Prickly Pear Cactus (beaver tail)
Also known as Coastal Prickly Pear (Opuntia littoralis) this is a member of the easily recognized Cactus family, although there are several different species. It grows in dry, sometimes sandy areas. It can form thickets up to several feet high, and has showy yellow flowers. The fruits are pear-shaped, from white to dark redish and covered with bristles. It blooms from May to June. The pads are often mistaken for leaves, when actualy the spines are the leaves. The pads and flowers are edible and also used medicinally. Even today, the fleshy pads are much relished, consumed in several different ways. Just ask anyone about "nopales." The flowers are astringent and can be made into a tea for stomach complaints. The sliced pads have been used for wounds, bites and stings in animals and humans. A great resource.