Prickly Pear Cactus Opuntia
Native to: American Southwest desert region
Flowers: Most prickly pear cacti have flowers that are yellow, red, or purple. They bloom from the tops of the prickly pads. Opuntia flowers are complete, and are pollinated by wasps and bees (www.pollinator.org/Resources/Opuntia.draft.pdf).
Fruit: The fruit of the prickly pear cactus swells from the flower after fertilization. It is a red fruit that is called “tuna” and it is eaten by many rodents in the desert. The rodents spread the seeds in their waste (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-009-4812-9_24).
Adaptations: The prickly pear lives in harsh desert climates so it has many adaptations in order to survive. It has large pads that project from the stem to hold water and conduct photosynthesis. The leaves have been modified into spikes that act in defense against herbivory. The prickly pear also does CAM photosynthesis in order to prevent water loss (http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2012/stein_made/adaptation.htm).
Human Uses: The prickly pear fruit is eaten by humans as a source of food and nutrients. The fruit and the pads also have medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and pain-relieving (http://www.pollinator.org/Resources/Opuntia.draft.pdf).
– The sap of prickly pear is a gel-like substance that can be used as a hair conditioner.
– Eating parts of the prickly pear plant can help cure hangovers.
– The fruit of the prickly pear tastes similar to watermelon.