Prickly Pear Facts

Prickly pear is a shrubs or a small tree which is found growing in hammocks, fields, sandy soils at low altitudes and on mountain slopes in its native range. All have flat, fleshy pads that look like large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions — water storage, photosynthesis and flower production. It is an edible cactus and has many medicinal properties. It also makes an attractive, drought-tolerant landscape plant.

Name Prickly pear
Scientific Name Nopalea cochenillifera
Native United States, Mexico, and South America
Common/English Name Cochineal Cactus, Cochineal Nopal Cactus, Cochineal-Plant, Nopal Cactus, Nopalea Grande, Nopales Opuntia, Prickly Pear, Tunita, Velvet Opuntia, Warm Hand, Wooly Joint Prickly Pear
Name in Other Languages Spanish: Nopal Chamacuero
Philippines: Arapal (Bis-Cebuano)
Anguilla: Cochineal Cactus
Venezeula: Tuna Real
Sierra Leone: Tandaletando (Kisse)
Aztec: Nopal Nochetzli
French: Cochenillier
Portuguese: Cacto-De-Cochonilha
India: Puchikallai (Tamil)
Mexico: Nopal
Chinese: Yan Zhi Zhang
Saint Helena: English Tungy
Bermuda: Cochineal Cactus
Norwegian: Cochenillekaktus
Plant Growth Habit Shrubs or small trees,
Growing Climate Sunny, desert-like conditions
Soil Course, well-drained soil in dry, rocky flats or slopes
Plant Size 2–4 m tall
Trunk Terete and woody.
Stem Green, elliptic to narrowly obovate 8–40(−50) × 5–7.5(−15) cm, thick, margin entire, base and apex rounded
Leaf Conic, 3–4 mm, early deciduous.
Pads Shape & Size Flat, fleshy and are oval to round in shape. Size of the pads range from 4 in (10 cm) to 18 in (46 cm) in length.
Pads Color Green
Flower 1.2–1.5 cm in diameter, erect and are red, yellow, or purple colored
Fruit Shape & Size Cylindrical, pear-shaped fruit, about 2.5 in (7 cm) long.
Fruit Color Yellow and light green to orange, pink, and red, depending on the variety and ripeness.
Flesh Color White, green, yellow, red, or purple colored
Taste Raspberry like taste
Seed Gray or tan, thickened discoid, 3 mm in diameter, slightly pubescent.
Season September to November.
Major Nutrition Manganese, Mn 0.393 mg (17.09%)
Calcium, Ca 141 mg (14.10%)
Magnesium, Mg 45 mg (10.71%)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) 8 mg (8.89%)
Iron, Fe 0.51 mg (6.38%)
Total dietary Fiber 1.9 g (5.00%)
Copper, Cu 0.045 mg (5.00%)
Potassium, K 221 mg (4.70%)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.06 mg (4.62%)
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 4.6 µg (3.83%)
Health Benefits
  • Immune System Booster
  • Digestion
  • Builds Strong Bones and Teeth
  • Weight Loss
  • Heart Health
  • Metabolic Activity
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Improve Sleep
  • Ulcers
  • Diabetes
  • Skin Health
Calories in 1cup (86gm) 14 Kcal