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An Exotic
World of Plants

The Plants
of the Palm House

Opuntia basilaris

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.

Opuntia basilaris