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Prickly Pear Cactus
Opuntia2.JPG
Scientific name: Opuntia ellisiana

Description and characteristics: Known as paddle cactus. Grows in clumps. Edible fruit. The fruit and pads are food for birds, insects, and mammals such as javelina.
The genus (Opuntia) is named for the Ancient Greek city of Opus where, according to Theophrastus, an edible plant grew which could be propagated by rooting its leaves. Prickly pear is native to the western hemisphere and has migrated around the world causing ecological damage in Australia and South Africa. Fruit is commonly eaten in Mexico.

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 flower.

Cactus figs are often used to make candies, jelly, or drinks such as vodka or lemonade.

Size:  6"-14" tall, with a width of almost twice that.

Flowers:  Yellow 2"-3". The plant may begin blooming in either summer or late spring or just after rain.

Requirements: Grow prickly pear cactus in well-drained soil. Full sun to partial sun.  Drought-tolerant, frost-tolerant, and easy to plant and care for.

Caution: Beware that some species have thorns that can penetrate flesh.


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