Where Do Cactus Pears Grow

Prickly pears are indigenous to only the Americas, like the majority of real cactus species. Since then, they have spread to several other parts of the world thanks to human activity. [1] [7] There are many varieties of prickly pears in Mexico, particularly in the central and western parts and on the Caribbean islands (West Indies). Prickly pears are indigenous to many regions of the Western and South Central United States, which are arid, semiarid, and prone to drought. These regions include the lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains, the southern Great Plains, where species like O. phaeacantha and O. polyacantha become dominant, and the desert Southwest, where several types are endemic. O. humifusa, O. stricta, and O. pusilla, which are distributed from the East Coast south into the Caribbean and the Bahamas, are also native to sandy coastal beach scrub ecosystems of the East Coast from Florida to southern Connecticut. Additionally, the eastern prickly pear is indigenous to the “sand prairies” of the Midwest, which are close to significant river systems including the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio rivers. [9] Additionally, the plant naturally grows in hilly southern Illinois and rocky or sandy northern Illinois regions. [10]

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

[11] Others can be seen in northwest Alberta’s Kleskun Hills Natural Area, which is located at 55 15′ 30″ North and 118 30′ 36″ West. [12]

Prickly pears also yield the fruit known as tuna, which is popular in Mexico and the Mediterranean region and is also used to make aguas frescas.

[1] The fruit’s color options include red, wine-red, green, and yellow-orange. The Galpagos prickly pear, O. galapageia, which was formerly considered to be a number of separate species, is now merely broken down into variations and subvarieties. [13] These have been referred to as “an excellent illustration of adaptive radiation” because the majority of them are restricted to one or a few islands. [14] In general, islands with giant tortoises have towering, trunked kinds, while islands without tortoises have low or prostrate forms of opuntia. Prickly pears play a crucial role in the food chain since they are a main source of nutrition for the common giant tortoises on the Galpagos Islands.

The fact that these cacti have thigmotactic anthers, which fold up when touched and release pollen, was discovered by Charles Darwin. Gently prodding the anthers of an open Opuntiaflower will reveal this movement. Other animals have undergone converging evolution for the same characteristic (e.g. Lophophora).

Prickly pears were first introduced to Australia in 1788 by Governor Phillip and the first settlers. Prickly pears were brought from Brazil to Sydney, New South Wales, where they were first found in a farmer’s garden in 1839. They seem to have moved out of New South Wales and wreaked havoc on the eastern states’ ecosystems. They can also be found in parts of Southern Europe, particularly Spain, where they grow in the country’s east, south-east, and south. They can also be found in Malta, where they grow all over the islands. They are also found in the Mediterranean region of Northern Africa, particularly in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, where they grow all over the countryside. They were brought to South Africa from South America and are present there in huge numbers.

In places like Australia, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Hawaii, among others, prickly pears are regarded as an invasive species.


Prickly pears, principally O. stricta, were first brought to Australia in the 18th century and Europe in the 1500s[1] for use in gardens. Later, they were employed as a natural agricultural fence[15] and in an effort to start a cochineal dye industry. They soon spread over Australia as an invasive weed, eventually turning 260,000 km2 (101,000 sq mi) of farming area into a dense, 6 m (20 ft) high prickly pear jungle. What they referred to as the “green hell” drove a large number of farmers from their property; their abandoned dwellings were crushed under the cactus growth, which was expanding at a rate of 400,000 hectares (1,000,000 acres) each year. [15] The Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board was founded by the Australian federal government in 1919 to coordinate efforts with state governments to remove the weed. After initial attempts at mechanical removal and the use of toxic pesticides failed, biological control was tried as a last resort. [15] The ant The South American cactoblastis cactorum, whose larvae consume prickly pears, was imported in 1925 and drastically decreased the cactus population. The renowned entomologist Frederick Parkhurst Dodd’s son, Alan Dodd, played a key role in eradicating the prickly pear threat. In Chinchilla, Queensland, a memorial hall honors the moth. [15] An efficient method of halting the spread is to introduce cochineal insects, which consume the cacti while also killing the plant. [16]

Natural distribution happens when several creatures, such as antelopes, nonhuman primates, elephants, birds, and people, consume and spread seeds.

[1] The plant’s sharp parts hurt elephants’ mouths, stomachs, and intestines when they consume them. [17]

Where is it possible to grow prickly pear cacti?

The house landscape should include drought-tolerant plants. In USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, prickly pear plants make wonderful specimens for dry gardens. In colder regions, prickly pears can be grown in containers that can be brought indoors when the weather turns chilly. The easiest way to answer the question “How to grow prickly pear?” is to provide some background information about the plant.

From whence come cactus pears?

