In the wild, in common with other cactus, they are found in the western hemisphere, but from the 15th century onwards Europeans have been introducing them to other parts of the world.

Opuntia ficus-carica : Prickly Pear

The Opuntias are the most widespread and well-known forms of cactus. 

In the wild, in common with other cactus, they are found in the western hemisphere, but from the 15th century onwards Europeans have been introducing them to other parts of the world.

Opuntia gets its name from Ancient Greece, where other thorny plants were found in the region around the city of Lokris Opuntia. 

The genus Opuntia is to this day still expanding as new members are discovered. 

It is, however, generally agreed that all opuntias are cactus composed of flat, wide segments.  This is the most widespread of all types of cactus with 181 varieties occurring naturally in the wild, and a further 10 hybrid forms which have hybridised naturally. 

The best known form is Opuntia ficus-carica, with its Turkish name of Diken Incir (Thorny Fig).

In English it is called Prickly Pear or Indian Fig, but in Turkey it is the Thorny Fig (Diken Incir) or Pharaoh’s Fig (Firavun Incir). 

It grows to the size of a shrub or even a tree and can reach a height of 6m. 

A mature plant will have a trunk of 30 – 40cm wide.

The segments which make up the trunk are grey-green or just green.  The oval or elliptical segments vary and can be long, short, narrow or wide. 

On the edge of the wide segments, about 2 – 5cm apart, can be found areoles which are surrounded by yellow or brown glochids (short, barbed hairs), which soon fall off the plant. 
There will usually be 1 or two thorns adjacent to each glochid. 

Yellow flowers, bowl-shaped and 8 – 10cm in length open in spring. They are followed by pink fruit about 10cm in length covered in hairs which can cause itching.

Nowadays this plant is grown all over the the world with many people benefiting from its fruit.

It is especially popular in South Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean. 

The plant is the home of the cochineal beetle which gives a red dye and Opuntia ficus carica is grown on the Canary Islands purely to produce cochineal beetles.

The fruit can be eaten straight from the plant or made into jams and marmelades.

It has now become so widespread in South Africa that the thorny version is now a banned plant, although the thornless type can still be planted. 

There are currently moves in Australia to also ban further planting.

For a wide range of special plants visit the areas best nursery, The Palm Centre at Köyceğiz.

It is open daily between 1st June – 31st October but you can visit at any other time by appointment. Just ring or email (English is spoken):

E-mail:  : palmiyemerkezi@ttnet.net.tr

Tel      :  +90 252 262 28 92
Fax      :  +90 252 262 51 61

URL      :  http://www.palmiyemerkezi.com

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