The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) is considered one of the most numerous genera of the Cactus family. It includes nearly 200 different species. In nature, such cacti live on both American continents, while more than half of all species can be found in Mexico. It is not surprising that this particular plant is depicted on the coat of arms and flag of this country. According to legend, an eagle sitting on a prickly pear and devouring a snake became the embodiment of the will of the gods. At the place where this picture was revealed to the ancient Aztecs, their main city was founded.
Opuntia was widely used by the Indians as an edible plant. Shoots and fruits of these cacti were used for food, in addition, carmine dye was obtained from parts of prickly pears. Today, prickly pear is often used as a forage plant, as well as for preparing various dishes and drinks.
It is noteworthy that, getting to other regions suitable for habitation, prickly pears often begin to multiply uncontrollably and turn into a malicious weed. To destroy its thickets, special preparations are used. But its unpretentiousness and original appearance make the prickly pear cactus one of the domestic plants that are widespread throughout the world.
Description of prickly pear
Opuntia can look like trees, erect or creeping bushes with flat stems, divided into segmented segments. Their surface is covered with spines of various sizes and bunches of small setae-hooks - glochidia. Reduced foliage may be present on the shoots. The flowers are arranged singly and are colored yellow, red or orange. Later, edible fruits-berries in a dense shell are tied in their place. They have a sweetish taste and are often referred to as "Indian figs." The seeds inside the berries are the size of beans.
At home, prickly pear blooms very rarely. This occurs most often in plants that spend the summer outdoors. Some species of these cacti grow well outdoors in relatively mild climates and very snowy winters, and some are able to withstand the cold. When grown outdoors during the frost period, such prickly pears dehydrate and wither, lying on the ground, but with the return of heat they again acquire a decorative appearance. Usually in the garden, prickly pears are decorated with elevated sunny places where moisture does not linger. But only pre-grown specimens are suitable for this.
Opuntia is fine-haired, care and maintenance!
Brief rules for growing prickly pear
The table shows brief rules for caring for prickly pear at home.
|Lighting level||Bright sun in the morning, then diffused light.|
|Content temperature||During the growing season - indoor, during dormancy - 5-7 degrees.|
|Watering mode||From spring to early autumn - rare watering through the pallet after the soil dries out, in winter, subject to the dormant regime, they do not water at all.|
|Air humidity||Low to moderate humidity is suitable for optimal growth.|
|The soil||The optimal soil is a mixture that includes clay and turf, double leaf land and half sand. You can use a ready-made store-bought substrate for cacti.|
|Top dressing||Monthly from March to early fall. Mineral formulations with a low dose of nitrogen are used. During the dormant period, fertilizers are not applied.|
|Transfer||Young cacti are transplanted every spring (before the start of growth) by adults - 3-4 times less often.|
|Bloom||Under indoor conditions, prickly pear blooms extremely rarely.|
|Dormant period||The dormant period lasts from mid-autumn to spring. During this period, the plants are moved to a cool place (about 5-7 degrees), they are not fertilized and watered much less often.|
|Reproduction||Cutting, less often by seeds.|
|Pests||Spider mites, worms, whiteflies, nematodes, etc.|
|Diseases||Various types of rot, late blight.|
Caring for prickly pear at home
Opuntia needs good lighting throughout the year. Ideally, direct light should fall on the plant in the morning and evening, but not at noon. In winter, cacti can be kept in direct sunlight all day. During the day, the plant should be illuminated with them for at least 4 hours. But if the cactus has stood in a shady place for a long time, it must be gradually adapted to brighter light.
With a lack of lighting, cactus shoots can turn pale and stretch.
From spring to late summer, prickly pears do not need special conditions: the cactus grows well at room temperature: about 24 degrees during the day and about 20 degrees at night. Opuntia does not like intense heat and slows down the rate of development at 35 degrees or more. For the summer, you can transfer the plant to the open air.
In winter, prickly pears are recommended to be gradually moved to a cool place - to a room where it is kept no more than 7 degrees. The minimum threshold is 5 degrees. Such conditions will allow the cactus to rest properly, slowing down the growth rate. As soon as the indoor temperature rises to 12 degrees, the plant will resume development. But in winter, due to a lack of light, the bushes can quickly take on an unhealthy appearance. If you leave the pots warm with them, during this period the plants will stretch significantly and lose their decorative effect.
