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Opuntia fragilis - (Nutt.)Haw.

Common Name Prickly Pear, Brittle pricklypear
Family Cactaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards The plant has numerous minutely barbed glochids (hairs) that are easily dislodged when the plant is touched and they then become stuck to the skin where they are difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable discomfort[200].
Habitats Dry prairies, sandhills and rocks[204].
Range N. America - Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to South Dakota, British Columbia, Kansas and Utah.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Full sun
Opuntia fragilis Prickly Pear, Brittle pricklypear


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Flo
Opuntia fragilis Prickly Pear, Brittle pricklypear
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Stan_Shebs

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Opuntia fragilis is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.3 m (1ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry soil and can tolerate drought.

Synonyms

Habitats

 Cultivated Beds; East Wall. By. South Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum.

Leaf pads - cooked or raw[62, 160]. The outer skin is peeled off before eating the pads[257]. Watery and very mucilaginous[85]. The following notes are for O. compressa. They almost certainly also apply to this species[K]. Fruit - raw, cooked or dried for later use[3, 46, 61, 62, 183]. Sweet and gelatinous[85]. Lean and insipid[95]. The unripe fruits can be added to soups etc, imparting an okra-like mucilaginous quality[183]. The fruit can hang on the plant all year round[160]. Be careful of the plants irritant hairs, see the notes above on toxicity. The fruit of O. fragilis is about 12 x 12 mm[200]. Seed - briefly roasted then ground into a powder[62]. It is also used as a thickener[62].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.



The flesh of the leaf pads is diuretic[257]. A poultice of the flesh has been used to treat skin sores and infections[257].

Other Uses

Gum.

The following notes are for O. ficus indica. They almost certainly also apply to this species[K]. A gum is obtained from the stem. It is used as a masticatory or mixed with oil to make candles[64]. The juice of the boiled stem segments is very sticky. It is added to plaster, whitewash etc to make it adhere better to walls[92].

Cultivation details

Requires a sandy or very well-drained soil[160]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5[200]. Plants must be kept fairly dry in winter but they like a reasonable supply of water in the growing season[200]. A position at the base of a south-facing wall or somewhere that can be protected from winter rain is best for this plant. Requires warmth and plenty of sun. Plants tolerate considerable neglect. This species is fairly cold tolerant and can succeed outdoors in a selected site in the milder areas of the country[200].

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Propagation

Seed - sow early spring in a very well-drained compost in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some protection from winter wet. Make sure you have some reserve plants in case those outdoors do not overwinter. Cuttings of leaf pads at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a sandy compost. Very easy, rooting quickly.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Opuntia compressaEastern Prickly Pear, Prickly Pear Cactus31
Opuntia erinaceaMojave Prickly Pear20
Opuntia ficus-indicaPrickly Pear, Barbary fig32
Opuntia howeyi 20
Opuntia imbricataTree Chola20
Opuntia littoralisWestern Prickly Pear20
Opuntia macrorhizaTwist-Spine Prickly Pear20
Opuntia microdasysBunny Ears, Angel's-wings20
Opuntia phaeacanthaBastard Fig, Tulip pricklypear21
Opuntia polyacanthaPlains Prickly Pear, El Paso pricklypear, Grizzlybear pricklypear, Navajo Bridge pricklypear, Hairsp31
Opuntia ramosissimaBranched Pencil Cholla30

 

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Expert comment

Author

(Nutt.)Haw.

Botanical References

200235

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Eric Ribbens   Fri Sep 21 2007

No one is going to want to eat the fruit of this species. Unlike most other prickly pears, the fruit is a dry thorny capsule.

Adam Faherty   Wed May 13 2009

According to Chef Rick Bayless, prickly pear needs to be peeled and then boiled. Then you can cut the paddles into 1/4" strips and delicate enough to be used in a salad.

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