The Opuntia (Prickly Pear Cactus) is a plant that is Native to Oklahoma.

It’s a multipurpose cactus that provides beautiful flowers, delicious fruit, and color to the nature of Oklahoma. Opuntia Humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus) can be used as food or medicine. The peeled pads of the cactus have been used in a variety of ways such as to poultice wounds, treat warts, and to make tea!

The Eastern Prickly Pear

The Eastern Prickly Pear is a low growing Opuntia that produces (usually) yellow flowers from May through July. It can typically be found in rocky outcrops and on bluffs in sandy soil.

Opuntia Prickly Pear Fruit

Indigenous people like the Tequesta (Native to South Florida) would roll the fruit of the cactus in grit to sand off the spines on the outer skin before eating it. You can also burn off the spines by torching the fruit over a fire.

Modern Usage

Today, researchers at the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan have developed a way of creating a biodegradable plastic from the juice of the prickly pear cactus. This new material begins breaking down after sitting in the soil for a month and when left in water it breaks down in a matter of days compared to the hundreds of years of single use plastics.