Press "Enter" to skip to content

Prickly Pear Cactus Description

Prickly Pear also called nopal, is any of several types of flat-stemmed prickly pear cactus from the genus Opuntia (Cactaceae family) and their edible fruit. Prickly pear cactus is implanted in the Western Hemisphere. Some of them are grown in culture, which is an important food for many peoples in tropical and subtropical countries.

It has large yellow flowers, 7.5 to 10 cm in diameter, followed by white, yellow, or reddish-purple fruits. It is widely grown in warmer regions for the cultivation of fruits and edible shoulder blades and as a forage crop. Hard seeds are used to make oil. Due to the high water content, the stems, especially of the spineless varieties, are used as emergency feed for the herd during drought.

Some types of prickly pear are cultivated as ornamental plants and are prized for their large flowers. They multiply easily by stem segments. The two most famous species, the Engelmann prickly pear (O. engelmannii) and the beaver-tailed cactus (O. basilaris) are commonly found in the southwestern United States.

Some species have become invasive in regions outside of their natural ranges. When the first explorers first introduced prickly pears to Australia and South Africa, they thrived and, leaving their natural parasites and competitors behind, eventually became pests. In some cases, they were brought under control by the introduction of butterflies of the genus Cactoblastis.


Fertilization of an egg in the carpel with a compatible pollen grain leads to the development of seeds in the carpel. (Formation of a fetus without fertilization of the egg and subsequent development of seeds is called parthenocarpy.) The fetus is a mature ovary (or complex ovary) and any other structure, usually hypanthium, that matures and forms a single whole with it.

This separates the fruit from the vegetable because the vegetable-only comes from vegetative (non-productive) organs. Tomatoes, eggplant, and squash are fruits. They are obtained from the flower parts, whereas carrots, turnips (Brassica rapa), and beets are vegetables because they are roots modified as storage organs, just like potatoes, ginger (Zingiber officinale) and onions are modified stems.

Simple fruits grow from a single carpel or complex ovary. Aggregate fruits are composed of several individual carpels of a single apocarpous gynoecium (eg, raspberries, where each unit is a separate carpel). Multiple fruits are composed of the gynoecium of more than one flower and are a whole inflorescence, such as figs and pineapple. Additional fruits include other parts of the flower in the development of mature fruits; for example, the hypanthium is used to form the pear (Pyrus; Rosaceae), and the receptacle becomes part of the prickly pear.

The shape, texture, and structure of fruits vary (especially with simple fruits), but most of them fall into several categories. The fetal wall, or pericarp, is divided into three areas: the inner layer, or endocarp; the middle layer, or mesocarp; and the outer layer, or exocarp. These areas can be fleshy or dry (lightened), or any combination of these, but they are classified as one or the other. Contact us for guest posting service.