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A picture of a Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear

Opuntia spp.

Also known as

Cholla, Tuna

Opuntia quitensis-IMG 5651 by C T Johansson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Full Sun
Easy care
Light watering


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has no fragrance

More images of Prickly Pear

A photo of Prickly Pear
A photo of Prickly Pear
A photo of Prickly Pear
A photo of Prickly Pear
A photo of Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear Overview

Opuntia is a genus of around 132 species of creeping, perennial, bushy or tree-like cacti in the Cactaceae family. These plants are native to the Americas but widely naturalised in non-native regions. Commonly known as Prickly Pears, they have flattened pad-like stem segments covered with spines and barbed bristles. Flowers are funnel-shaped followed by pear-shaped fleshy and spiny fruits that in some species are edible. Prickly pears typically grow with rounded cladodes, which are flattened stems that resemble and function as leaves and are armed with two kinds of spines: large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles called glochids, that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. Many types of prickly pears grow into dense, tangled structures. Charles Darwin was the first to note that these cacti have thigmotactic anthers: when anthers are touched, they curl over, depositing their pollen. This movement can be seen by gently poking the anthers of an open Opuntia flower. In cooler climates, Opuntias can be grown under glass but are not advised as house plants as the spines and bristles can cause severe skin irritation.

Common problems with Prickly Pear

How to harvest Prickly Pear

Harvest the fruits when their skin changes to beautiful yellow or red colour, depending on the variety. Squeeze the prickly pears gently and carefully. If they feel firm, it indicates that the fruits are fully ripe. Wear leather gloves for this step.

How to propagate Prickly Pear


Use folded newspaper to handle plants, and dispose of it after use.



You can propagate by seeds or stem cuttings in spring or summer.

Special features of Prickly Pear

Drought resistant

Attractive flowers

Attractive leaves


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