The Prickly Pear cactus is a common sight here in Tucson. They are a member of the Opuntia genus, which also includes my friend, the bird killing Cholla! The members of this genus are unique because of the second set of tiny barbed spines they have just above the normal spines. These are called glochids and are painful and hard to remove if they get attached to you!
The fruits of the Prickly Pear are edible, as are the pads, and both are sold in supermarkets in this area although everyone seems to have at least one of these in their yard. The fruit is often made into syrups or candy and is quite tasty, but I've never tried eating the pads.
I have several Prickly Pears in my yard- the one in the top picture has long narrow pads. The fruit is almost ripe on this cactus- although the birds have been feasting on it regularly so I am not sure how much will actually end up being harvested
The second picture shows a Prickly Pear with much rounder pads, that is growing through the chain link fence into the alley at the side of my property. I hadn't paid much attention to this cactus, as it is hidden behind the citrus trees, and a bougainvillea but the other day I was surprised to see that there was really more of this cactus outside the fence than inside!
The last picture was another surprise- I was cleaning out another forgotten corner of the yard, behind a big Ocotillo cactus and found this Prickly Pear pad that had fallen from the larger cactus and rooted right where it fell. Notice the two little pads growing out of it! I had heard that they root easily, and I guess they really do!
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