What is Prickly Pear- Nutrition Facts and Benefits

Opuntia Prickly Pear Cactus/ Nopal Plant
The Prickly Pear Cactus comes from the Genus Opuntia, and thus is often referred to as the Opuntia Prickly Pear Cactus. The Opuntia Prickly Pear cactus is often referred to as the Nopal plant as well.
A member of the Cactaceae plant family, the Prickly Pear Cactus is native to the region of the Western hemisphere. The Prickly Pear is also a widely popular part of the tropical and subtropical countries around the world.
A very popular identification of the Prickly Pear Cactus is that all of its varieties bear fleshly and flat pads that give off an illusion of leaves. But these leaf-like structures are branches of the plant and help in functions like flower production, photosynthesis and water storage. The plants are also covered with glochids, tiny barbed spines that can easily be detached from the plant.

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowering/ Flowers on Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowering/ Flowers on Prickly Pear

The Prickly Pear cactus is a flowering plant. The Prickly Pear flowering can differ in a variety of colours, even in the plants of the same species. Some of the common colours that a Prickly pear flower exhibits are purple, red, white, yellow, etc. The blooming time of the plant is around June and July.

Green Prickly Pear/ Green Cactus Pear

Green Prickly Pear/ Green Cactus Pear

Once pollinated, the flowers of the Prickly Pear Cactus become capable of producing fruits. The Prickly pear fruit is known as tuna, while several people also refer to it as the Tuna fruit.

Prickly Pear Benefits

Prickly Pear Benefits

Prickly Pear is believed to be linked with several benefits, especially health-wise. The plant is edible, that is, the flowers, fruits, leaves and stems of the Prickly Pear are edible and can help the human body in several ways.
Several studies have established that the Prickly Pear Cactus is effective in treating Type 2 diabetes. It can help by decreasing the sugar level in the blood of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The plant also helps in keeping cholesterol under control, while also helping to deal with obesity.
The Prickly Pear Cactus also has some effective anti-inflammatory properties. These anti-inflammatory properties help to cure a person out of hangovers, by lessening the unpleasant effects of alcohol on the human body.
However, it is advisable to always remain cautious while consuming any part of the Prickly Pear Cactus. You can also talk with a resourceful person, like a doctor or dietician, before consumption. Mild reactions to consuming the plant include mild diarrhea, nausea and abdominal fullness.


How fast do Prickly Pear Cactus grow?

How fast do Prickly Pear Cactus grow?

The Prickly Pear Cactus is a rather slow-growing plant. Overall, the plant has a slower growth rate as compared to other houseplants. However, this growth rate also differs from variety to variety. While some varieties can just produce around 4 to 5 pads in a year, certain others can easily produce 20.
However, the growth of the Prickly Pear Cactus also depends greatly on the care meted out to the plant.


Prickly Pear Cactus Indoors

Prickly Pear Cactus Indoors

The Opuntia Prickly Pear Cactus or the Nopal plant is a versatile plant. It can easily be grown in a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces.
When it comes to growing a Prickly Pear Cactus indoors, it is a very easy and efficient process. One can easily grow a potted Prickly Pear Cactus indoors, but only with proper care.


Prickly Pear Plant Soil

Prickly Pear Plant Soil

The ideal potting mix for the Prickly Pear Cactus is something that is rich in organic matter and is a nice mixture of sand, soil and peat moss. The soil should also be well-draining, to prevent the roots in case the plant gets over-watered.
The soil must be kept moist. The plant should be watered as and when the top layer of the soil starts to dry out. This helps to maintain moisture in the plant while also helping one to settle on an ideal time of watering the plant.


Prickly Pear Adaptations

Prickly Pear Adaptations

The Prickly Pear is a Cactus and thus prefers to be brought out in the full sun. For best growth, the plant must be exposed to around 8 hours of bright sunlight every day. In hotter regions, the plant can grow quite well even when placed in partially shaded areas. Exposure to bright sunlight boosts the growth of the plant and also ensures blooms.
Although the Prickly Pear is a kind of Cactus, the water requirement of the plant is usually a little higher than other general Cacti. The plant can also survive long periods of drought as it has water stored in the pads. However, it is essential to stick to an adequate watering schedule to keep the plant thriving and in good health.
As a Cactus, the Prickly Pear does best in warm temperatures. At the least, the plant should be placed in temperatures above 14 degrees Celsius, not any less than that. But warm temperatures are necessary to facilitate faster growth in the plant.
When planted outdoors, the Prickly Pear Cactus can easily thrive with any fertilizer whatsoever. But when planted indoors, the plant should be occasionally fed with a well-balanced fertilizer. The plant should be fertilized as and when the colour of the pads seems to be fading away. Fertilization should be done during the growing season and should be completely avoided during the fall and the winter season.
Types of Prickly Pear Cactus
There are several different varieties of the Prickly Pear Cactus. Here, we have enlisted some of the most popular and also common varieties of the Prickly Pear plant.


Engelmann Prickly Pear Cactus

Engelmann Prickly Pear Cactus

The Engelmann Prickly Pear Cactus is a rather popular variety of the Prickly Pear plant. Native to the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, the Engelmann Prickly pear Cactus is marked by its deep green and broad blue-green pads. The plant is producing flowers that are yellow but turn peachy as they age.


Indian Fig

Indian Fig

Scientifically referred to as the Ficus Indica, the Indian Fig is one of the most popular Prickly Pear varieties. It can grow both as a bush and as a tree, measuring roughly around 5.5 metres in height. The Indian Fig produces tiny yellow flowers and reddish-purple, white or yellow Prickly Pear fruits.


Texas Prickly Pear

Texas Prickly Pear

Contrary to its name, the Texas Prickly Pear is native to the Chihuahuan deserts. The Texas Prickly pear is scientifically referred to as the Opuntia Lindheimeri and can roughly grow around 5.5 feet in height. The pads of the plant are ovulated and covered with yellow and translucent spines and beautiful yellow flowers.
Spineless Prickly Pear/ Spineless Cactus Plant
The Spineless Prickly pear or the Spineless Cactus plants are called so just because they do not have any prickly spines that can be a hurdle in contact with the plant. Here are some popular varieties of the Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus.


Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail Cactus

The Beavertail Cactus is named so as the pads of the plant are shaped like a beaver’s tail. The scientific name of the plant is Opuntia Basilaris and it is native to the Sonoran deserts. It has grey-green leaves and can easily grow up to a height of around 12 to 18 inches. The flowers of this plant are quite exquisite as they are of a rose gold colour.


Blind Prickly Pear

Blind Prickly Pear

Native to Texas, the Blind Prickly Pear is scientifically known as the Opuntia Rufida. The plant can grow up to 6 feet in height and has circular pads, growing roughly up to 6 inches, that is covered with velvety red glochids. The flowers on the Blind prickly Pear first appear yellow and turn orange as they mature.


Santa Rita Prickly Pear

Santa Rita Prickly Pear

Originating in the Chihuahuan deserts, the Santa Rita Prickly Pear, or the Opuntia Violacea can easily grow up to 6 feet in height. The hairless pads of the Santa Rita Prickly Pear Cactus are of lavender or purple colour, and the Prickly pear flowers are a beautiful shade of lemon yellow.
Transplanting Prickly Pear
The Prickly pear plant must be repotted or transplanted only when necessary, that is when they outgrow their current container. Repotting is advisable during the spring season as it entails the growing season of the plant.


Prickly Pear Cactus Propagation

Prickly Pear Cactus Propagation

Prickly Pear Cactus propagation is an easy task when done through the pads of the plant. Here’s how you can get it done.
⦁ Gently cut off a pad from a healthy Prickly Pear Cactus using a sterilized knife. See to it that the pad has aged at least 6 months and is completely healthy.
⦁ Set the cutting out in a nice spot and let it stay undisturbed for some days to allow the cut end to dry up. This can easily take around 2 to 4 weeks.
⦁ Prepare a planter that is of the right size, not too big or small. Fill the planter up with some nice good quality potting mix, that is also well-draining.
⦁ Place the cutting into the soil, making sure that the cut end is an inch deep inside the soil. Prop it up with some rocks for support.
⦁ Shift the planter to an appropriate location that is desired for the growth of the plant. Avoid watering the cutting for the first month after propagation.
⦁ After a month or so, the cutting should be able to stand on its own, without any support. This is indicative of the development of roots in the plant.
⦁ Once the plant is stable enough, you can shift to a normal watering routine, one that you use for the other prickly pear Cacti in the house.
Make sure that you wear protective gloves during the entire process of propagating the plant.


Prickly Pear from Seed

Prickly Pear from Seed

Growing a Prickly Pear from its seeds is no piece of cake. The growth rate of the plant is very slow when grown from seeds. It can easily take around 3 to 4 years for the seeds to bloom and start producing tuna fruits.
Here is a step-by-step guide to growing Prickly Pear from seeds.
⦁ Start with rinsing off the pulp from the seeds, making sure that the seeds remain clean. Also, dry the seeds out after cleaning them with water.
⦁ Pick out a container for the seeds. Fill this container up with some good quality and well-draining potting mix, rich in organic matter.
⦁ Carefully place the seeds deep inside the soil, making sure that the seeds are sown at least 5 centimetres away from each other.
For the best results and fast growth, plant the seeds in the spring season.
Prickly Pear Yellowing
A prickly pear yellowing is a sign of sunburn. The plant surely loves the full sun but excess exposure to the direct rays of the sun can prove to be harmful to the plant. As the appearance of the plant starts turning yellow, the epidermis of the plant gets affected by sunburn. This can cause permanent damage to the plant.
FAQS
Here we have answered some FAQS to help you know more about the Prickly Pear Cactus.
Are prickly pears illegal?
There are different varieties of the Prickly pear Cactus. Certain varieties of the plant are illegal in certain states. For example, the Blind Cactus is considered to be an illegal variety in Australia.
How fast does prickly pear cactus grow?
The Prickly Pear Cactus is a slow grower, but it also depends on the variety and care of the plant. With the proper care, a cutting of the Prickly Pear plant can grow capable of producing flowers and fruits in a while. Though those grown from seeds can take around 4 years to start producing blooms and fruits.
Can you eat a prickly pear?
Yes, the prickly pear fruit is edible. Known as the tuna fruit, the Prickly pear fruit also has several health benefits attached to it. However, one must always be cautious and consult a resourceful person before consuming it.
What are the health benefits of a prickly pear?
There are several health benefits of prickly pear. It has several anti-inflammatory properties that are effective in curing hangovers. It is also effective in treating Type 2 diabetes and helps to keep Cholesterol in control.
What is the use of prickly pear and how it is made?
The leaves, flowers, fruits and stems of the Prickly Pear are edible. While the fruits can also be eaten raw, there are certain ways of preparing the parts of the plant to be eaten. Among these, boiling is a common method, so is juicing.
What are the uses of prickly pears?
There are several uses of prickly pears. It has several anti-inflammatory properties that are effective in curing hangovers. It is also effective in treating Type 2 diabetes and helps to keep Cholesterol in control.
What are prickly pears side effects?
There can also be certain side-effects of consuming the prickly pear. Some examples of such side effects are mild diarrhea, nausea and abdominal fullness.


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