Like all cactus, prickly pear does not need abundant watering. Overflow can lead to the development of rot on the roots of the plant. During active growth - in summer and spring - the soil is moistened only after the soil has completely dried, preferably in the late afternoon. In winter, if the flower pot is cool, you don't need to water it until spring.
For prickly pear it is recommended to use only bottom watering. Soft water is poured into the pallet - rain or settled for at least a day. It will be useful to add a few grains of citric acid to it (per 1 liter). Conventional overhead watering can cause drips to fall on the stem of the cactus. Calcareous water closes its pores and disrupts the breathing process, which can cause cork growths on prickly pears.
To keep moisture in the soil longer, and not to form a crust on the surface of the earth, you can pour a thin layer of gravel next to the cactus.
As a succulent, prickly pear does not require high levels of moisture. Dry (or only moderately humid) air has a positive effect on the growth rate of a cactus, so you do not need to spray it either in summer or in winter.
Opuntia grow fast enough, but have a weak root system. Such cacti are planted in wide, low pots, filling them with light, slightly acidic soil. Planting soil can include clay and sod, double leaf land and half sand. You can also use a store-bought cactus substrate. It is advisable to add fine expanded clay, brick debris and crushed charcoal to the resulting mixture. The main condition is the absence of humus in the soil.
To maintain normal rates of development, prickly pears are periodically fed. This is done only during the growing season of the cactus: from spring to autumn. Mineral formulations with a reduced nitrogen content should be used. They are brought in no more than once a month. Some growers feed prickly pear only once during the entire growing season - at the very end of March, using the recommended dosage of a specialized composition for cacti. It is believed that such measures help stimulate flowering: frequent feeding can provoke the growth of segments, but not the formation of buds.
The process of transplanting prickly pear does not tolerate well and adapts for a long time in a new place, so the bushes should be moved only if necessary - once every 3-4 years. The transplant is carried out in the spring, before the beginning of the growing season. If the prickly pear has gained color, you should not transplant the cactus - the procedure is postponed for a year. The exception is small, more actively developing prickly pears - they are transplanted annually.
The prickly pear is transplanted into a new pot in dry soil, carefully rolling over and trying not to destroy the soil lump. During transplantation and for another week after it, the plant is not watered. The cactus should spend several weeks in a shaded area after being moved.
Flowering prickly pear
Potted prickly pears bloom very rarely. Some researchers associate this phenomenon with the slow growth rates of cacti, while others - with the inability to completely recreate the natural conditions required for flowering.
However, sometimes flowers do appear. In order for the buds to stay on the bushes longer, not fly around or regenerate into simple buds, during this period it is necessary to especially carefully monitor the cactus. After the formation of buds, the pot with it can neither be rearranged nor rotated. All manipulations with the plant, requiring the movement of the pot, including the transplant, are canceled. The rest of the care - watering and fertilizing - should remain the same.
After the flowering of prickly pears is completed, the volume of irrigation is gradually reduced, and they also stop feeding. Thus, preparation for the rest period takes place. Then the cactus is moved to a cool room, where it keeps about 5-7 degrees. In such conditions, the plant is left until spring, completely stopping watering and feeding.
Breeding methods of prickly pear
Homemade prickly pears are easiest to propagate by cuttings. Segments are carefully separated (broken off) from an adult bush and dried for about 3-4 days, keeping in an upright position. During this period, the slices should be properly tightened.
For rooting, the segments are planted in wet and pre-disinfected sand, deepening by about 3 cm. The seedlings are covered from above with a transparent bag or jar. Every day, the shelter is removed for ventilation, and the maintenance of soil moisture is also monitored. A suitable rooting temperature is about 20 degrees, for reliability, you can use the bottom heating. The roots should appear in about 3-4 weeks. After rooting, the cuttings are planted in their own small pots, using the same substrate as for planting an adult prickly pear.
How to root an unpretentious fast-growing prickly pear cactus (Opuntia)? Propagation by cuttings
Growing from seeds
If you have prickly pear seeds, you can try to germinate them. To increase germination, the dense shell of each seed must be broken with a file or sandpaper. So it will be easier for the sprout to break through the "shell" of the seed.
