Lophophora).

The first introduction of prickly pears into Australia is ascribed to Governor Philip and the earliest colonists in 1788. Brought from Brazil to Sydney, prickly pear grew in Sydney, New South Wales, where they were rediscovered in a farmer's garden in 1839. They appear to have spread from New South Wales and caused great ecological damage in the eastern states. They are also found in the Mediterranean region of Northern Africa, especially in Tunisia, where they grow all over the countryside, and in parts of Southern Europe, especially Spain, where they grow in the east, south-east, and south of the country, and also in Malta, where they grow all over the islands. They can be found in enormous numbers in parts of South Africa, where they were introduced from South America. Prickly pears are considered an invasive species in Australia, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Hawaii, among other locations.[1]

Prickly pears (mostly Opuntia stricta) were originally imported into Europe during the 1500s[1] and Australia in the 18th century for gardens, and were later used as a natural agricultural fencing[7] and in an attempt to establish a cochineal dye industry. They quickly became a widespread invasive weed, eventually converting 101,000 sq mi (260,000 km2) of farming land into an impenetrable green jungle of prickly pear, in places 20 ft (6.1 m) high. Scores of farmers were driven off their land by what they called the "green hell"; their abandoned homes were crushed under the cactus growth, which advanced at a rate of 1,000,000 acres (4,046.9 km2; 1,562.5 sq mi) per year.[7] In 1919, the Australian federal government established the Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board to coordinate efforts with state governments to eradicate the weed. Early attempts at mechanical removal and poisonous chemicals failed, so in a last resort, biological control was attempted.[7] The moth Cactoblastis cactorum, from South America, whose larvae eat prickly pear, was introduced in 1925 and rapidly reduced the cactus population. The son of the noted entomologist Frederick Parkhurst Dodd, Alan Dodd, was a leading official in combating the prickly pear menace. A memorial hall in Chinchilla, Queensland, commemorates the moth.[7]

Natural distribution occurs via consumption and seed dispersal by many animals, including antelopes, nonhuman primates, elephants, birds, and humans.[1]


When Carl Linnaeus published Species Plantarum in 1753 – the starting point for modern botanical nomenclature – he placed all the species of cactus known to him in one genus, Cactus. In 1754, the Scottish botanist Philip Miller divided them into several genera, including Opuntia. He distinguished the genus largely on the form of its flowers and fruits.[8]

Considerable variation of taxonomy occurs within Opuntia species, resulting in names being created for variants or subtypes within a species, and use of DNA sequencing to define and isolate various species.[1]

Selected species

Opuntia hybridizes readily between species.[3] This can make classification difficult, yielding a reticulate phylogeny where different species come together in hybridization.[4] Also, not all species listed here may actually belong in this genus, meaning that Opuntia is not a monophyletic group.

Opuntia also has a tendency for polyploidy. The ancestral diploid state was 2n=22, but many species are hexaploid (6n = 66) or octaploid (8n = 88).[4]

  • Opuntia cochenillifera
  • Opuntia comonduensis
  • Opuntia columbiana
  • Opuntia confusa
  • Opuntia covillei
  • Opuntia curvospina tetraploid (2n=44)
  • Opuntia cyclodes
  • Opuntia cymochila – grassland prickly pear; One of the most common species found on the Great Plains of the United States
  • Opuntia debreczyi
  • Opuntia decumana
  • Opuntia decumbensnopal de culebra
  • Opuntia dejecta
  • Opuntia dillenii
Opuntia diploursina Lake Mead
Opuntia diploursina near Lake Mead
Opuntia fragilis
Opuntia fragilis (little prickly pear)
Prickly pear at Sugarloaf Hill, NY
Opuntia humifusa (Eastern prickly pear cactus) in bloom atop Sugarloaf Hill in the Hudson Highlands of New York State
  • Opuntia humifusa – eastern prickly pear (sometimes included in O. compressa);tetraploid (2n=44)
  • Opuntia hyptiacantha
  • Opuntia inamoema K. Schum.quipá
  • Opuntia insularis
  • Opuntia invicta syn. Corynopuntia invicta, Grusonia invicta
  • Opuntia jamaicensis
  • Opuntia laevis
  • Opuntia lasiacantha
  • Opuntia leucotricha – arborescent prickly pear, Aaron's beard cactus, semaphore cactus, Duraznillo blanco, nopal blanco
  • Opuntia lindheimeri – cowtongue prickly pear
  • Opuntia littoralis – coastal prickly pear, sprawling prickly pear
  • Opuntia longispina
  • Opuntia macrocentra – black-spined prickly pear, purple prickly pear, found in southwest USA and northern Mexico
  • Opuntia macrorhiza – Plains prickly pear, found throughout the Great Plains except for the northernmost areas (not found in North Dakota), and extending sporadically eastward as far as Kentucky, syn. O. leptocarpa MacKensen, O. tenuispina Engelm., O. tortispina Engelm. & Bigelow; tetraploid (2n=44)
  • Opuntia matudaexoconostle (syn. Opuntia joconostle)
  • Opuntia maldonandensis
  • Opuntia maxima
  • Opuntia megacantha
  • Opuntia megarrhiza
  • Opuntia megasperma
  • Opuntia microdasys – bunny ears cactus, polka-dot cactus
  • Opuntia monacantha – common prickly pear
  • Opuntia nichollii - Distributed throughout much of the Colorado Plateau, from Grand Canyon north to Price, Utah and east to the Colorado border; hexaploid (2n=66)
Opuntia ovata 2
Opuntia ovata
Opuntia polyacantha ies
Opuntia polyacantha (Panhandle prickly pear)
  • Opuntia polyacantha – Panhandle prickly pear, found in the Great Plains, Great Basin, Mojave Desert, Colorado Plateau, and the Rocky Mountains, syn. O. rhodantha K.Schum.; tetraploid (2n=44)
    • Opuntia polyacantha var. arenaria (syn. O. erinacea)
  • Opuntia pubescens (syn. O. pascoensis Britton & Rose)
  • Opuntia pusilla – creeping cactus, syn. O. drummondii Graham
  • Opuntia quitensis – Red Buttons opuntia (syn. O. macbridei, O. johnsonii, Platyopuntia quitensis)
  • Opuntia rastrera
  • Opuntia repens
Opuntia riviereana 1
Opuntia stenopetala
  • Opuntia stenopetala (syn. O. riviereana Backeb.)
  • Opuntia streptacantha
  • Opuntia stricta – erect prickly pear, spineless prickly pear
  • Opuntia subulata – found in South America
  • Opuntia sulphurea
  • Opuntia taylori
  • Opuntia tehuantepecananopal de caballo
  • Opuntia tomentosa – woollyjoint prickly pear
  • Opuntia triacantha
  • Opuntia trichophora diploid (2n=22)
  • Opuntia tuna
  • Opuntia velutina
  • Opuntia violacea

Formerly in Opuntia

Jumping Cholla-JRO
An Opuntia in front of a jumping cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)


Chollas, now recognized to belong to the distinct genus Cylindropuntia, are distinguished by having cylindrical, rather than flattened, stem segments with large barbed spines. The stem joints of several species, notably the jumping cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida), are very brittle on young stems, readily breaking off when the barbed spines stick to clothing or animal fur as a method of vegetative reproduction. The barbed spines can remain embedded in the skin, causing discomfort and sometimes injury.


Prickly Pear 2

Bud appears ►

Prickly pear leaf bud

Bud grows ►

Prickly Pear 2half

Bud begins pad transformation ►

Opuntia leaf

Bud completes pad transformation ►

Prickly Pear 4half

Pad continues growth ►

Prickly Pear 5half

Edible pad (tender) ►

Prickly Pear 5

Mature pad

As food

Prickly pear, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy172 kJ (41 kcal)
9.6 g
Dietary fiber3.6 g
0.5 g
0.7 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv.
25 μg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.1 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.5 mg
Vitamin B6
0.1 mg
Folate (B9)
6 μg
Vitamin C
14.0 mg
Vitamin E
0 mg
MineralsQuantity %DV
56 mg
0.3 mg
85 mg
24 mg
220 mg
0.1 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water88 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database


Raw opuntia leaves are 88% water, 10% carbohydrates, and less than 1% both of protein and fat (table). In a 100-g reference amount, raw leaves provide 41 Calories, 17% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C, and 24% DV for magnesium, with no other micronutrients in significant content (table).

Regional food uses

Prickly pears
Prickly pear fruit at a market in Zacatecas, Mexico
Cactus fruit
Close up of fruit

The fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus fruit, cactus fig, Indian[9] fig, nopales[10] or tuna in Spanish,[11] is edible, although it must be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If the outer layer is not properly removed, glochids can be ingested, causing discomfort of the throat, lips, and tongue, as the small spines are easily lodged in the skin. Native Americans like the Tequesta would roll the fruit around in a suitable medium (e.g. grit) to "sand" off the glochids. Alternatively, rotating the fruit in the flame of a campfire or torch has been used to remove the glochids. Today, parthenocarpic (seedless) cultivars are also available.

Cheri's prickly pear candy
A box of prickly pear candy: These are often sold in Southwest U.S. gift shops.

In Mexico, prickly pears are often used to make appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, vegetable dishes, breads, desserts, beverages, candy, jelly, and drinks.[10][12][13] The young stem segments, usually called nopales, are also edible in most species of Opuntia.[10] They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), or tacos de nopales. Nopales are also an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine.[10]

Opuntia ficus-indica has been introduced to Europe, and flourishes in areas with a suitable climate, such as the south of France and southern Italy: In Sicily, they are referred to as fichi d'India (Italian literal translation of Indian fig) or ficurinia (Sicilian dialect literal translation of Indian fig). In Sardinia, they are called figumorisca - Moorish figs). They can be found also in the Struma River in Bulgaria, in southern Portugal and Madeira (where they are called tabaibo, figo tuno, or "Indian figs"), in Andalusia, Spain (where they are known as higos chumbos). In Greece, it grows in such places as the Peloponnese region, Ionian Islands, or Crete, and its figs are known as frangosyka (Frankish, i.e. Western European, figs) or pavlosyka (Paul's figs), depending on the region. In Albania, they are called fiq deti translated as 'sea figs', and are present in the south-west shore. The figs are also grown in Cyprus, where they are known as papoutsosyka or babutsa (cactus figs).

The prickly pear also grows widely on the islands of Malta, where it is enjoyed by the Maltese as a typical summer fruit (known as bajtar tax-xewk, literally 'spiny figs'), as well as being used to make the popular liqueur known as bajtra.[14] The prickly pear is so commonly found in the Maltese islands, it is often used as a dividing wall between many of Malta's characteristic terraced fields in place of the usual rubble walls.

The prickly pear was introduced to Eritrea during the period of Italian colonisation between 1890 and 1940. It is locally known there as beles and is abundant during the late summer and early autumn (late July through September). The beles from the holy monastery of Debre Bizen is said to be particularly sweet and juicy. In Libya, it is a popular summer fruit and called by the locals Hindi, which literally means Indian.

In Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other parts of the Middle East, prickly pears of the yellow and orange varieties are grown by the side of farms, beside railway tracks and other otherwise noncultivable land. It is sold in summer by street vendors, and is considered a refreshing fruit for that season.

Tungi is the local St. Helenian name for cactus pears. The plants (Indian fig opuntia) were originally brought to the island by the colonial ivory traders from East Africa in the 1850s. Tungi cactus now grows wild in the dry coastal regions of the island. Three principal cultivars of tungi grow on the island: the 'English' with yellow fruit; the 'Madeira' with large red fruit; and the small, firm 'spiny red'.Tungi also gives its name to a local Spirit distilled at The St Helena distillery at Alarm Forest, the most remote distillery in the world, made entirely from the opuntia cactus.

Phytochemicals and folk medicine

Close-up image of prickly pear fruit: Apart from the large spines, note the glochids (the fine prickles, or bristles) that readily dislodge and may cause skin and eye irritation.

Opuntia contains a range of phytochemicals in variable quantities, such as polyphenols, dietary minerals and betalains.[15][16] Identified compounds under basic research include gallic acid, vanillic acid and catechins, as examples.[15] The Sicilian prickly pear contains betalain, betanin, and indicaxanthin, with highest levels in their fruits.[16]

In Mexican folk medicine, its pulp and juice are considered treatments for wounds and inflammation of the digestive and urinary tracts,[17] although there is no high-quality evidence for any clinical benefit of using opuntia for these purposes.

