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Opuntia ficus-indica

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(botany) A species belonging to the family Cactaceae, commonly called Indian fig opuntia


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 species can grow up to three to five meters in height. Its stem (cladode) is succulent and oblong to spatulate in shape. The flower may be white, yellow, or red in colour. Its fruit may range from pale green to deep red. The fruit (called tuna) is edible. Its fruit is used to make jams and jellies, and in Mexico, it is used to make colonche (an alcoholic drink).

Word origin: Latin Opuntia (herba)

Scientific classification:

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

Other common name(s):

  • Indian fig opuntia
  • Barbary fig
  • cactus pear
  • spineless cactus

See also:

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