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Opuntia

The variety of nature

Nature is an extraordinary entity that has managed to create everything we see around us and, but many people forget it too quickly, including ourselves; everything that man boasts of creating, in reality is only built, or assembled, but the raw materials, the bricks or the pieces that allow us to build everything, are all made by nature. It therefore stands out for an extraordinary variety of possibilities, since probably from the same primordial cell both sharks and sheep, both the redwood tree that reaches fifty meters in height and both the slender orchid that we have in dining room. Just by focusing on the plant part of our planet, we see that there are really many very different characteristics in it, which even make us doubt that two completely different species are part of the one kingdom of plants. Examples of this are all too simple: let’s put a luxuriant plant, full of fragrant flowers and rich in color like hydrangea, let’s compare it now with a succulent plant, which has “learned” in an evolution of millions of years to minimize the loss of moisture due to the arid climate in which it lives: it is extraordinary.

Succulents


And the topic of this article is the succulents, or rather an important species of this group: opuntia. Succulents are a branch of the plant world that groups under this name all those plant species that through a very strong evolution have adapted to live in an arid and (most of the time) very hot climate. This extreme case has led, as the well-known proverb says, to “extreme remedies”, or to extraordinary adaptations to avoid losing what is absolutely precious for a plant: water. Even if we do not really talk about water for succulents, because in the desert there is no water and there is little to discuss; the speech is so extreme that in fact we speak of “humidity”,

Opuntia

Opuntia is a succulent plant belonging to the well-known family of Cactaceae, commonly known as “cacti”, which for all refers to plants from a desert environment. It is not a single species, but it is a genus that includes many different species, even quite similar in appearance to each other but with well-determined differences in the foliar development and in the flowers and fruits. Opuntia is a plant that has various stems, which depending on the species can be flat or globular, and which in both cases are called clatodes. Well, on them there are thorns, which are accompanied by small cylindrical leaves in rather rare cases; much more often the opuntia has flowers, which are solitary and in fact one can be found per stem, exactly at its apex. The kinds of flowers have various conformations, passing from the normal shape with oval sepals to that with tapered and long petals, but all are characterized by very bright colors. Opuntia also produces fruits, which are born when the flower dries and are characterized by a particular sweetness (they are used for jams and sweets), because they contain many very small seeds and because they are covered with symmetrical thorns that make handling them very difficult.

Opuntia: The prickly pear and other peculiarities

A plant well known to us also belongs to the genus of opuntia, namely the prickly pear, which grows natively and independently in the Mediterranean basin and whose fruits (jargon called “figurine” but officially “prickly pear” mother plant itself) are very popular on our tables. This plant can also reach large dimensions, growing up to three or four meters in height, and with characteristic roots that extend horizontally rather than in depth (the desert humidity may rest on the surface, but will never reach deep into the arid soil. ). Opuntia has a name that derives from ancient Greek, and in fact Pliny the Elder speaks of it, but in reality scientific studies have made it official that it is not the same plant, also because this currently widespread and we are talking about is native to South America. In these areas it is very widespread and curiously its leaves and its fleshy stems are used to feed cows, pigs and other farm animals, while the fruits are widespread and appreciated as we do, also because they contain vitamin C in considerable quantities. Its survival is guaranteed even in cold winter temperatures, as long as the water supply is completely suspended, while in summer it must be very regular even if not frequent. also because they contain vitamin C in considerable quantities. Its survival is guaranteed even in cold winter temperatures, as long as the water supply is completely suspended, while in summer it must be very regular even if not frequent. also because they contain vitamin C in considerable quantities. Its survival is guaranteed even in cold winter temperatures, as long as the water supply is completely suspended, while in summer it must be very regular even if not frequent.

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