The Prickly Pear Cactus ( Opuntia humifusa) is a native cactus found in in sandy soil in our upper beach areas that are protected from salt spray. It is usually found in well established, mature areas and has survived in our area after many potentially dangerous storms.
It is considered invasive as it has no natural predators.
Although the native Americans ate the sweet reddish fruit, cut the fleshy pads (nopales) and applied them to wounds and neck ailments, it is not recommended for anyone to do that for obvious reasons. However, the Mayo Clinic notes many beneficial health benefits from diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, hangovers, etc.
The fruit can often be found in grocery stores. And in our area, birds, rabbits and beetles enjoy the fruit.
The prickly pear spines can be a nuisance and difficult to remove, so don’t touch. Even gloves aren’t enough protection. Tweezers, a good soaking, and often an application of glue that hardens, can help remove the spine.
The Prickly Pear will flower in the spring and then turn into fruit, so enjoy the plant from a distance.