Thursday, July 15, 2010

Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear

Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear
Opuntia ficus-indica
Synonyms: Indian Fig, Opuntia tuna-blanca

While going over some old files I found this picture of a patch of Thornless Prickly Pear Cactus taken at Jack London State Park in Sonoma, California. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what this plant is actually called so I tried to use the name that had the most references. My research led me to the Wikipedia biography of Luther Burbank an interesting American plant breeder who dreamed of developing the Thornless Cactus for cattle feed. It is still used for that purpose but mainly grown for culinary purposes (fruits).

All Prickly Pear Cactuses are native to the Western hemisphere, although they have now spread around the globe. Mr. Burbank introduced several varieties of the thornless types, which lack the small hairlike thorns, called Glochids, which most of the other 200 species have. The thornless characteristics are controlled by genetics but stressed plants can sometimes grow thorns. There are several species that are cold hardy growing as far north as Canada. The thornless type is thought to be hardy to about 20 degrees F.

To liven up this post with a little color here is a picture of some Prickly Pear fruit that was spotted elsewhere in the park.


mrsnesbitt said...

Was this the prickly pear in Junglebook?

Les said...

I replaced my prickly one with a thornless variety that sits right by the sidewalk. I had visions of tots tumbling off their trikes into the thorns. Mine has handled temps into the mid teen range on several occasions.