Opuntia ficus-indica

Opuntia ficus-indica
Opuntia22 filtered.jpg
Illustration by Eaton in The Cactaceae
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom:Plantae
Clade:Angiosperms
Clade:Eudicots
Order:Caryophyllales
Family:Cactaceae
Genus:Opuntia
Species:O. ficus-indica
Binomial name
Opuntia ficus-indica
Synonyms[1]
  • Cactus decumanus Willd.
  • Cactus ficus-indica L.
  • Opuntia amyclaea Ten.
  • Opuntia cordobensis Speg.
  • Opuntia decumana (Willd.) Haw.
  • Opuntia gymnocarpa F. A. C. Weber
  • Opuntia hispanica Griffiths
  • Opuntia maxima Mill.
  • Opuntia megacantha Salm-Dyck
  • Opuntia paraguayensis K. Schum.

Opuntia ficus-indica is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant important in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. It is thought probably to have originated in Mexico.[1] Some of the common English names for the plant and its fruit are Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, spineless cactus, and prickly pear, although this last name has also been applied to other less common Opuntia species. In Mexican Spanish, the plant is called nopal, while the fruit is called tuna, which are names also used in American English, especially as culinary terms.

General information

Opuntia ficus-indica flower

Fig opuntia is grown primarily as a fruit crop, and also for the vegetable nopales and other uses. Most culinary references to the "prickly pear" are referring to this species. The name "tuna" is also used for the fruit of this cactus, and for Opuntia in general; according to Alexander von Humboldt, it was a word of Taino origin taken into the Spanish language around 1500.[2]

Opuntia ficus-indica (Indian fig) in Secunderabad, India.

Cacti are good crops for dry areas because they convert water into biomass efficiently. O. ficus-indica, as the most widespread of the long-domesticated cactuses, is as economically important as maize and blue agave in Mexico today. Because Opuntia species hybridize easily (much like oaks), the wild origin of O. ficus-indica is likely to have been in Mexico due to the fact that its close genetic relatives are found in central Mexico.[3]

Fruit
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