Opuntia ficus-indica (Prickly Pear)
Opuntia ficus-indica (Prickly Pear) is a cactus that slowly grows as an up to 16.5 feet (5 m) tall shrub. The root-system spreads…
Opuntia, commonly called prickly pear, is a genus of flowering plants in the cactus family Cactaceae.  Prickly pears are also known as tuna (fruit), sabra, nopal (paddle, plural nopales) from the Nahuatl word nōpalli for the pads, or nostle, from the Nahuatl word nōchtli for the fruit or paddle cactus. The genus is named for the Ancient Greek city of Opus, where, according to Theophrastus, an edible plant grew and could be propagated by rooting its leaves.  The most common culinary species is the Indian fig opuntia (O. ficus-indica).
Dragonfruit & Tuna
Dragonfruit, Tuna, Prickly Pear: Cactus flowers and fruit are simply not standard fare. The flower is so thoroughly surrounded by stem that even the outer layer of the bud (and then the floral tube) is covered with leaves. Yes, leaves. The ovary, then, is tucked down inside a spine-covered stem. When mature, people consume Cactus fruit as Tuna, or Dragon Fruit, or even Cactus Berry. And, they do resemble berries the bulk of the flesh being seed-laden pulp, sometime white, other times beautifully red or light purple.
At one time, most cactus fruit were the Tuna harvested from Opuntias, but Dragon Fruit (from clambering Hylocereus plants) have become sufficiently popular and available as now to be generally available in markets.
It is no trick to pinpoint close relatives of cacti, because this plant family is in a branch that constitutes a major evolutionary group of plants which share many characteristics not seen in other plant groups. Outside the Cactaceae, those related plant families would be represented in Markets by Purslane, Spinach, Beets, Amaranth, and Quinoa (Chenopodium).
Carpologists find there are a lot of differences between Cactus fruit and what we observe in other plants. The presence of spine clusters reminds us the outer layer of the fruiting structures is stem tissue, covered by green, almost foliar leaves that make the exterior of the floral tube a fleshy involucre. This fruit parallels the pome structure of Apples, but is unique and absolutely diagnostic for the family. Dr. Spjut uses the term Acrosarcum to indicate the suite of characteristics. The problem is that he uses this same word for fruit of other plants that are incredibly different. We designate the fruit of Oaks as Acorns, and the fruit of Beans as Legumes, because the structure is distinctive and cleanly associated with those taxonomic groups. I propose we use the word Tuna as a collective term for the Cactus fruit type.
Indian Fig (Opuntia ficus-indica) is also known as tuna cactus. The fruit and pads of the plant are edible, and commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes like tacos nopales and nopales con carne. Indian fig is a massive trunk forming segmented cactus that commonly reaches a height of 15 feet and a spread of 10 feet. The University of Arizona lists the landscaping applications of Indian fig as specimen plant, backdrop plant, fence or barrier plant, and a food sources for wildlife. Indian fig is adaptable to various soil types though will only flourish in full or reflected sun.
- Elephant ear prickly pear (Opuntia tuna) is a true tuna plant of the tuna genus.
- According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Database, the cactus is not known to occur naturally in the U.S. As with all tuna cacti, elephant ear prickly pear grows in paddle-shaped segments that form stems and bear large, individually formed spikes.
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