Opuntia, also known as Paddle Cactus from the resemblance to the ball-and-paddle toy, is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.
Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas.
Prickly pear cacti typically grow with flat, rounded platyclades that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike spines called glochids that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. Many types of prickly pears grow into dense, tangled structures.
Prickly pear species are found in abundance in the West of the United States, from arid regions in the Northwest, throughout the mid and lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains, and especially in the Southwest. They are also found throughout much of Mexico.
The fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus figs, Indian fig or tuna is edible, although it has to be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption...