|Indian Fig Cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica:|
April 25, 2005, Arrowhead Ranch, Glendale, Arizona.
|Indian Fig Cactus.|
|Indian Fig Cactus.|
Indian Fig Cactus.
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Opuntia like many others is a trouble free plant to maintain. It is extremely drought tolerant, cold hardy and a fast grower. Extra water during the dry summer months is encouraged but seldom needed. It is easily attacked by the cactus beetle, and can be infested by Cochineal insects that can eventually kill or damage the stems. Extra care should be given to avoid those predators.
For information about how to control the cactus beetle, at no obligation to buy, just click on Talstar Pro 3/4 Gal Multi Use Insecticide The Same Product Many Pest Control Pros Use! We use it to control the Cochineal Insects. It Works! Ever since we started using this generic (cheaper to buy) insecticide on our Santa Rita Cactus. No More Cochineal Insects At All! Our neighbors don't use Talstar and they all have Cochineal Insect problems on their Santa Rita Cactus.
The fruit is a big favorite among the bird population during August.
These flat -shaped, usually needle-less pads stand up attached to a central stalk. They can drop over to the ground. When the pads have contact with the soil underneath, they will sometimes separate from the mother plant and take root on their own. The pads then grow upward and outward, the new plants forming cacti 15 feet high and up to 10 feet around.
Like other cacti, the prickly pear is a succulent. It stores water in the flesh of its pads to survive in the arid heat of the desert. During droughts ranchers burn off the spines and feed prickly pears to their livestock. Because they contain so much water, they can even replace the animals’ drinking water. Sheep have been known to survive on nothing but prickly pear for up to 8 months.
The pads of the prickly pear are actually modified branches or stems. They store the water, carry on photosynthesis and produce flowers. Distinctive of the brown-spined prickly pear, the pads are bluish-green in color and oblong in shape. They grow between 4 to 6 inches wide. Sometime in late April to June the prickly pears bloom. The yellow flowers often have red streaks around the base and grow to about 3 to 4 inches wide. Each pad produces several flowers, and when the blooms fade they give way to red, fleshy fruit. The fruit will stay on the plant until it is picked by man, animal or bird.
Both the fruit and the pads of the prickly pear are edible and used in many ways. The fresh, many-seeded fruit is called "cactus apple" or "tuna," and it is eaten raw or made into drinks. People enjoy the fruit raw or cooked, boiled into jelly, or even fermented to make alcohol. The fruits are called cactus pears, prickly pears or tunas. Full of tiny black seeds that are edible, many Native Americans would dry out the seeds and grind them into pastry flour. The pads, called nopales, are also eaten raw or cooked.
During the 1700s and 1800s in California this cactus was planted near the Spanish missions and on the large Spanish ranchos. In addition to the cooked stems and sweet fruits, the cactus pads were used as a source of binding material for adobe bricks. Over the centuries, this species has spread and cross pollinated with many native species of prickly pears, resulting in numerous intermediate forms.
Named for its pear-like shape and size, Prickly pear fruit comes from any of several varieties of cacti. Its prickly skin can range in color from green to purplish-red; it's soft, porous flesh (scattered with black seeds) from light yellow-green to deep golden. Also called cactus pear, the prickly pear has a melon-like aroma and a sweet but rather bland flavor. It's extremely popular in Mexico, Central and South America, the Mediterranean countries and southern Africa, and is slowly gaining favor in the United States. Prickly pears are available in Mexican markets and some specialty produce markets from fall through spring. Choose fruit that gives slightly to palm pressure. It should have a deep, even color. Ripen firm prickly pears at room temperature until soft. Store ripe fruit in the refrigerator for up to a week. Prickly pears are usually served cold, peeled and sectioned with the seeds removed.
Native Americans also found other parts of the cactus useful. The strong skin fibers of the pads were dried and woven into baskets, mats and fans. The large spines made good toothpicks, needles and pins. Even the woody skeletons left after the flesh dried was used to make furniture and to construct houses.
Prickly Pears grow in dry, rocky slopes and flats as well as forests and mountain foothills. Ranging in elevation from 0 to 8,000 feet,
Height: This plant can reach around 15 feet in height and 10 or more feet in width..
Flowers: Flowers are typically yellow - orange, large and very showy. Sometimes variations of the flower color can occur which is not rare. Found on perimeter of pads.
Fruit: The fruit is from green to purplish-red; it's soft, porous flesh (scattered with black seeds) from light yellow-green to deep golden. Also called cactus pear, the prickly pear has a melon-like aroma and a sweet but rather bland flavor. I have even made wine out of this fruit.
Blooming Time: Late April - June.
Jointed Stalks: Up to twelve inches long and about eight inches in diameter, generally thornless.
Leaves: Large pads bearing few (if any) spines; glochids may or may not be present; pads oblong-shaped, 10 -20 inches long, width 1/2 to 2/3 length; the pads are edible. Cactus thorns are modified leaves. Their shape conserves water and adds protection to the cactus plant.
Spines: Few (if any) spines.
Trunk: UUpright, massive trunk-forming segmented cactus, usually single trunked; trunk straight and dark.
Found: Native to the tropical deciduous forests in northern, central, & southern Mexico. In Northern Mexico: the states of: - Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas. In central Mexico, there is evidence that it was in the state of Mexico. In southern Mexico: the states of: - Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Mexico, Queretaro.
Tracing the evidence, it is believed that this species accompanied Columbus in his first return to Lisbon in 1493.
The plants are also recorded in cultivation in Tlaxcala, Mexico, in 1519.
Opuntia ficus-indica fruits and shoots were also reportedly consumed by the Maya of southeastern Mexico.
There is also some evidence for the use of O. ficus-indica by the Nazca of Peru, placing these plants in South America at a very early date.
The USDA claims it is native to the USA (AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, NC, NM, TX), USA+ (PR). In Arizona to Pima Countiy.
Elevation: 0 to 8,000 feet. In native areas.
Hardiness: Said to be cold hardy into Zone 8b, but not true. We know many people who lost theirs in Arizona when the frost hit between 16 °F to 17 °F.
Soil pH requirements:
Habitat: Lower elevations sandy flats. It grows well in sand, sandy loam. It needs good drainage and aeration. Native found in the tropical deciduous forests of Central Mexico. It is also found in sandy desert, and gravel slopes in the deserts and grass lands. A common xeriscape landscape plant in Arizona.
Miscellaneous: Maintenance: Low. Photos Taken At Arrowhead Ranch, Glendale, Arizona. February 2, 2006. Can be used to make a barrier fence.
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