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Opuntia ficus-indica - Prickly Pear, or Barbary Fig

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Caryophyllales - Family: Cactaceae

Opuntia ficus-indica

Prickly pear is hard to find in flower, and the flowers are usually bright yellow rather than orange as in the example above.

Prickly Pear with pelargoniums in a hedgerow

Distribution

The plants flourish throughout the Mediterranean region, where they are frequently encouraged as fierce protectors of boundaries of fields and gardens.

Prickly Pear is a member of the Cactus family (Cactaceae) of generally succulent and often very spiny plants. The shape of its fruits (see below) is the origin of the common name. The fruits are edible and are still sold in markets in the Mediterranean region.

Fruits of the Prickly Pear

The Prickly pear is thought to have been introduced from the Americas by Christopher Columbus, but it is now naturalised in Mediterranean countries. This plant propagates easily when sections of the stems snap off and fall to the ground. The fruits are edible and are still sold in markets in the region.

This specimens shown on this page were photographed in the Algarve in Portugal in April.