|MadSci Network: Botany|
Cactus are in the Cactus Family (Cactaceae). Be aware that cactus is part of the common name of some species in the Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae). A cactus fruit is a berry, which is defined botanically as a fleshy fruit with a thin skin derived from a single ovary. Grapes, tomatoes and blueberries are also true berries. Berry is misapplied in some common plant names, such as strawberry. The fleshy part of a strawberry fruit is the receptacle, and the "seeds" on the surface are the actual fruits termed achenes. Raspberry, mulberry and blackberry are aggregate fruits derived from numerous ovaries. I doubt all 1,000 to 2,000 species of cactus have edible fruits or fruits that would be worth eating. Some cactus species, such as peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi), are notorious for their hallucinogenic properties. Fruit of such hallucinogenic cactus would be inedible. There are several species that do have fruits worth eating including prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), Cereus spp., organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus spp.), hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus spp.), barrel cactus (Ferocactus spp.) and Barbados gooseberry (Pereskia aculeata). Indian fig (Opuntia Ficus-Indica) is probably the most widely eaten cactus fruit. For information on cactus fruits eaten by Native Americans check the Native American Ethnobotany Database References Cactaceae Cactus (Cactaceae) Berry definitions Botanical Fruit Types Cactus as an Edible Fruit Human and Animal Uses of Cactus Plants of the Cactaceae
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