English names: Beavertail cactus, beavertail pricklypear
Latin name: Opuntia basilaris
Family: Cactus - Cactaceae
Origin: Southwestern United States
The pricklypear is a large plant, growing up to 60 cm. tall. A single specimen can count hundreds of fleshy, flattened pads, blue-grey in colour, reaching a length of 14 cm., a breadth of 10 cm. and a thickness of 1 to 1.5 cm. These pads are usually devoid of the usual spines, but instead are provided with short, weak and small thorns called glochids, which can easily break off and penetrate the skin. The flowers are pink and bloom from spring to early summer.
A native American people, the Cahuilla, used the pricklypear for food. The young pads were boiled in eaten as such. This was also true of the seeds, but these were also broken into a paste.