Ajuntament de Barcelona

Opuntia ficus-indica

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Figuera de moro
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Indian fig
    Botanical synonyms: 
    Cactus ficus-indica, Cactus opuntia
    Species characteristics
    Road sides, garrigues and cliffs

    Robust prickled and erect (up to 6 m tall) plant. The flattened stems form oval medium green articles (which can be spontaneously detached from the rest by the most constrained part). These big articles (30-50 cm long) have prominent areolas (spots where the prickles are grouped), with many deciduous brownish long and hard glochidia (rigid hairs) and 3-6 short white divergent hair-looking prickles.

    The crown-shaped flowers are very big (7-8 cm in diameter), bright and colourful. Their colour varies from yellow to red. They appear once a year on the areolas at the articles' margin.

    The fruit is a fleshy berry, with very thick and prickled peel and pulp with many seeds. The very thin prickles are very rigid when the fruit is unripe, but when ripping they become soft and easy to detach. The ripe fruit, orangish yellow to red, depending on the varieties, is oval-shaped (5.5-7 cm in diameter and 5-11 cm long). Its weight is very variable: from 40 g to 220 g.

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Fruits of the Indian Fig are used as fresh fruit, to make jams and as a juice. It's also used to make liqueur. In Mexico, the young knots are eaten as vegetable, salty and as a salad and sauce ingredient.

    Besides its use as food, the Indian Fig has its use in the cosmetic industry, in medicine and as a decoration plant.

    Traditionally speaking, the Indian Fig was grown because of its uses and properties but it is now a wild plant.

    History and curiosities: 

    The Indian fig scientific name, Opuntia ficus-indica, comes from the Latin opūntia, “from Opus”, an old Greek town, and ficus-indica, “Indian fig tree”, from ficus, “fig tree”, and indica, “Indian”.

    At Pinya de Rosa Garden, in Blanes (Gerona), there are 600 species.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001