Besides the beauty of its flowers, though, this is a surprisingly beneficial plant. It is a complex carbohydrate food whose various parts may be eaten. The pads are vegetable-like with a green bean quality and okra texture, the flowers impart fruity tastes and can be made into candy or jelly, and when cooked down the nectar can provide an alcoholic kick (tequilas anyone?). It has medicinal qualities, too, that may in lower cholesterol and regulate glucose in diabetics; the sap is like aloe vera and can be used to soothe burned or irritated skin. But it is called prickly pear for a reason. The spines can hurt and can be hard to remove from unprotected skin.
I am not inclined toward anything except admiration right now so I’ll be careful and keep my distance. It is an interesting plant to ponder on, though. It’s beautiful but dangerous. It looks so plain until it flowers but what a wealth it is hiding. And one wouldn’t think that a cactus would survive in this northeastern environment yet here it is, bursting with life. A beautiful reminder of the mystery of nature.
Here are some more photos of prickly pears from the Google files:
Images for prickly pear cactus