Other uses

In dye production

Cochinel Zapotec nests
Traditional "Zapotec nest" farming of the cochineal scale insect on O. ficus-indica, Oaxaca

Dactylopius coccus is a scale insect from which cochineal dye is derived. D. coccus itself is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico. This insect, a primarily sessile parasite, lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on moisture and nutrients in the cactus sap. The insect produces carminic acid, which deters predation by other insects. The carminic acid can be extracted from the insect's body and eggs to make the red dye.

Cochineal is used primarily as a red food colouring and for cosmetics.[10] The cochineal dye was used by the Aztec and Maya peoples of Central and North America. Produced almost exclusively in Oaxaca, Mexico, by indigenous producers, cochineal became Mexico's second-most valued export after silver.[18] The dyestuff was consumed throughout Europe, and was so highly valued, its price was regularly quoted on the London and Amsterdam Commodity Exchanges.

Now, the highest production of cochineal is by Peru, the Canary Islands, and Chile. Current health concerns over artificial food additives have renewed the popularity of cochineal dyes, and the increased demand is making cultivation of the insect an attractive opportunity in other regions, such as in Mexico, where cochineal production had declined again owing to the numerous natural enemies of the scale insect.[19]

Apart from cochineal, the red dye betanin can be extracted from some Opuntia plants themselves.[10]

For earthen walls

Fluid ("cactus juice") extracted from Opuntia pads and stems, especially O. ficus-indica, is one of the most commonly used additives in earthen plaster.

For water treatment

The flesh ("mucilage") of the cactus has been found to purify water.[20] A project at the University of South Florida is investigating its potential for low-cost, large-scale water purification.[21]

For animal fodder

Cactus is also an excellent fodder crop for animals and are very useful to grow under arid and dryland regions. In some parts of India they are being promoted as fodder crops.[22]

In culture

The coat of arms of Mexico depicts a Mexican golden eagle, perched upon an Opuntia cactus, holding a rattlesnake. According to the official history of Mexico, the coat of arms is inspired by an Aztec legend regarding the founding of Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs, then a nomadic tribe, were wandering throughout Mexico in search of a divine sign to indicate the precise spot upon which they were to build their capital. Their god Huitzilopochtli had commanded them to find an eagle devouring a snake, perched atop a cactus that grew on a rock submerged in a lake. After 200 years of wandering, they found the promised sign on a small island in the swampy Lake Texcoco. There they founded their new capital, Tenochtitlan. The cactus (O. ficus-indica; Nahuatl: tenochtli), full of fruits, is the symbol for the island of Tenochtitlan.

Coat of Arms of Malta 1975-1988
The coat of arms of Malta from 1975 to 1988

The 1975–1988 version of the coat of arms of Malta also featured a prickly pear, along with a traditional dgħajsa, a shovel and pitchfork, and the rising sun.[23]

In Arabic, the cactus is called صبار ṣubbār; the related term sabr also translates to "patience" or "tenacity".[24] The cactus fig is called tsabar (Hebrew: צבר‎) in Hebrew. This cactus is also the origin of the term sabra used to describe a Jew born in Israel. The allusion is to a thorny, spiky skin on the outside, but a soft, sweet interior, suggesting, though the Israeli sabras are rough on the outside, they are sweet and sensitive once one gets to know them.[25][26]

The prickly pear cactus has been used for centuries both as a food source and a natural fence that keeps in livestock and marks the boundaries of family lands.[10] They are resilient and often grow back following removal.[10]

The cactus lends its name to a song by British jazz/classical group Portico Quartet. The song "My Rival", on the album Gaucho by the American jazz-pop group Steely Dan begins with the words, "The wind was driving in my face/The smell of prickly pear."[27]

