Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear Cacti are members of the Opuntia genus. There are over 90 species of Opuntia in the United States. They are flat-stemmed spiny cacti with edible fruit.

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There is a large patch of Prickly Pears in the lot next to ours. Then one day, there was one tiny prickly pear in our yard. It was only an inch or two high. So I carefully outlined it with a ring of rocks and encouraged it to grow. In just a year, it had grown to a healthy 8 inch tall plant.

When a weed dared to grow next to my prickly pear, I carefully reached in (with leather gloves on) and as I plucked out the weed, I felt one ever so little prick on my finger. I took my glove off and there wasn’t any blood – not even a red mark.

Five minutes later, my finger started to hurt. I went into the house, washed the area well, and inspected it under a magnifying glass to make sure there was not a small prickle stuck in me. Nothing. Then my finger started to swell.

I’ve been gardening here in Arizona for 7 years. I’ve been ‘poked’ by all sorts of cactus. Agaves are the worst for drawing blood. But never before has a prickle caused as much discomfort as the prickly pear did.

There are no prickly pears in my yard any more…

What is the most dangerous plant in your yard?

4 thoughts on “Prickly Pear

  1. We have a weed called Stinging Nettle. My family has called it “fireweed”. If your bare skin touches it you blister and it burns like fire. It is kind of ironic that I now pick and dry the leaves to use in tea and other things. I find that when dried it no longer has the power to burn. It is also full of vitamins and is a great help when the allergy season strikes. It is dangerous….unless you know how to harvest it!


    1. Yes, we have Stinging Nettle in Alberta too. I think I have finally eliminated it from my yard. We used to help friends harvest theirs to dry and make tea – we were quite the sight all bundled and gloved up so we didn’t get ‘stung’!

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  2. Prickly pears are the worst! The big thorns are easy to avoid and remove if you get poked, but prickly pears have hair-like thorns that are impossible to see and even harder to remove. Though I’ve eaten the fruit and they’re quite tasty. Not as fond of the pads– tasted a little like green beans.


    1. We had lunch at the Heard Museum Cafe a few weeks ago and they had Prickly Pear Lemonade. I loved it. Almost makes me wish we stayed late enough in Arizona to harvest the prickly pear fruit… but I’m not sure I could stand the summer heat.

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