The fruit of the Opuntia cactus, which is indigenous to the southwest of the United States and Mexico, is known as a cactus pear, often referred to as a prickly pear or tuna in Spanish. (The same succulent also produces nopales or cactus pads.) The Opuntia cactus moved to the Middle East and southern Mediterranean in the 16th century, where the fruit was given the name “Indian fig.” The vivid magenta pulp of this thick-skinned fruit is filled with numerous firm seeds and can range in color from green to red to purple. The melon-like flavor works well in salsas and liquids, where the seeds can be removed by sieving the pureed pulp. In May and June, keep an eye out for cactus pears at the farmers market.

A word of caution: mechanical prickle removal techniques are not always effective. Cactus pears should only be peeled carefully because they contain glochids, which are little spines that can cause severe skin irritation.

Cactus pears’ sources of growth

Any of the numerous species of flat-stemmed spiny cactus in the genus Opuntia (family Cactaceae) and its edible fruits are known as prickly pears, also known as nopals. Western Hemisphere natives include prickly pear cacti. Many are grown, particularly the Indian fig (O. ficus-indica), which is a staple food for several populations in tropical and subtropical regions.

The Indian fig can reach a height of 5.5 meters and is bushy to treelike (18 feet). Large yellow blooms of 7.5–10 cm (3–4 inches) across are produced, and these are followed by white, yellow, or reddish purple fruits. It is commonly planted for the fruit, edible paddles, and as a forage crop in warmer climates. An oil is made from the tough seeds. The stems, particularly those of spineless types, are utilized as emergency stock feed during droughts because to their high water content.

Which nations are home to prickly pears?

The prickly pear, sometimes referred to as the cactus pear or the Indian fig (a premium type), is a cactus that bears fruit and does well in dry areas. The Opuntia genus of succulent cactus, which is native to Mexico, grows naturally in numerous areas but is being increasingly farmed worldwide due to its propensity to endure harsh conditions.

Due of this, it has received a variety of titles, including “green gold,” “treasure under its spines,” “fruit for the poor,” “holy plant,” and even animal references for the pads, such as “bunny ears” and “beaver tail.”

Prickly pear plants are common in Mexico and the Southwest of the United States, as well as other parts of the Western Hemisphere and subtropical latitudes. A number of South American nations, particularly Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, as well as Spain, Italy, South Africa, and South Africa all have thriving productions. However, it is regarded as an invasive plant in some areas.

Prickly pear pads have a distinctive flat shape and are capped by flowers that give birth to small cylinders of fruit that are frequently characterized as tasting somewhat acidic or sweet, like kiwis. Cacti may or may not have spines, depending on the species.

Prickly pears come in dozens of varieties and have multiple subspecies. Some are prized for their ornamental qualities, but the majority are grown for their pink or magenta-colored fruit and their edible pads, which are actually the stem or branch of the cactus.

The most popular species for human consumption is the spineless Indian Fig (also known as the Barbary Fig). It can reach heights of 15 to 18 feet and a width of 10 feet, making it almost the size of a tree.

Can you cultivate prickly pears in Canada?

The only place in Canada where you can find the Eastern Prickly-pear Cactus is southern Ontario. There are two known sites, both of which are on sand spits beside Lake Erie. Historical accounts suggest that this cactus may have originally been slightly more common in regions close to Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair.

Can prickly pears be grown in Florida?

Opuntia humifusa, often known as the Devil’s Tongue or prickly-pear cactus, thrives in sunny, well-drained soils all over Florida. This cactus features enormous pads with tufts of spines, vivid yellow flowers with orange-red centers, and a tendency to grow in clusters. The British took Opuntia cactus-feeding cochineal insects from Florida in the 1700s and used the carminic the insects produced to make crimson dye. Bright yellow flowers on the cactus produce a lot of pollen, which is a crucial food source for bees and other pollinators. The prickly pear’s delicious, juicy fruits, known as tunas, are well-liked and extensively produced outside of the United States. The edible nopales, commonly known as the pads, are a staple of Mexican and Central American cuisine.

Are cactus and prickly pear the same thing?

Although it is native to Mexico, the nopal cactus is also known as prickly pear cactus or Opuntia. Cactus fruit are known as tunas in Spanish. The thick skin of the fruit is covered in tiny spines, and it develops on the rounded edges of cactus paddles. You may cut them open to reveal a delicate, juicy inside that is filled with several dark, rounded seeds.

Is Arizona the home of the prickly pear?

The Mohave and Coconino Counties in Arizona are home to the Mojave Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia erinacea). It develops between 3,500 and 8,000 feet above sea level.

Why is there an issue with prickly pears in Australia?