The seeds treated in this way are kept in water for 24 hours. You can also soak them in a weak solution of potassium permanganate for about 10 minutes to disinfect the seed. Then the seeds are placed in moist, sterilized soil, including river sand and leafy soil, as well as half of the fine charcoal. A drainage layer must be laid on the bottom of the container.
The seeds are distributed superficially, sprinkled with a thin (up to 1 cm) layer of soil, sprayed with a spray bottle, then covered with a film and placed in a warm, well-lit place, not forgetting to periodically remove the shelter for ventilation. The moisture content of the soil also needs to be monitored. Do not overdry it during this period. The optimum temperature for germination depends on the type of prickly pear and can range from 20 to 35 degrees. Amicable shoots should not be expected - the process of sprouting can take a month or even a whole year. Germination depends on the freshness of the seed, as well as on the storage conditions.
When the emerging seedlings are properly strengthened, they dive into their own pots. The seedlings will take about two years to grow. Young plants are kept in a bright place, covering them from direct sunlight. When the seedlings are old enough, they are transplanted into soil suitable for adult cacti.
Diseases and pests
Homemade prickly pears can be attacked by pests. Whiteflies are one of the most common. Adults do not harm the bushes, but their larvae feed on cactus juices. From them, as well as from other sucking insects (spider mites, scale insects, mealybugs), insecticides or acaricides help. They are applied to the plant by spraying, if necessary, covering the soil in the pot with a package. After 7-10 days, the treatment is repeated.
Root nematode attack is the hardest to spot. Their presence is noticeable only during the transplant period. The roots of the prickly pear should be examined. If there are bulges on them, this is the work of insects. The affected areas should be cut with sharp instruments to healthy tissue, and then the roots should be soaked in warm (45-50 degrees) water for about 10 minutes. At the same time, the root collar cannot be moistened. After processing, the roots are dried, and then crushed coal is sprinkled on the places of the cuts. Then the cactus is transplanted into fresh disinfected soil.
Opuntia can be affected by fungal diseases. Typically, pathogenic microorganisms enter the plant from the substrate, being activated due to an excess of nitrogen or frequent stagnation of moisture. Among such diseases are various rot, as well as late blight.
The affected areas of the plant are cut out, and then treated with a fungicide solution. You can use copper sulphate, Bordeaux mixture, Oxyhom, etc. During processing, you should follow the instructions and strictly follow safety precautions.
Anthracnose can also develop on prickly pears. The stalks of the affected plant become covered with light brown areas with small pink specks and begin to get wet. It is unlikely that such a cactus can be cured. Most often, the disease develops due to untreated soil before planting the plant. At the same time, the rest of the plantings are treated with a preparation containing copper for preventive purposes.
Some problems with the growth and development of prickly pear can be associated with mistakes in caring for it.
- If the stem shrivels, and the segments begin to droop, the cactus has dried out - too much time passes between waterings, and the room is too hot, or scorching rays fall on the cactus. This can sometimes be caused by a cramped pot. Shrinking of the stem in winter often indicates that the room temperature is too high. In this case, the plant must be watered in the usual way, and then try to move it to more suitable conditions for winter maintenance.
- The appearance of a cork at the bottom of the stem in cacti older than 2 years is a natural aging of tissues. If the cork layer appears on fresh growths, it is likely that droplets of hard water have fallen on them. Its salts clog the pores of the plant and accelerate their aging. This can happen when soil particles hit a cactus.
- Excess moisture in the winter or a long absence of appropriate dressings can slow down the growth of bushes. If the prickly pear is kept in suitable conditions, but does not grow, the cause may be some kind of disease.
- A light spot on the side of the window - this is how a burn from too bright rays can appear. Usually, such spots appear with a sharp change in scenery, for example, transfer from partial shade to the open sun. The optimal period for the gradual adaptation of a plant to new conditions is a couple of weeks.
- The cactus has begun to tilt or become stained - perhaps the stem has begun to rot due to over-watering. If spots appear during cold wintering, the room temperature may be too low.
- Cracking of the stems is a sign of waterlogging.
Types of prickly pears with photos and names
Of the hundreds of prickly pear species, many can be grown at home, but the most common among them are the following:
White-haired prickly pear (Opuntia leucotricha)
The trunk of this cactus is treelike and consists of segments 10-20 cm long. They are covered with dense bristles and yellow glochidia.Opuntia leucotricha flowers are golden in color and have green stigmas. The diameter of one flower reaches 8 cm. The fruits smell nice, they can be eaten.
Berger's prickly pear (Opuntia bergeriana)
The stem of Opuntia bergeriana consists of pale green sections up to 25 cm long. The surface of the stems is covered with sparse areoles, including spines of various sizes. They are yellow or brownish in color. During flowering, many yellow-orange flowers with greenish stigmas are formed on the bushes.
Opuntia main (Opuntia basilaris)
Or the main prickly pear. This species is made up of bushy plants with long branched stems. Opuntia basilaris has green segments with a red or bluish tinge. Their length ranges from 8 to 20 cm. The brownish depressed areoles have a small number of spines and are slightly pubescent. The color of the flowers can be different: bright red or pink. This prickly pear has two subspecies: cordata and nana.
Opuntia Gosselina (Opuntia gosseliniana)
The species forms bushes that grow into small clumps. Opuntia gosseliniana stems are divided into thin segments. In young cacti, their color is light red, and in adults, it is gray-green. There are soft needles on the areoles in the upper part of the cactus. The flowers are yellow in color.
This prickly pear has a subspecies santa rita. It is distinguished by a bluish bloom on the edges of the segments, as well as a lilac framing of the areolas.
Long-bone prickly pear (Opuntia longispina)
Or the prickly pear is long-spiked. Creeping view. Opuntia longispina has stems that are divided into small spherical segments that form a kind of chains. They are slightly flattened, and the length of each is about 4 cm. Areoles are colored brown, and glochidia and marginal spines are reddish. The central spine is larger than the rest. The flowers are wide open and colored in shades of orange or red.
The species is distinguished by hanging shoots. In Opuntia curassavica, the stems are formed in narrow segments, which are easily detached when broken. They are green in color and vary in length from 2 to 5 cm. Small areoles are covered with short bristles and supplemented with light needles.
Opuntia fragilis (Opuntia fragilis)
This cactus is bush-shaped with easily detachable segments up to 3 cm long. In Opuntia fragilis, they can be round or flat. Small areoles are located at a fairly small distance from each other. Their pubescence is light in color, and glochidia are yellowish. The areola also has 4 yellowish-brown spines up to 3 cm long, located crosswise. The flowers have yellow petals and green stigmas.
Prickly pear (Opuntia microdasys)
The species has branched stems half a meter long. In Opuntia microdasys, they consist of small rounded segments with a dark green color. On each of the light areoles, there are many golden glochidia. The flowers have a golden inner side and a white column.
Indian prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)
Or Indian ficus. This species forms bushes with upright woody shoots. As they approach the top, they begin to branch. Opuntia ficus-indica is formed by gray-green oval segments. Their surface is covered with few areoles. They have light yellow glochidia, easily detached from the plant, and light needles. The color of the flowers is bright red. The fruit is pear-shaped and is considered edible. Their color can be yellow, green or red. Each fruit consists of a transparent white, slightly sweet pulp and large seeds.
Strongly branching cactus. Opuntia scheerii has blue-green segments. Their size reaches 30 cm. On the stems there are many closely spaced areoles. They consist of brownish glochidia, small spines and hairs. The flowers have light yellow petals and a green pistil. As the flowers fade, the yellow color of the flowers changes to salmon.
Opuntia compressed (Opuntia compressa)
The species has creeping shoots, divided into bright green rounded segments. Opuntia compressa can be completely thornless. Sometimes they are located only at the top of the shoots. The cactus has slightly pointed foliage and light yellow flowers.
Properties of prickly pear
All parts of prickly pears have certain valuable properties. Leaves and fruits contain protein, glucose and trace elements (calcium, magnesium and phosphorus). The stems contain protein and starch, sugar, and vitamin C. Flowers are rich in amino acids. In addition, prickly pear contains many vitamins, as well as various useful fibers.
Cactus can help in the treatment of diseases of the respiratory system and oral cavity, normalize the activity of the nervous system and help the digestive organs. The plant helps to restore metabolic processes, helps with diabetes, problems with the heart and blood vessels, as well as with the musculoskeletal system. In addition, cactus is used as a hangover cure. It is also able to strengthen the body, help heal wounds and help with obesity.
Opuntia is widely used as a cosmetic product. It helps cleanse the body of harmful toxins and can be useful in hair and skin care. The oil in edible fruits is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids. They contribute to the fight against early skin aging. The oil is often included in face creams and hair masks, and is also used in aromatherapy.
In addition to medicinal products, prickly pear is also used for industrial needs. From the plant you can get food colors, pectin, oil, glue, and also use prickly pear to create deodorants and all kinds of detergents.
Like any medicine, prickly pear has a number of contraindications. It should not be used for exacerbation of cystitis or hemorrhoids. In addition, the cactus is an exotic plant, therefore, a specialist consultation is required before using products based on it.
In some cases, prickly pear can cause allergies. Signs of individual intolerance are manifested in headaches, nausea and vomiting, as well as in the appearance of a reddish rash on the body half an hour after taking the drug. With such symptoms, the use of prickly pear should be stopped.
Opuntia is a member of the Cactaceae family, also known as Nopala, Tunita, Velvet Opuntia, Warm Hand, and Wooly Joint Prickly Pear. Grows in the United States, Mexico and South America. Later it will be brought to Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean.
This shrub is like a xerophytic plant with good adaptation to semi-arid climatic regimes. Grows in fields and sandy soils. The native range for this cactus is low elevations and mountain slopes.
The prickly pear fruit is actually the edible part of the plant. It is one of the few varieties of cactus that is edible and has numerous medicinal properties. Its beautiful flowers and fruit make it a very attractive, drought tolerant plant for any landscape, even for planting at home.
Opuntia is considered a shrub or small tree growing up to 2-4 m in height. It has been found that the cactus loves sunny, desert conditions and prefers well-drained dry soil, mostly rocky closer to the slopes.
The trunk of the cactus is woody and round in cross section. Stem segments are green, narrow elliptic, obovate, 8 - 50 × 5 - 15 cm thick. The segments are full in shape, the base and apex are rounded. Areola 2 mm in diameter, 2 - 3 cm apart.
Thorns are usually absent, sometimes present at 1 - 3 cm in the areola, widening, grayish, acicular, 3 - 9 mm glochids are inconspicuous on early leaves. Conical leaves 3 - 4 mm. Flowers 1.3 - 1.5 cm in diameter, erect, red, yellow or purple.
Australia: war with prickly pear
The story with prickly pear, as well as with a rabbit in Australia, is very instructive: it clearly shows what can happen if living organisms (even animals, even plants) are recklessly transported outside their natural range. So, the story about prickly pear.
It is precisely established that the prickly pear came to Australia in 1787, thanks to one Brazilian immigrant, who decided to take his beloved cactus to his new homeland. To his unspeakable joy, the prickly pear cactus in Australia quickly took root, grew well and began to bear fruit. The climate in Australia suited him perfectly. Cacti grew beautifully and at an air temperature of +35 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the plant itself rose to 52 degrees, literally radiating warmth around. A few years later, the Brazilian's neighbors became interested in the lively and very impenetrable, which does not require constant repairs. And when they also tried candied fruits from the fruits of this fence, they immediately asked the owner to give them shoots. And a few years later, the prickly pear began its triumphant all-conquering march across Australia.
And as a result, after 150 years already all the best pastures of the country were self-seeded with prickly pears, turning into fields bristling with thorns. At first, succulent green plants are eagerly eaten by both cows and sheep. But unexpectedly, a real pestilence began among the ungulates, and they began to die literally in hundreds. At first, farmers, owners of dead animals, sinned on the foot and mouth disease epidemic, which was discovered about 30 years before the described event. However, the autopsies of the dead animals forced the farmers to change their minds, since the stomachs of the dead cows and sheep were literally pressed in by prickly pear thorns, which led to rupture of the rumen in ungulates ...
And then a scrupulous study of prickly pears began, in an attempt to protect farmers from huge losses. And then the biologists were literally shocked, as it turned out that most of the pastures turned into impenetrable thickets, and the cacti on them grew up to eight meters high and so intertwined that millions of hectares of previously valuable pastures were completely erased from their farmland. Everyone was really shocked: by the beginning of the twentieth century, the area where prickly pears grew in Australia was about several million hectares, and there was data that the cactus "ate" 24 million hectares of pastures ...
