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Opuntia ficus-indica - (L.)Mill.
                 
Common Name Prickly Pear, Barbary fig
Family Cactaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards The plant has numerous minutely barbed glochids (hairs) that are easily dislodged when the plant is touched and they then become stuck to the skin where they are difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable discomfort[200].
Habitats Naturalized in the Mediterranean where it grows in dry arid and rocky places[89].
Range Original habitat is obscure.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Half Hardy Well drained soil Full sun

Summary

Opuntia ficus-indica Prickly Pear, Barbary fig


(c) 2010 Ken Fern & Plants For A Future
Opuntia ficus-indica Prickly Pear, Barbary fig
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Opuntia16_filtered.jpg
   
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Opuntia ficus-indica is an evergreen Perennial growing to 5 m (16ft) by 5 m (16ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jun to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Synonyms

Habitats
 Cultivated Beds; East Wall. By. South Wall. By.
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit;  Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum;  Gum.

Fruit - raw, cooked or dried for later use[3, 7, 20, 46, 61, 89]. Sweet and gelatinous[85]. Very refreshing, they are somewhat like a watermelon in flavour[183]. The fruits are up to 10cm long and 9cm wide[200]. Be careful of the plants irritant hairs, see the notes above on toxicity. Pads - cooked and used like French beans[20, 183]. Watery and very mucilaginous[85]. Flowers - raw[20]. Seed - ground into a meal[20, 92]. An edible gum is obtained from the stem[64].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antispasmodic;  Diuretic;  Emollient.

The flowers and stems are antispasmodic, diuretic and emollient[7]. The split stems have been bound around injured limbs as a first aid measure[254]. The flowers are astringent and are used to reduce bleeding and treat problems of the gastro-intestinal tract, especially diarrhoea, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome[254]. The flowers are also used in the treatment of an enlarged prostate gland[254].
Other Uses
Gum;  Gum.

A gum is obtained from the stem. It is used as a masticatory or mixed with oil to make candles[64]. The juice of the boiled stem segments is very sticky. It is added to plaster, whitewash etc to make it adhere better to walls[92].
Cultivation details
Agroforestry Services: Living fence;  Fodder: Bank;  Minor Global Crop.

Requires a sandy or very well-drained soil[1, 3]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5[200]. Plants must be kept fairly dry in the winter but they like a reasonable supply of water in the growing season. A position at the base of a south-facing wall or somewhere that can be protected from winter rain is best for this plant. Requires warmth and plenty of sun[3]. Plants tolerate considerable neglect[3]. Cultivated in many warm temperate and sub tropical areas for its edible fruits[89,183] and its use as a stock-proof barrier, it is not very cold-tolerant and is unlikely to survive the winter outdoors in Britain. There are some named varieties[183], one at least of which is free from spines and irritant hairs.
Propagation
Seed - sow early spring in a very well-drained compost in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some protection from winter wet. Make sure you have some reserve plants in case those outdoors do not overwinter. Cuttings of leaf pads at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a sandy compost. Very easy, rooting quickly.

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Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Opuntia compressaEastern Prickly Pear, Prickly Pear Cactus31
Opuntia erinaceaMojave Prickly Pear20
Opuntia fragilisPrickly Pear, Brittle pricklypear21
Opuntia howeyi 20
Opuntia imbricataTree Chola20
Opuntia littoralisWestern Prickly Pear20
Opuntia macrorhizaTwist-Spine Prickly Pear20
Opuntia microdasysBunny Ears, Angel's-wings20
Opuntia phaeacanthaBastard Fig, Tulip pricklypear21
Opuntia polyacanthaPlains Prickly Pear, El Paso pricklypear, Grizzlybear pricklypear, Navajo Bridge pricklypear, Hairsp31
Opuntia ramosissimaBranched Pencil Cholla30
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Expert comment
 
Author
(L.)Mill.
Botanical References
89200
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
 
Elizabeth H.
barb Mon Aug 30 22:23:08 2004
Can you tell me if there are any known side effects or adverse reactions to taking the capsule of cactus for fibre and also the desired side effects. Thank you
Elizabeth H.
Lee Fri Feb 16 2007
Is it possible to grow this plant indoors? I would like to grow some for my pet Torts.
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Sun Feb 18 2007
Yes Lee, it is possible to grow this plant indoors in a pot. Being a cactus, it will require a very well-drained soil with plenty of sharp sand in it - you can either make up your own mixture or buy special potting compost for cacti from a garden centre. The plants will require a very sunny position - a south or southwest facing window would be best. You will also have to be very careful with watering, especially in the winter when the soil should be kept almost (but not totally) dry. There is one point to be aware of, however. Opuntias have very aggressive 'hairs' called glochids, which have barbed points. If you should rub up against the plant then these glochids can easily embed themselves in the skin and cause quite an intense irritation. Therefore be sure to put the plants where they are out of reach. I have not heard of tortoises eating these plants - I suppose their tongues and mouths are tough enough to withstand the effects of the glochids!
Elizabeth H.
Vivien Andrews Sat Dec 8 2007
Vivien-- December, 2007 I jhave been taking a capsule manufactured by Meta Slim which contains opuntia fiscus-indci. Can this have any side effects? I am using it to absorb fats I eat. Does this plant really do this?
Elizabeth H.
d. majalca-williams Wed Aug 19 2009
I'am a new home owner and have a opuntia ficus-indica. The cactus is close to 20+ ft. it needs to be trimmed, and sure how to do it properly. Your help is greatly appreciated. d. majalca-williams
Elizabeth H.
david (volunteer) Wed Aug 19 2009
I have quite a bit experience of trimming this plant but am not an expert. It is very tolerent of being pruned, I try to take whole pads off(the oval section) rather than cut pads in half (to reduce the size of the wound), there is a long history of the pads being removed this way for food, also cattle have been allowed to graze on them so you can probably cut them any way you want. I suspect it would be best to do it in dry weather to give the wound time to heal, but I've done it in wet weather here in coolish New Zealand it was fine. Watch out for the tiny irritating spines, gloves best.
Elizabeth H.
Lee Sat Dec 12 2009
The aboriginal peoples of Southern California would cut the young pads almost to the joint that connects it to the base pad. The pruning stimulated two or more pad to grow around the nearly cut joint done in spring or early summer before they hardened from the baking sun. A book called Tending the Wild speaks on the first nations people throught California and parts of the Northwest and Southwest and their relationship shaping the landscapes into Food Forests, Food Deserts, Food Coasts, Food prairies, etc...
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Subject : Opuntia ficus-indica  

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