Indian Fig (Opuntia ficus-indica) in the Prickly Pears Database

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Indian Fig
Give a thumbs up Nopal
Give a thumbs up Prickly Pear
Give a thumbs up Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear
Give a thumbs up Xoconostle
Give a thumbs up Mission Cactus
Give a thumbs up Tuberous Prickly Pear

Botanical names:
Opuntia ficus-indica Accepted
Opuntia amyclaea Synonym
Opuntia megacantha Synonym
Opuntia paraguayensis Synonym
Opuntia joconostle Synonym
Opuntia undulata Synonym

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Shrub
Tree
Cactus/Succulent
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Dry Mesic
Dry
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 8b -9.4 °C (15 °F) to -6.7 °C (20 °F)
Plant Height: Up to 15 feet (4.5m)
Plant Spread: Up to 10 feet (3m)
Fruit: Showy
Indehiscent
Fruiting Time: Late spring or early summer
Summer
Flowers: Showy
Flower Color: Orange
Red
Yellow
Bloom Size: 2"-3"
Flower Time: Spring
Late spring or early summer
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Uses: Windbreak or Hedge
Vegetable
Will Naturalize
Edible Parts: Stem
Fruit
Eating Methods: Raw
Cooked
Wildlife Attractant: Bees
Birds
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Drought tolerant
Propagation: Seeds: Provide light
Self fertile
Needs specific temperature: 68-86 degrees
Depth to plant seed: 0.2 inch
Sow in situ
Start indoors
Can handle transplanting
Other info: Seeds may be extremely slow to germinate
Propagation: Other methods: Cuttings: Stem
Layering
Other: Individual pads form new plants; they must dry and callous for 10 days before planting
Pollinators: Various insects
Containers: Needs excellent drainage in pots
Not suitable for containers
Miscellaneous: Tolerates poor soil
With thorns/spines/prickles/teeth

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Comments:
Posted by mcvansoest (Tempe, AZ - Zone 9b) on Apr 6, 2016 2:19 PM

This is a very large growing arborescent prickly pear. Its spineless to nearly spineless version was preferentially cultivated to serve as cattle feed, so most plants encountered in cultivation are of the spineless variety. The young pads (which are not leaves, but stem sections) of this cactus can be harvested and are edible, but still need to be cleaned of their glochids. The fruits are called 'Tunas' and are also edible.

Even though the prickly pear has no spines, one should still take care when handling the pads because the fine barbed hairs that grow on the glochids can easily get stuck in exposed body parts. are hard to impossible to remove, and are very irritating. With time the main trunk of the plant will become woodified and really hard and strong, and will turn grey-brown iso green.

The habit of this cactus changes with the amount of sun exposure: Plants grown in full sun to mostly full sun tend to spread out rather than growing super tall (though they still easily reach 10'). Plants grown in more shade tend to grow taller rather than wider, easily reaching 15-20 feet tall. Because of its eventual size, this is not a cactus that is really suitable to grow in containers. If grown in containers, the cactus will never reach its full potential and is not very likely to flower, or flower profusely, so this plant is better grown in the ground, but be sure to give it plenty of space. In my yard I use it as both a hedge and shade tree for smaller plants that are not quite as happy in the full summer sun here.

Someone listed this plant as deer resistant, and since we have no deer in my urban environment I cannot confirm or dispute that, but this prickly pear is most certainly not Javelina resistant: Young plants can be eaten to soil level by a family of Javelinas in no time. Mature plants tend to survive as Javelinas tend to go for the young growth, but frequent grazing of the new growth will stunt the plant's growth.

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Discussion Threads about this plant
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