Opuntia (Prickly Pear) Plant with Unripe Fruit (Cactus Pears)

In Albums: Philadelphia gardening plants cactus pears

A straggling prickly pear cactus overflowing from a pot on a city sidewalk, up against a building, with numerous unripe fruit

Jul 6th, 2011, by Alex Zorach

This prickly pear (Opuntia genus) was growing in a pot in Philadelphia, near the Spring Garden stop on SEPTA's Market-Frankford line. The plant is covered with numerous small fruit, which are called cactus pears. I only found a single ripe fruit on this plant, which was interesting as it was so fully ripe and the others were completely green; you can barely see it in this photo but I took a closeup photo of the ripe cactus pear on this plant as well.

This species of prickly pear is evidently a vigorous grower in this climate. One does not think of Philadelphia, with its wet year-round conditions and cold winters, as a suitable climate for cacti, but Opuntia are actually native to nearby regions, such as the pine barrens of New Jersey. In this part of the country, they tend to do well in poor, sandy soil which drains quickly. The same adaptations that allow cacti to conserve water and make do with few nutrients in a desert allow these plants to thrive in otherwise barren and quickly-drying soil in an otherwise wet climate.