Opuntia ficus-indica

Opunta ficus-indica
Opunta ficus-indica Opunta ficus-indica

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  This week we’ll be looking at an alien member of the Cactaceae (Cactus family): Opuntia ficus-indica.

Opuntia ficus-indica (Sweet Prickly-pear in English, Truksvye in Afrikaans, Terofeiye in Sesotho) is an invasive weed (Category 1) that obtains a height of around 5m as a shrub and occurs throughout much of South Africa. It was originally introduced from Mexico to act as natural hedges in biological cattle kraals. The fruit of which is also a tasty treat – especially when eaten cold – beware those fine hairs though which itch like mad when they get into your skin.

The flower pictured here was photographed opposite the old Post Office. As a Category 1 weed its control, removal or destruction if possible is mandatory. No trade or planting of prickly pear is allowed, with the exception of the fruit if used for non-commercial human consumption.

The leaves are large; succulent; broadly obovate and flat, the stems woody. The stems are sub-divided into flattened, narrow, elliptical segments that are green but covered with a waxy layer. Small bristles protrude from the leaves in clusters. The fruit are roughly egg shaped, and like the leaves – are covered in clusters of fine bristles. Flowers are yellow-orange and measure around 50mm across. Flowering October – December. Uses:

Commercial products

Extracts of O. ficus-indica have been used in jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks.

Medicinal

This invasive has been used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, inflammation, ulcers and the treatment of first degree burns.

Ecology

Invasive weed. Removal is mandatory if at all possible. The fruit is a favourite of birds, mammals and humans. Pollinated by bees and butterflies.

Conservation Status

Naturalised invasives are not defined under the SANBI National Red List categories.

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve