ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Prickly Pear cacti grow on Tenerife in the Canary Islands

Updated on January 7, 2013

Prickly Pear cacti have edible fruit

The Prickly Pear cacti are all species in the Opuntia family,and although they look like native plants of the Canary Islands they did not originate there. Prickly Pear cacti all bear edible fruit, just like their name suggests, however, you must be careful to watch out for the spines.

There are two main species found on Tenerife and the plants are an unmissable feature of the landscapes. Prickly Pears enjoy the hot, dry and arid conditions, especially in the south of the island and on the coasts, and this is why they have done so well. They are actually invasive weeds though, despite their uses as a food source.

Prickly Pears photo

Prickly Pear (Opuntia dillenii)
Prickly Pear (Opuntia dillenii)

Prickly Pear flower photo

Prickly Pear flower
Prickly Pear flower

Cholla cactus

A species of Cholla cactus
A species of Cholla cactus

Prickly Pear types found on Tenerife

There are two main species of Prickly Pear cactus that can be found on the island of Tenerife. They are easy to identify and both have edible 'pears.'

These cacti have a large number of green flattened and succulent pads from which their flowers and fruit are produced. The pads also bud and create more new pads and so the plants can form quite large clumps. Pads that break away can root themselves and start a new plant and this is one way the cacti spread.

O. dillenii is far more common in the south of the island and has long spines that are carried in groups of three. It has yellow flowers that are followed by juicy maroon-purple-coloured fruit. Although the skins of its fruit are smooth there are a number of areoles that are full of glochids, which are tiny barbed spines. It is important to be careful that you do not get these in you when picking, peeling or eating these fruit.

O. ficus-barbarica tends to be seen more often in more mountainous areas and mainly in the north of the island, although it can be grown in the south too. It has orange or reddish flowers and its pads are armed with many areoles that carry short spines. The 'pears' of this species also carry this form of defense and start off green in colour. They turn yellowish or reddish as they mature.

Both types have fruit that is sold in markets and greengrocers in Tenerife, although the ficus-barbarica fruit are the ones most often seen.

Both species come from Mexico originally but liked the conditions on the island and have naturalised themselves and spread to many areas of waste ground, abandoned farmland, coastal plains and volcano slopes and mountainsides..

Species of Cholla cactus (Cylindropuntia) are also often found on Tenerife as well. This type of cactus is unmistakeable because of the very large number of long and most vicious spines that its segmented stems carry. The segments break off readily at the joints and can get attached to passing animals or humans by embedding their spines into the clothing or flesh of their victims.

Cholla cacti have a number of temporary green succulent and spiky leaves at the top of their stems too.

Food From Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear uses

Prickly Pears are incredibly useful plants and can be employed in dye production, as medicine, and as food.

The fruit are known as cactus fruit, cactus fig, Indian fig or "tuna" in Spanish. They can be eaten raw, made into jams and jellies, and even used to flavour ice-cream and desserts. Prickly Pear fruit are made into drinks as well. IN the mountain village of Masca in Tenerife some of the restaurants sell "Cactus ice-cream."

The pads, especially when young are edible too and known as "nopales." They can be sliced up and eaten in salad or cooked as a vegetable or as part of mixed dishes such as the Mexican Huevos con Nopales ("Eggs with Nopales"). They are an important ingredient in cooking and dishes in many parts of the world, but Mexico especially, as this is where the cacti originated.

Prickly Pears are said to be a treatment for diabetes and also as an antidote for hangovers. The various types of Opuntia though have different amounts of medicinal compounds and anti-oxidants so some species are better that other types for specific ailments.

The sap of Prickly Pears has even been employed as hair conditioner.

The cacti have often been cultivated as the host plants for the Cochineal Bug (Dactylopius coccus). These insects are scale insects and the red dye known as cochineal is extracted from their crushed bodies. The bugs feed on the sap of the cacti's pads. Cochineal, being a natural dye and food colouring, has experienced a resurgence in its popularity. It is used in some popular foods including yogurts.

In conclusion it can be said that Prickly Pears are far more than just prickly cacti!

Copyright © 2011 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Prickly Pear Martini Recipe


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Tenerife

      Thank you for your comments, Breakfastpop and Eiddwen!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      A grteat hub and a good way to start my day. This hub is so very well presented and so much information.

      Take care


    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Right now Tenerife seems like a fantastic place to be. Maybe one day....


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)