In the fall of 1961, Cuba had its troops plant an 8-mile (13 km) barrier of Opuntia cactus along the northeastern section of the 28-kilometre (17 mi) fence surrounding the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to stop Cubans from escaping Cuba to take refuge in the United States.[28] This was dubbed the "Cactus Curtain", an allusion to Europe's Iron Curtain[29] and the Bamboo Curtain in East Asia.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Opuntia ficus-indica (prickly pear)". CABI. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  2. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. III M-Q. CRC Press. p. 1885. ISBN 978-0-8493-2677-6.
  3. ^ a b Griffith, M. P. (2004). "The origins of an important cactus crop, Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactaceae): New molecular evidence". American Journal of Botany. 91 (11): 1915–1921. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.11.1915. PMID 21652337.
  4. ^ a b c Majure, Lucas C.; Puente, Raul; Griffith, M. Patrick; Judd, Walter S.; Soltis, Pamela S.; Soltis, Douglas E. (2012-05-01). "Phylogeny of Opuntia s.s. (Cactaceae): Clade delineation, geographic origins, and reticulate evolution". American Journal of Botany. 99 (5): 847–864. doi:10.3732/ajb.1100375. ISSN 0002-9122. PMID 22539520.
  5. ^ Cota-Sánchez (2002).
  6. ^ Fitter, Fitter, and Hosking, Wildlife of the Galapagos (2000)
  7. ^ a b c d Patterson, Ewen K. 1936. The World's First Insect Memorial. "The Review of the River Plate", December pp. 16–17
  8. ^ Miller, Philip (1754). "Opuntia". The Gardener's Dictionary. v.2 (4th ed.). London: John & James Rivington. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  9. ^ Originally meaning "Native American", though the specific epithet, "ficus-indica", means "fig from India". Note also Ficus benghalensis, which is both a true fig tree and from South Asia.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Yvonne Savio (1989). "Prickly pear cactus production". Small Farm Center. University of California – Davis. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  11. ^ Grigson, Jane (2007). Jane Grigson's Fruit Book. U of Nebraska Press. p. 380. ISBN 978-0-8032-5993-5.
  12. ^ Midey, Connie (May 31, 2005). "A magical plant". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  13. ^ Jarman, Max (October 11, 2005). "Hand crafted hooch: Prickly pear vodka from Flagstaff". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  14. ^ George Cini (March 20, 2003). "Zeppi's Bajtra, the liqueur from the prickly pear fruit". Times of Malta.
  15. ^ a b Guzmán-Maldonado, S. H.; et al. (2010). "Physicochemical, Nutritional, and Functional Characterization of Fruits Xoconostle (Opuntia matudae) Pears from Central-México Region". Journal of Food Science. 75 (6): C485–92. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01679.x. PMID 20722901.
  16. ^ a b Butera, Daniela; et al. (2002). "Antioxidant activities of sicilian prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) fruit extracts and reducing properties of its betalains: betanin and indicaxanthin". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50 (23): 6895–6901. doi:10.1021/jf025696p. hdl:10447/107910. PMID 12405794.
  17. ^ Frati AC, Xilotl Díaz N, Altamirano P, Ariza R, López-Ledesma R (1991). "The effect of two sequential doses of Opuntia streptacantha upon glycemia". Archivos de Investigación Médica. 22 (3–4): 333–6. PMID 1844121.
  18. ^ Behan (1995).
  19. ^ Portillo & Vigueras (1988).
  20. ^ Spinner, Kate. "Desert cactus has secret talent for purifying water". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  21. ^ O'Brien, Miles. "Cactus "flesh" cleans up toxic water". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  22. ^ Shreya Pareek (April 16, 2015). "This Amazing Cactus with hundreds of uses can help farmers in drought prone areas". The Better India.
  23. ^ Bonello, Giovanni (8 May 2011). "Malta's three national emblems since independence – what's behind them?". Times of Malta. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  24. ^ Tamir, Tally (1999). "The Shadow of Foreignness: On the Paintings of Asim Abu-Shakra". Palestine-Israel Journal. 6 (1).
  25. ^ Almog, Oz (2000). The Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew. Translated by Haim Watzman. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-21642-6. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  26. ^ "Over here and over there". The Economist. Nov 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
  27. ^ "Lyrics | Gaucho (1980) — My Rival". www.steelydan.com.
  28. ^ "Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Ecological Crises". Trade and Environment Database. American University. Archived from the original on 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  29. ^ "Yankees Besieged". Time. March 16, 1962.

Brasiliopuntia is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae. It contains only one species, Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis.

It is found in Brazil, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, Peru and northern Argentina, and has become naturalized in Florida among other places.

Cactoblastis cactorum

Cactoblastis cactorum, the cactus moth, South American cactus moth or nopal moth, is native to Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. It is one of five species in the genus Cactoblastis that inhabit South America, where many parasitoids and pathogens control the expansion of the moths' population. This species has been introduced into many areas outside its natural range, including Australia, the Caribbean, and South Africa. In some locations, it has spread uncontrollably and was consequently classified an invasive species. However, in other places such as Australia, it has gained favor for its role in the biological control of cacti from the genus Opuntia, such as prickly pear.


Colonche is an alcoholic red coloured drink made by Mexicans for thousands of years with tuna, the fruits of "nopal" (Opuntia cacti), especially with tuna cardona, the fruits of Opuntia streptacantha.

It is prepared in the states where wild nopal is abundant (Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas).

It is a sweet, fizzy beverage. For preparation, the cactus fruits are peeled and crushed to obtain the juice, which is boiled for 2-3 hours. After cooling, the juice is allowed to ferment for a few days. Sometimes old colonche is added as a starter. Another possible starter is "tibicos". Tibicos are gelatinous masses of yeasts and bacteria, grown in water with brown sugar.Amongst other microorganisms responsible for the spontaneous fermentation of colonche, a yeast, Torulopsis taboadae (syn. Torulaspora delbrueckii?), has been isolated.

In 2003, Teófilo Herrera Suárez, a Mexican mycologist, published a book titled Más allá del pulque y el tepache (“Beyond pulque and tepache”), in which he writes about traditional Mexican alcoholic beverages such as “pozol”, “tesgüino” and “colonche”.


Cylindropuntia is a genus of cacti (family Cactaceae), containing species commonly known as chollas, native to northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States. They are known for their barbed spines that tenaciously attach to skin, fur, and clothing.

Stands of cholla are called cholla gardens. Individuals within these colonies often exhibit the same DNA as they were formerly tubercles of an original plant.

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa, commonly referred to as buckhorn cholla, is a cholla native to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Colorado Deserts of North America. Along with Cylindropuntia bigelovii (the "teddy bear" cholla), it is the most common cholla found in these deserts.

Cylindropuntia bigelovii

Cylindropuntia bigelovii, the teddy bear cholla (choy-ya), is a cholla cactus species native to Northwestern Mexico, and to the United States in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Huallanca District, Bolognesi

Huallanca (hispanicized spelling) or Wallanka (Quechua for "mountain range" and a cactus plant (Opuntia subulata)) is a district of the Bolognesi Province in the Ancash Region of Peru.


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.

There are approximately one hundred and fourteen known species endemic to Mexico, where the plant is a common ingredient in numerous Mexican cuisine dishes. The nopal pads can be eaten raw or cooked, used in marmalades, soups, stews and salads, as well as being used for traditional medicine or as fodder for animals. Farmed nopales are most often of the species Opuntia ficus-indica or Opuntia matudae although the pads of almost all Opuntia species are edible. The other part of the nopal cactus that is edible is the fruit called the tuna in Spanish, and the "prickly pear" in English.

Nopales are generally sold fresh in Mexico, cleaned of spines, and sliced to the customer's desire on the spot, they can also be found canned or bottled, and less often dried, especially for export. Cut into slices or diced into cubes, nopales have a light, slightly tart flavor, like green beans, and a crisp, mucilaginous texture. In most recipes, the mucilaginous liquid they contain is included in the cooking. They are at their most tender and juicy in the spring.Nopales are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales "eggs with nopal", carne con nopales "meat with nopal", tacos de nopales, in salads with tomato, onion, and queso panela (panela cheese), or simply on their own as a side vegetable. Nopales have also grown to be an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine and in Tejano culture of Texas.

Opuntia basilaris

Opuntia basilaris, the beavertail cactus or beavertail pricklypear, is a cactus species found in the southwest United States. It occurs mostly in the Mojave, Anza-Borrego, and Colorado Deserts, as well as in the Colorado Plateau and northwest Mexico. It is also found throughout the Grand Canyon and Colorado River region as well as into southern Utah and Nevada, and in the western Arizona regions along the Lower Colorado River Valley.

Opuntia engelmannii

Opuntia engelmannii is a prickly pear common across the south-central and Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It goes by a variety of common names, including cow's tongue cactus, cow tongue prickly pear, desert prickly pear, discus prickly pear, Engelmann's prickly pear, and Texas prickly pear in the US, and nopal, abrojo, joconostle, and vela de coyote in Mexico.

The nomenclatural history of this species is somewhat complicated due to the varieties, as well as its habit of hybridizing with Opuntia phaeacantha.

