Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactaceae)
Opuntia ficus-indica originates from Mexico and today has spread widely throughout the drier climates of the world, especially in the Mediterranean, South Africa, and Australia.
Plant parts used
Fruit (prickly pear), young pads (nopal), and cochineal scale insects which feed on and are collected from the plants (carmine red).
Pectin, phytosterols, (ß-sitosterol), vitamins A, B, und C; calcium- and magnesium salts. Carminic acid from cochineal scale insects (up to 10%).
Fruit pectin useful against digestive problems and (questionably) against diabetes and hypercholesterolemia.
Pads (shoots) from which thorns have been removed are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable called nopales/nopalitos. Peeled prickly pears (the fruit) are a refreshing snack. The female cochineal scale insects are extracted to obtain carminic acid, used as a dye in the food industry and for cosmetics (lipstick, rouge).
Tropicarium: Semidesert (different species of Opuntia)