Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~15
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
We really love prickly pears. While they can be annoying — the tiny barbed spines on the outside of the fruit, known as glochids, are truly horrible — they are delicious, refreshing, and beautiful. The plants are useful both as a fruit and a vegetable, since the young pads can be harvested and eaten (known as nopales in Mexico). The taxonomy of the prickly pear genus — Opuntia — is complicated, so we don't actually know the species name of any of the prickly pear accessions we offer, but we are excited to be offering this third cold-hardy prickly pear from our friend and longtime collaborator Andy Hahn in Colorado. He believes there's a good chance this is Opuntia macrorhiza. Andy found this cactus growing in the wild and reports that it has great-tasting fruit, though it's seedy (like most of them). Prickly pear fruit makes a tasty jam or syrup, but most people simply eat it raw. In our experience the seeds germinate best when planted on the surface of sandy soil given a dusting to cover them. They should be kept wet, but can be allowed to almost completely dry out between waterings. Heat helps them germinate, as does patience. The tiny cactus seedlings are adorable, at first resembling fleshy little squash seedlings, before a tiny spined tuft appears in the middle. They should be treated with care while young, but once they reach maturity they are very hard to kill, and a single pad can be removed and rooted simply by lying it on its side on the ground.