Opuntia ficus-indica

Opuntia ficus-indica (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. Common English names for the plant and its fruit are Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, and spineless cactus, among many. In Mexican Spanish, the plant is called nopal, while the fruit is called tuna, names that may be used in American English as culinary terms.

Fig opuntia is grown primarily as a fruit crop, and also for the vegetable nopales and other uses. Most culinary references to the "prickly pear" are referring to this species. The name "tuna" is also used for the fruit of this cactus, and for Opuntia in general; according to Alexander von Humboldt, it was a word of Taino origin taken into the Spanish language around 1500.Cacti are good crops for dry areas because they convert water into biomass efficiently. O. ficus-indica, as the most widespread of the long-domesticated cactuses, is as economically important as maize and blue agave in Mexico. Because Opuntia species hybridize easily, the wild origin of O. ficus-indica is likely to have been in Mexico due to the fact that its close genetic relatives are found in central Mexico.

Opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa, commonly known as the devil's-tongue, Eastern prickly pear or Indian fig, is a cactus of the genus Opuntia native to parts of eastern North America.

Opuntia macrorhiza

Opuntia macrorhiza is a common and widespread species of cactus with the common names plains prickly pear or twistspine pricklypear or Western pricklypear. It is found throughout the Great Plains of the United States, from Texas to Minnesota, as well as in the desert and Rocky Mountain states from Arizona to Idaho, with sporadic populations in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. It is also reported from northern Mexico, in the states of Chihuahua, Sonora, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Durango, Tamaulipas, and San Luís Potosí. The species is cultivated as an ornamental in other locations.

The species prefers dry, sandy or gravelly soils. It is one of the shorter species of the genus, rarely over 30 cm (1 foot) tall, spreading horizontally and forming large clumps. Flowers are showy and bright yellow, sometimes with red markings near the base of the petals. Fruits are narrow, red, juicy and edible.Several varieties have proposed within the species. More study is needed to determine whether these should continue to be recognized as varieties, elevated to species status, or regarded as mere synonyms.

Opuntia microdasys

Opuntia microdasys (angel's-wings, bunny ears cactus, bunny cactus or polka-dot cactus) is a species of flowering plant in the cactus family Cactaceae, native and endemic to central and northern Mexico.

Opuntia phaeacantha

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 polyacantha

Opuntia polyacantha is a common species of cactus known by the common names plains pricklypear, hairspine cactus, panhandle pricklypear, and starvation pricklypear. It is native to North America, where it is widespread in Western Canada, the Great Plains, the central and Western United States, and Chihuahua in northern Mexico.This cactus grows in a wide variety of habitat types, including sagebrush, Ponderosa pine forest, prairie, savanna, shrublands, shrubsteppe, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodland, and scrub.

Opuntia robusta

Opuntia robusta, the wheel cactus, nopal tapon, or camuesa, is a species of cactus in the Cactaceae family. It is native and endemic to central and northern Mexico to within 100 miles (160 km) of the Arizona and New Mexico borders where it grow from 5,000 to 10,000 feet (1,500 to 3,000 m) on rocky slopes, open shrub lands, woodlands and mixed with other cactus and succulents.

Opuntia stricta

Opuntia stricta is a large sized species of cactus that is endemic in the subtropical and tropical coastal areas of the Americas and the Caribbean. Common names include erect prickly pear and nopal estricto (Spanish). The first description as Cactus strictus was published in 1803 by Adrian Hardy Haworth. In 1812 he introduced the species in the genus Opuntia.

Prickly pears in Australia

Prickly pears (Genus Opuntia) include a number of plant species that were introduced and have become invasive in Australia.

Prickly pears (mostly Opuntia stricta) were imported into Australia in the 19th century for use as a natural agricultural fence and in an attempt to establish a cochineal dye industry. Many of these, especially the Tiger Pear, quickly became widespread invasive species, rendering 40,000 km2 (15,000 sq mi) of farming land unproductive. The moth Cactoblastis cactorum from South America, whose larvae eat prickly pear, was introduced in 1925 and almost wiped out the population. This case is often cited as an example of successful biological pest control.

There is a monument to the Cactoblastis cactorum in Dalby, Queensland commemorating the eradication of the prickly pear in the region. The Cactoblastis Memorial Hall in Boonarga, Queensland, also commemorating the eradication.

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