Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus (see below), 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. Chollas are now separated into the genus Cylindropuntia, which some still consider a subgenus of Opuntia. Austrocylindropuntia, Corynopuntia and Micropuntia are also often included in the present genus, but like Cylindropuntia they seem rather well distinct. Brasiliopuntia andMiqueliopuntia are closer relatives of Opuntia.
The most commonly culinary species is the Indian Fig Opuntia (O. ficus–indica). Most culinary uses of the term “prickly pear” refer to this species. Prickly pears are also known as “tuna”, “nopal” or nopales, from the Nahuatl word nōpalli for the pads, or nostle, from the Nahuatl word nōchtli for the fruit; or paddle cactus.
The genus is named for the Ancient Greek city of Opus where, according to Theophrastus, an edible plant grew which could be propagated by rooting its leaves.
Enjoy the beauty and avoid the thorns today, it might just stick to ya! ††† en theos ††† jlawrence