Prickly pear cactus (or Opuntia) is among the most widespread cactus genus in the US. With over 40 species, this plant is best characterized by flat, club-shaped pads that contain spines (hence the name "prickly pear").
Many varieties of Opuntia have large, round spines, while others have tiny, hair-like barbs that detach upon contact. Prickly pears are most prized for their edibility, as they grow cactus fruit (or tunas) commonly enjoyed as a refreshing snack in Mexico and the American Southwest. The distinctive reddish-purple juice of the cactus fruit can also be used to make thirst-quenching drinks, craft cocktails, candy, and jellies. When grown outdoors, the cactus' ornamental blooms surface mid-summer. But for cactus lovers who don't live in arid desert climates, consider potting and growing them indoors for year-round enjoyment.