In the beginning, the most desperate farmers decided to fight this noxious weed with wide and sharp knives, cutting prickly pears right at the root. But in place of some of the felled plants, many new ones soon grew. Neither poisons nor fire helped. And the farmers, swinging knives, and very soon convinced of the futility of this occupation, turned to the government. They asked for tough measures to be taken against prickly pears to save Australia's livestock. And the enemy was serious. It was known that once a cactus was left hanging upside down on a tree for six years. And then the cactus was planted and it began to grow as if nothing had happened ...
Remained, it seemed, one way of struggle - to poison prickly pear with pesticides. They were sprayed over prickly pear plantations, but very quickly became convinced that it was prickly pears that suffered the least from poisons. But animals, birds, plants died in droves, and the cactus continued to spread throughout Australia wider and deeper. It was then that the Commission for the Control of Opuntia was created, and it was proposed to go to South America to study the natural enemies of the prickly pear on the spot. They turned out to be almost one and a half hundred, which, with varying degrees of success, harmed the cactus.
The caterpillar attack crushed the prickly pear
As a result, in 925, the Argentine cactus moth butterfly (Cactoblastis cactorum) was introduced to Australia. In the laboratory, its population was first increased many times over, and a year later the moth larvae were released into the fields overgrown with prickly pears. And since the caterpillars had a lot of food, after a few months the pilots flying around the prickly pear plantations were pleased to find that small bald spots began to appear in the bright green carpet of cacti. But even with such a massive consumption of prickly pears, the active phase of the destruction of cacti continued, at least until 1937. A year earlier, i.e. in 1936, on behalf of grateful Australian farmers, a special monument was erected to the larvae of the moth, which literally saved Australia from starvation. It is located in the Darling Valley. By now, a biological balance has been established between prickly pear and cactus moth ...
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Opuntia - 'figs of the Indians'
author Elena Kulishenko, author's photo
Cacti have always attracted me with their exotic-prickly appearance and durability. Sometimes, after a long absence, I found my usual plants, alas, dead or weakened without regular watering. But cacti have always felt great, despite the hot weather and lack of water.
Inaccessible in appearance, cacti are very interesting and grateful plants. Having received sufficient nourishment and care, cacti are more than bestowed for their work, blooming their wonderful, delicate flowers. Sometimes cactus flowers are odorless, sometimes with a delicate aroma, and sometimes smelly but always blooming cacti are amazingly beautiful.
Among the variety of cacti, I especially like the prickly pear.
Prickly pear (Opuntia) is an extensive genus of cacti, uniting about three hundred species with a very large distribution area (from the south of Canada through the USA, Mexico, arid regions of Central and South America to the southern tip of the American continent).
Opuntia are of great benefit to humans: they serve as food for the natives, quench their thirst, are used as a medicine, are used as fuel, protect their homes from strong winds, etc.
In the Mediterranean countries, the Canary Islands, South Africa, Australia and India, prickly pears once introduced there have acclimatized, run wild and settled so widely and abundantly that they became a noticeable or even defining element of the natural landscape.
Different types of prickly pear differ significantly in appearance and size: from small creeping plants to branching shrubs the size of a man and huge six-meter trees.
A characteristic feature that unites all types of prickly pears is the presence of glochidia growing in a bunch in the areola. Glochidia are specific spines in the form of very small, fragile hairs with tiny hook-like outgrowths at the ends. At the slightest touch of glochidia, their hooked hairs break off easily and instantly dig into the skin or clothing. Then the unpleasant prickly baking sensations are guaranteed for a long time!
Microscopic glochidia stuck in the skin can be removed by scrubbing with a pumice stone. You can remove cactus glochidia from clothes with the help of melted wax - while solidifying, it will pull out all the thorns.
Some prickly pears have very insidious spines with hooks and teeth, enclosed in paper cases. Able to severely injure rare, but long and strong prickly pear spines, collected in areoles of two or three pieces.
The peculiarity of prickly pears is a bright and lush daytime bloom. The flowers of prickly pears are large, shiny, of various colors (often multicolored).
In culture, some prickly pears bloom regularly, others rarely, and some prickly pears do not bloom at all.
