Herbs & Plants

Opuntia compressa

Botanical Name : Opuntia compressa
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Opuntia
Species: O. humifusa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Opuntia humifusa, Opuntia macrarthra, Opuntia opuntia, Opuntia rafinesquii, Opuntia  vulgaris

Common Names: Eastern Prickly Pear or Indian Fig

Habitat :Opuntia compressa is native to  North-eastern N. America.It ranges from Montana eastward to southern Ontario and then on to Massachusetts, south to Florida and westward to New Mexico. Naturalized on rocks and walls in S. and S.C. Europ.  Grows in Opn dry areas. Rocky bluffs, sand dunes, dry rocky or sandy grasslands.

Opuntia compressa is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 1 m (3ft 3in).The green stems of this low-growing perennial cactus are flattened and are formed of segments. Barbed bristles are found around the surfaces of the segments and longer spines are sometimes present. The flowers are yellow to gold in color and are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers. They measure 4-6 cm wide and bloom in the late spring.The juicy and edible red fruits measure from 3-5 cm. As the fruit matures, it changes colour from green to red, and often remains on the cactus until the following spring. There are 6 to 33 small, flat, light-colored seeds in each fruit.

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Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus Spines

Eastern prickly pear fruit

Opuntia humifusa Ottawa IL

Opuntia humifusa – Michigan

It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Requires a sandy or very well-drained soil. Prefers a pH in the range 6 to 7.5. Must be kept fairly dry in winter but likes a reasonable supply of water in the growing season. A position at the base of a south-facing wall or somewhere that can be protected from winter rain is best for this plant. Requires warmth and plenty of sun. Plants tolerate considerable neglect. Plants are very cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c, but they are intolerant of winter wet. There is considerable confusion over the correct name for this species, several of the synonyms listed above are also applied to other species in this genus.

Seed – sow early spring in a very well-drained compost in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some protection from winter wet. Make sure you have some reserve plants in case those outdoors do not overwinter. Cuttings of leaf pads at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a sandy compost. Very easy, rooting quickly.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum.

Fruit – raw, cooked or dried for later use. Sweet and gelatinous. Lean and insipid. The unripe fruits can be added to soups etc, imparting an okra-like mucilaginous quality. The fruit can hang on the plant all year round. The fruit is up to 4cm long and 3cm wide. Be careful of the plants irritant hairs, see the notes above on toxicity. Pads – cooked or raw. Watery and very mucilaginous. Seed – briefly roasted then ground into a powder. It is also used as a thickener

Medicinal Uses:
Pectoral;  Poultice;  Warts.

A poultice of the peeled pads is applied to wounds, sores etc. The juice of the fruits is used as a treatment for warts . A tea made from the pads is used in the treatment of lung ailments.

The stems, which look like flat, spiny green leaves, are roasted and used as a poultice on swellings of all sorts and on the breasts of nursing mothers whose milk supply has dwindled.  The roots have been used in an effort to increase hair growth.  A tea made of flowers has been drunk to increase urine flow. Indians made tea of the stems and used this as a wash to ease headaches, eye troubles, and insomnia.  The early settlers of the West boiled the root in milk and drank the liquid to treat dysentery.  A poultice of the peeled pads is applied to wounds, sores etc.  The juice of the fruits is used as a treatment for warts.  A tea made from the pads is used in the treatment of lung ailments.

Other Uses:  

The following notes are for O. ficus indica. They almost certainly also apply to this species. A gum is obtained from the stem. It is used as a masticatory or can be mixed with oil to make candles. The juice of the boiled stem segments is very sticky. It is added to plaster, whitewash etc to make it adhere better to walls.

Known Hazards:   The plant has numerous minutely barbed glochids (hairs) that are easily dislodged when the plant is touched and they then become stuck to the skin where they are difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable discomfort.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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