Opuntia ficus-indicais a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant important in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. It is thought to possibly be native to Mexico. Some of the common English names for the plant and its fruit areIndian fig opuntia,barbary fig,cactus pearandprickly pear, although this last name has also been applied to other less common Opuntia species.
Fig opuntia is grown primarily as a fruit crop, but also for the vegetable nopales and other uses. Most culinary references to the "prickly pear" are referring to this species. The name "tuna" is also used for the fruit of this cactus, and for Opuntia in general; according to Alexander von Humboldt, it was a word of Hispaniola native origin taken into the Spanish language around 1500 CE.
Cacti are good crops for dry areas because they efficiently convert water into biomass.O. ficus-indica, as the most widespread of the long-domesticated cactuses, is as economically important as corn and tequila agave in Mexico today. BecauseOpuntiaspecies hybridize easily (much like oaks), the wild origin ofO. ficus-indicais likely to have been in Mexico due to the fact that its close genetic relatives are found in central Mexico