prickly pear

prickly pear


Engelmann prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii)—Grant Heilman Photography

Any of a group of flat-stemmed, spiny opuntia cacti (see cactus), native to the Western Hemisphere, or the edible fruit of certain species. Engelmann prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) and beaver tail cactus (O. basilaris) commonly occur in the southwestern U.S. The Indian fig (O. ficus-indica) is an important food in tropical and subtropical countries. Because their stems have a high water content, prickly pears can be used as forage crops and emergency stock feed during drought. Some species are cultivated as ornamentals and valued for their large flowers.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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