Various types of low-growing prickly pears are quite resistant to frost and can be grown year-round in the open field in regions with mild winters. But thermophilic species are suitable only for indoor maintenance with the possibility of planting in the garden for the summer.
Once upon a time they grew on my windowsill reddish-red prickly pear (Opuntia rufida), covered with bunches of rusty-red glochidia, and prickly pear (Opuntia microdasys albinospina) with white glochidia.
I read that in hot countries, prickly pears occupy huge areas. But before moving to Italy, my imagination could not imagine that these cacti come in the most bizarre forms, they can grow successfully in open ground all year round. Opuntia look so beautiful and exotic in Italian gardens and in nature, where they grow to the size of huge bushes and even trees!
Picturesque prickly pear groves, prickly pear hedges instead of a fence around olive orchards and estates, and even single growing cacti never leave plant lovers indifferent.
These cacti are beautiful at any time of the year. In winter, the strong, tall prickly pear bushes invariably turn green against the blue Italian sky. In spring, the Guidonia prickly pears are covered with delicate golden-yellow flowers that open towards the sun. A lot of stamens, like living fluttering brushes, peep out of the calyx of the flower formed by adjacent touching petals. The flowers are attached to the plant by a short tubular peduncle.
The formed green "cones" of prickly pear fruits quickly increase in size and are brightly colored, soon ripen and become red-burgundy.
Delightful prickly pears are decorative even without flowers and fruits. The plant is decorated with pancake-like flattened, rounded or semi-oval, fleshy, shiny segments of shoots of a beautiful rich green color.
Looking at the exotic prickly pear, it is impossible to resist the desire to get hold of such a beauty!
More than two years ago, remembering that cacti can be propagated vegetatively, I separated one segment from an adult prickly pear tree (to be honest, without any hope of success). I planted this small palm-sized piece of a cactus shoot in a special cactus substrate, consisting mostly of sand. For stability, she overlaid the planted prickly pear stalk with pebbles and began to wait.
I waited the whole season, periodically watering my scion, but it seemed to be frozen in development. The prickly pear stalk began to grow only in the spring of the next year, and it grew so quickly that it was hard to believe. By autumn, a large, spreading and amazingly beautiful bush had formed from the cuttings.
In the third year of life, my prickly pear gave spectacular yellow flowers, and at the end of June we already tasted its first fruits!
The prickly fruits of prickly pear are rather large, fleshy, juicy. They are called "indian fig», «figs of indians», «tuna". In the Mediterranean, the fruits of prickly pear were brought from Mexico by Spanish sailors.
I cannot say that the fruits of prickly pear are very popular among Italians, but many sweet tooth enjoy them with pleasure.
The prickly prickly pear fruit reaches a diameter of 7-10 cm. It has a barrel-shaped shape, covered with rounded bunches of very short and small spines slightly protruding above the surface of the skin. Bunches of thorns are arranged surprisingly geometrically - in a checkerboard pattern, at the same distance from each other.
In the supermarket, prickly prickly pears should be taken with a special spatula. I pick the prickly pear fruits with rubber gloves (in which they wash the dishes), and then rinse the fruits in running water to wash off the glochidia from them.
The flesh of the prickly pear fruit is sweet, refreshing in taste, it resembles a juicy pear or strawberry (but much watery). A pleasant taste impression is spoiled only by small seeds inside the fruit - just have time to spit.
Italians eat prickly pear fruits as a dessert, fresh or after being cooked. The fruits of prickly pear are tasty, lightly toasted in the oven right in the peel and then chilled they are served to the table along with a knife and fork. First, you need to remove its prickly "casing" from the fruit, and then you can enjoy the delicacy inside.
The fruits of prickly pear are used in confectionery, for the preparation of fruit salads and creams. Jam and jelly are made from them.
In addition, the fruits of prickly pear growing in Italy and other Mediterranean countries are used as a healing agent (they have a strengthening property).
The composition of the green mass of prickly pear contains starch, sucrose, protein, vitamin "C" and a lot of water.
Numerous types of prickly pear have a variety of medicinal properties.
Mexican Indians have long used prickly pear stems and roots as a medicine. For example, boiled prickly pear cut along the shoot is used as a poultice.
