Opuntia (Opuntia) belongs to the cactus family. Homeland – Argentina, Canada, Galapagos Islands. The main area of natural growth of half of the species is Mexico. Now this plant has spread to tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
The photo shows that the prickly pear is a cactus with a jointed structure of shoots that have a flat shape and a juicy, leathery structure, which is why the plant feels fine in the desert regions.
They can be oblong or obovate, thick. These parts of the plant grow one from the other and are somewhat reminiscent of cakes. The color of the stems usually varies in dark green tones. Young shoots have rudimentary leaves, which fall over time. Leaflets are small but juicy, have a bright green color. On sprouts in areoles densely placed bunches of white spines-glochidia. They have bent tips that are hard to see with the naked eye. The thorns are very thin and easily broken, so with any careless touch, they get under the skin and can cause irritation.
In some types of prickly pears, the fruits are edible. Usually, they ripen from mid-July to mid-August. Outside, the fruit is covered with scales and small bunches of evenly distributed thorns. At first, green ovaries grow in size and change color to bright burgundy.
The fruits are fleshy and can have a rather large size – from 5 to 10 cm in length. Their mass varies between 70 – 100 g. The flesh is translucent, whitish, sweet in taste.
Prickly pear shoots have beneficial properties. They include sugar, starch, vitamin C and protein. Therefore, cactus is used to feed animals. And in some regions of America, locals use edible plant species as food. From the fruits of prickly pears, alcoholic beverages, jam, desserts, etc. are prepared.
How Opuntia Blooms and How to Achieve Flowering at Home
Prickly pear as a home cactus is not a very tall plant with a maximum growth of 60 – 100 cm, despite the fact that in nature specimens of this genus can reach a height of 5 m.
At home, it is not so easy to achieve flowering from prickly pear – despite its unpretentiousness, plants grown in the house rarely produce flowers. But this still happens in cases when the cactus is taken out in the summer, providing it with the correct temperature differences day-night. If the owner wants to receive flowering prickly pear, then it is best to place it in greenhouse soil. In such cases, a lot of round simple flowers will appear on the flat lateral segments. They can be yellow, red, white depending on the species. Stamens curl at any touch and have a short length. It blooms continuously – from June to October.
Types of Flowering Prickly Pear: Names and Description
There are about 200 species of prickly pear plants, and this genus is one of the largest among the cactus family.
Prickly pear (Opuntia leucotricha). This type of prickly pear cactus comes from Mexico, where under natural conditions the plant reaches about 5 m in height. Naturally, home-grown specimens are much smaller. They do not grow above 50 – 100 cm. Shoots are very branched. The segments cover the entire area are covered with hard white bristles. Glochidia located in areoles are yellow. The fruits of the plant are pink or red, ranging in size from 4 to 6 cm in length. Allowed to eat them. This prickly pear blooms not like most other species – the main time for the production of flowers falls from January to December. The color of the petals is yellow, the stigmas are green.
Prickly pear Berger (Opuntia bergeriana). As can be seen in the photo, this type of prickly pear is not very large – even in natural conditions, its height is not more than 1 m. The shape of the segments resembles a polygon, and their length varies from 20 to 25 cm. The spines are rare, spaced 2-4 cm apart, but very long. They are yellow and in some cases brown. The plant blooms profusely. The color of the petals is yellow-orange.
Prickly pear (O. microdasys). Homeland – Central Mexico. The plant is a shrub-shaped branched cactus up to 1 m high. The fleshy segments are obovate. Their length can vary from 5 to 15 cm and a width of 4 to 12 cm. Green shoots are covered over the entire area with symmetrically arranged areoles. Spines in the plant are absent. As can be seen from the photo, this type of prickly pear is called due to the fact that a large number of small yellow glochidia sprouts from each areola. Their length does not exceed 2 – 3 mm, and when touched, they easily separate from the base and dig into the skin, causing itching. But, despite this, the species is very popular among flower growers. This cactus blooms best after a dry winter. Abundant flowering occurs in mid-summer. Each segment can have up to 10 flowers with a diameter of 3 to 5 cm. The color of the petals is lemon yellow. The plant also has juicy red fruits.
Prickly pear “Opuntia microdasys var. Albispina. ” This variety of fine-haired prickly pear differs in the snow-white color of glochidia, which stands out especially well against the background of dark green shoots. The segments are much smaller. The plant reaches a height of 30 – 50 cm.
Opuntia cylindrical (O. cylindrical). As can be seen from the photo, this prickly pear flower has cylindrical stems that have transformed into fancifully sprouted comb-like shoots. Inflorescences differ in the pink color of the petals.
Prickly pear (Opuntia robusta). It is a large tree-like cactus. The segments are thick, have an oval shape. The surface is covered with a light white coating. Areoles are located far from each other. Spines are white or yellow. The color of the flowers varies from yellow to reddish hues.
How to Propagate Prickly Pears with Cuttings and Seeds
Reproduction of prickly pear cactus is quite simple using such methods: cuttings, seeds, layering, grafting. The most popular of them are cuttings.
Before propagating the prickly pear flower by cuttings, it is necessary to choose the right shoots for pruning, because this is what guarantees good rooting. It is best to choose a small segment in which there is no flowering, as well as any signs of disease. After circumcision, damaged areas must be treated with activated carbon and dried for 3 to 4 days. After this, the prickly pear is planted in disinfected river sand, which is slightly moistened before the procedure. There is no need to deepen the stalk. After that, the planted shoots are covered with plastic wrap and put in a bright place. The air temperature in the room should be kept within 20 degrees. Roots begin to form after 2 to 3 weeks. After that, the flower can be planted in a separate pot.
Seeds before sowing must be treated with weak sandpaper and soaked for 10 minutes in a solution of potassium permanganate. The procedure should be carried out in early spring. The container is placed in greenhouse conditions where the soil is constantly ventilated and sprayed. After the shoots appear, they are dived into different pots.