MadSci Network: Botany

Re: What is the fruit on a cactus? Do all cactus' have edible fruit?

Date: Tue Mar 16 17:23:02 2004
Posted By: David Hershey, Faculty, Botany, NA
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1079449526.Bt

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 

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 

For information on cactus fruits eaten by Native Americans check the 
Native American Ethnobotany Database 



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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