After drying and rubbing the prickly pear, the Indians knead it in a sticky solution, adding feathers for strength (or for importance?), And apply it to the fracture of the limb. According to the scientist who described this simple device, it "... falls off by itself after fifteen days - that is, when the bone has grown together."
More recently, huge plantations of prickly pears were grown in Mexico for the purpose of breeding cochineal hairy aphids, from which the valuable carmine paint was isolated (the method of making this paint has long remained a secret in Mexico).
In the Mediterranean, cacti of the species are specially bred prickly pear megacanth (Opuntia megacantha) for dessert fruits.
... Now my prickly pear will be covered with new flowers and ripening fruits until autumn, and our family will regularly feast on "Indian figs" - delicious gifts of this wonderful, decorative cactus.
Elena Kulishenko (Guidonia, Italy)
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AgaveAgave grows well in India. Photo: Booze Business
Agave is a stemless or very short-stemmed plant with ornamental fleshy leaves in some species with very large leaves ending in strong spines. There are forms with green, variegated and other colors of leaves. They rarely bloom, some once in a lifetime, after which they die. They develop a huge inflorescence (up to 8 m).
At home, in South America and Mexico, agaves find a wide variety of applications: in protective hedges, as a building material, as a technical and food plant. In Russia, agaves are grown as decorative deciduous plants.In Mexico, agave is grown to make tequila. Photo: worldheritage.si.edu
The most popular among flower growers is American agave, with green leaves. The species contains many varieties and forms with golden, variegated and other colors of leaves:
- agave golden edged
- agave mexican
- agave painted
- motley agave
- agave Vershaffelt
- agave is compressed, with a very large number of green leaves, folded into a compact rosette.
Agave is propagated by root suckers and seeds ("bulbs"). They are planted in rather small pots or tubs, in a light sandy loam-sod, with a small admixture of leaf, soil with good drainage.
Agave (Agave parrasana) grows well indoors and in the garden. Photo: www.public.asu.edu Agave (Agave Hostipal) decoration of a tropical garden.
In winter, agave is kept dry in a cool and light dry room at a temperature of + 7.10 ° C.
Aloe - agave, family Liliaceae, a common houseplant native to South Africa.
There are tree-like and herbaceous forms of aloe. Most aloe, both in appearance and in cultivation techniques, are similar to agave. Many types of aloe bloom beautifully.
Growing aloe at home is easy. Aloe juice is bitter, the leaves contain aloin used in medicine.Aloe juice on the break of the leaf. Photo: Collective Evolution
The following types of aloe are more common in culture:
- aloe tree
- soap aloe - with thorns, strongly reminiscent of agave
- variegated aloe - with dark transverse stripes on the leaves, etc.
Aloe is propagated in spring and summer by cuttings and suckers, some species - only by root suckers.
Aloe cuttings are withered for a while before planting in sand or sandy-sod soil.
Cuttings root them in warm conditions (minimum rooting temperature +14.16 ° C) without covering, watering very little and not sprinkling.
After the appearance of the roots, the cuttings of aloe are planted in sandy loam and sod soil with a small admixture of leaf, in small pots with good drainage. They contain them in full light, watering very little in winter from dampness, their stem and roots rot.
Adult specimens of aloe are transplanted through
What is made from prickly pear fruits?
The fruit is not only used raw. Most often it is used to prepare all kinds of dessert delicacies. ... These include fruit salads, fruit drinks. They also prepare jams, preserves and confitures and marmalade. Also, berry pulp is often added to liqueurs.
But that's not all. Fruits are often used in the preparation of meat dishes. It is actively used to create sweet and sour gravies and sauces.
Some people bake berries in the oven without peeling them off. The skins are removed from already baked products.
It should be noted that there are several recipes that are actively used in traditional medicine for the treatment of certain diseases.
So, for the preparation of a cough-cold broth you will need :
From the root of marshmallow, it is required to initially prepare a syrup, and then mix all the ingredients in a 2: 2: 1 ratio.
Also an effective remedy against fever is a recipe from :
Some varieties of cacti are edible and very tasty, which are actively eaten both raw and cooked. For example, these exotic fruits are added to hot dishes, desserts, and are used to make jams and confitures. The fruits are distinguished not only by good taste, but also by useful properties. At the same time, before eating the fruit, they must be cleaned of needles and peels.