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Opuntia

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Definition

noun

(botany) A genus of cactaceous plants belonging to the family Cactaceae, such as the prickly pear, Indian fig opuntia, or polka-dot cactus


Supplement

Opuntia is a genus of the family Cactaceae. The name of this genus is derived from the Ancient Greek city, Opus.1 Members of this genus typically have flat, rounded cladodes which may be armed with large, fixed spines or small, hairlike glochids. Glochids may detach from the cactus and then penetrate the skin where they cause skin irritation.

An example of species of this genus is the Indian fig opuntia, O. ficus-indica. It is also called prickly pear although the name is also used to refer to other Opuntia fruits. The Indian fig opuntia is an essential domestic crop for its edible fruit (called tuna). Its fruit is used to make jams and jellies, and in Mexico, it is used to make colonche (an alcoholic drink).

Another is O. microdasys commonly called bunny ears cactus or polka-dot cactus. It may grow to 40 to 60 cm in height.


Word origin: Latin Opuntia (herba)

Scientific classification:

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Caryophyllales
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • Subfamily: Opuntioideae
  • Tribe: Opuntieae
  • Genus: Opuntia [Mill.]

Other common name(s):

  • prickly pear

See also:


Reference(s):
1 Quattrocchi, U. (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. III M-Q. CRC Press. p. 1885.