Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa)

Educational Story

The Prickly-Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa, is also sometimes called Devil’s Tongue, and grows in sunny, well drained soils across Florida. This cactus tends to grow in clumps and has large pads with tufts of spines and brilliant yellow flowers with orange-red centers. Cochineal insects that feed on Opuntia cactus was harvested in Florida in the 1700’s by the British to make red dye from the carminic produced by the insect.  The cactus’s bright yellows flowers produce large amounts of pollen that are an important food source for bees and other pollinators. The sweet juicy fruits of the prickly pear, called tunas, are popular, and are produced worldwide at a large scale, outside the United States.  The pads, called nopales, are also edible and are popular in Mexican and Central American cuisine.

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Gardening Facts

Scientific Name: Opuntia humifusa
Common Name: Prickly-pear Cactus, Devil’s Tongue
Description of facts and concepts: A flat pad cactus that can prick you if you get too close
Seed or division information: Seeds or rooting pads
Date of flower’s bloom (Month and week): Spring, summer
Ecoregion: Pinelands, open and dry woods
Color of Flower:  Yellow
Height:  Up to 16 inches
Spread:  1-3 feet
Family: Cactaceae (cactus)
Soil Type: Base to Acidic  pH 6-7
Soil: Dry to Wet  Dry
Light: Sun to Shade  Sun
Zone  4B-11B