Prickly Pear Cactus
This cactus has flat, pad like stems that are green. Many
round, furry dots that contain sharp-pointed hairs cover these
Habitat and Distribution
This cactus is found in arid and semiarid regions and in dry,
sandy areas of wetter regions throughout most of the United States
and Central and South America. Some species are planted in arid
and semiarid regions of other parts of the world.
All parts of the plant are edible. Peel the fruits and eat
them fresh or crush them to prepare a refreshing drink. Avoid
the tiny, pointed hairs. Roast the seeds and grind them to a
Avoid any prickly pear cactus like plant with milky sap.
The pad is a good source of water. Peel it carefully to remove
all sharp hairs before putting it in your mouth. You can also
use the pads to promote healing. Split them and apply the pulp
The quality of the fruit varies quite a bit from one species
to another in my experience.
Some varieties have very fine spines that are very difficult
to remove, so use gloves when collecting. If you do get the hair-like
spines stuck in your hands or elsewhere, any adhesive tape can
remove most of them.