A Field Guide to the Prairie

Prickly pear cactus Prickly Pear Cactus
Tuberous Opuntia macrorhiza
Length: 15 cm (6 in.)
Habitat/Range: Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert. This member of the cactus family is highly drought resistant and well-adapted to the deserts and shortgrass prairies of the American southwest.

This cactus grows to about 6 inches and has blue-green or dark green pads. Its flowers are yellow with red centers or all red.

In times of food shortage, Native Americans ate its fruit either raw or stewed. When other food is unavailable, the pads can be de-spined and fed to livestock. The fruit can be boiled and the juice strained off to create a syrup.

On the Prairie Field Guide Index

College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences
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