The pricklypear was brought to Australia from Bio de Janeiro about 1787, when the species Opuntia monacantha was introduced. Since pricklypears serve as the host for this specific type of insect, the goal was to create the cochineal industry there. Twenty-five additional Opuntia species have been discovered in Australia, however it is unknown where they came from. They have all either evolved into major pests, minor pests, or garden escapes. Opuntia inermis and 0. stricta are the two main pest species in Australia. In the past, landowners used to grow pricklypear hedges around their homesteads until the hedges went out of control, at which point they were taken down. One of the botanical wonders of the world is how quickly these pests have spread. The coastal regions of Texas and Florida, where the average rainfall is 4050 inches, are where they originally lived. However, in Australia, where there is only 2030 inches of precipitation per year, plants have adapted to a very different environment. In Queensland and New South Wales, an area of about 10,000,000 acres was affected in 1900. The invasion spread so quickly that at its height in 1025, the affected region must have exceeded 60,000,000 acres; in some years, the area infested increased by more than 2,500,000 acres annually. The primary method of dispersal is by seeds, however any fragment of the plant that has been broken off is capable of growing again.

Does Italy have prickly pears?

Prickly pears are mostly farmed on more than 3500 hectares of land in Sicily, Italy. The majority of the production is used for commercial purposes in Italy, with the remainder being exported to other European nations and Canada. Fruits are promptly sold after being picked, and post-harvest processing and treatments are rather straightforward.

Fruits are unloaded onto packaging lines at the packing plant and then processed through a succession of brushes to remove the spines and make the peel more shiny. After sorting, fruits are put into single-layer containers and cardboard or plastic cartons.

Fruits remain fresh and decay losses are negligible despite their high perishability and sensitivity to lesions brought on by cold, in part because to the short time between harvest and eating.

The industry needs to develop appropriate post-harvest treatments and methods to prevent the damage caused by cold temperatures in the fruit intended for long-term storage in order to meet the demand for prickly pears, which is constantly rising, in the near future.

Additionally, quarantine procedures to stop the spread of parasites like the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) must be assured when necessary in order to enhance sales volumes in new markets.

The Gialla or Sulfarina, Bianca or Muscaredda, and Rossa or Sanguigna prickly pear cultivars are the most widely consumed in Italy. The Gialla cultivar is the most widely used because of its great yield and excellent tolerance to intensive farming techniques. The Rossa variety is particularly appealing for its rich red color due to the high betaxanthin e betacyanin level, whereas the Bianca variation is valued for its distinctive flavor.

For a more vibrant effect, producers frequently cultivate all three varieties in the same orchard and display all three fruits in the same tray.

Italian post-harvesting research mostly concentrate on the Gialla variety and on the temperature modes of cold storage methods for fresh fruit, notwithstanding the economic importance of these three cultivars.”

“Although Italy is Mexico’s second-largest producer of prickly pears, handling and post-harvest care are quite straightforward because the fruit is sold as soon as it is harvested. In the near future, the sector will likely need to deploy post-harvesting treatments and technologies that can widen the commercial window due to the rising demand for fresh fruit beyond the harvesting time “researchers from Agris Sardegna and CNR Sassari explain.

“Only if fruit is put through approved quarantine procedures may new markets be reached when the introduction of the Mediterranean fruit fly is regarded as dangerous. Therefore, a study was done to comprehend the post-harvesting behavior of the three main Italian cultivars that were subjected to a cold quarantine treatment (3 weeks at 2C), followed by either 1) one week of simulated marketing conditions at 20C or 2) two weeks of storage at 8C, followed by a transfer to simulated marketing conditions at 20C for three days.”

“Since fruits are sold as soon as they are harvested, packing houses have not yet incorporated these storage conditions. However, if fruit is sold in nations that demand authorized cold quarantine treatments, this protocol might become the norm.”

Following transfer from cold storage at 20C, the results revealed an unexpected rise in respiratory activity and ethylene production rates, particularly after the two extra weeks at 8C. At the conclusion of storage at 2 or 8C, physiological peel disorders and quality deterioration incidence were minimal, however serious peel disorders happened when fruits were transported to 20C. Fruits that were kept at 8°C for an additional two weeks suffered from more severe peel damage, quality deterioration, and overall aesthetic loss.

Bianca was more susceptible to deterioration and cold than the other two varieties. Cold storage, however, does not appear to have an impact on the fruit’s chemical or sensory properties.”

“Only Gialla and Rossa appear to be able to tolerate cold quarantine treatments, according to these results; nonetheless, fruits should be sold right away because not even these two cultivars can withstand additional exposure to low temperatures. It is necessary to perform more research to determine post-harvesting procedures that can lessen chilling damage as well as to determine whether fruit transfer can lessen damage and susceptibility to decay.”