Opuntia humifusa, commonly known as the Eastern Prickly Pear or Indian Fig, is a native cactus found in most of eastern North America. It ranges from Montana eastward to southern Ontario and then on to Massachusetts, south to Florida and westward to New Mexico.
The flowers are yellow to gold in color and are found along the margins of mature segments. The flowers are waxy and sometimes have red centers. They measure 4-6 cm wide and bloom in the late spring. The juicy and edible red egg shaped fruits called tunas measure from 5.1-7.6 cm. Fruits of the prickly pear are very popular everywhere except the United States. In fact, annual worldwide commercial production of prickly pear tunas is more than twice that of strawberries, avocados, or apricots! The pads, called nopales, are a popular vegetable in Mexico and Central America. They are usually cooked but can be eaten raw.
As the fruit matures, it changes colour from green to red, it tastes a little like watermelon and green beans and often remains on the cactus until the following spring. There are 6 to 33 small, flat, light-colored seeds in each fruit.
This plant is very intolerant of shade. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil.