Opuntia ficus-indica is polyploid, hermaphrodite and autogamous. As Opuntia species grow in semi-arid environments, the main limiting factor in their environment is water. They have developed a number of adaptations to dry conditions, notably succulence. The perennial shrub Opuntia ficus-indica can grow up to 3–5 m height, with thick, succulent and oblong to spatulate stems called cladodes. It has a water-repellent and sun-reflecting waxy epidermis. Cladodes that are 1–2 years old produce flowers, the fruit's colours ranging from pale green to deep red. The plants flower in three distinct colours: white, yellow, and red. The flowers first appear in early May through the early summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the fruits ripen from August through October. The fruits are typically eaten, minus the thick outer skin, after chilling in a refrigerator for a few hours. They have a taste similar to sweet watermelon. The bright red/purple or white/yellowish flesh contains many tiny hard seeds that are usually swallowed, but should be avoided by those who have problems digesting seeds.