Brasiliopuntia is a genus that contains only one species of flowering cacti known as B. Brasiliensis or, most commonly, the Brazilian Prickly Pear. These cacti belong to the Cactaceae family and can be found growing in Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, and northern Argentina. They have become highly cultivated as ornamental houseplants and naturalized in Florida and other regions around the world.
Brazilian Prickly Pears look very similar to the well-known collection of Prickly Pear cacti from the Opuntia genus. Still, these beauties are quite different because they grow on tall trunks and form an alluring tree-like structure. They are mostly seen in desert gardens among other adapted-to-drought plants called xerophytes, including pineapple, other species of cacti, and some Gymnosperm plants.
Although the main attraction of these cacti is their intimidating presence, they play a big part in many other areas and industries. Brazilian Prickly Pears bear juicy fruits that are considered edible in many traditional cuisines. Their flat stems (cladodes) and fruits have been used in folk medicine and some people still find them very effective. Moreover, the cladodes make for excellent materials for fodder, while the wood was often seen in furniture manufacturing.
About Brazilian Prickly Pear
- They were initially placed in the Opuntia genus. Due to their distinctive growing habit and peculiar appearance, they were later transformed into a full-time genus.
- These cacti will thrive, bloom, and bear fruits only if they are grown in a sunny and warm environment that is similar to their natural habitat.
- Brazilian Prickly Pears are suitable for both indoor and outdoor growing, but most gardeners prefer to plant them outside. They are more likely to show better results when grown outdoors in a garden.
- Like most desert species, these cacti do not require too much water. Their succulent leaves can store large amounts of water, making them very drought-tolerant.
- If you want to give these cacti the time of their life, plant them in porous cactus soil and provide adequate airflow. The soil must be well-draining and watered only when has dried out completely.
- While caring for Brazilian Prickly Pears, take some time to inspect them for pests like scale insects or mealybugs. The infected parts can be treated with neem oil.
- There are no toxic effects reported in general, but Brazilian Prickly Pears come armed with lots of sharp spines. Grow them in a location that is not frequented by curious pets and children.
Brazilian Prickly Pear Features: An Overview
- In the past, the Brasiliopuntia genus contained many more species than it does today. However, they had very similar features and are now considered only varieties of B. Brasiliopuntia.
- The Brazilian Prickly Pear is a perennial tree-like species of cacti that can reach up to 66 feet (20 m) in height and from 8 to 15 feet (2.4-4.7 m) in diameter.
- These cacti produce thin, flat, and succulent leaves that come in small sizes and colored in a beautiful bright green. These leaves grow on a thick, cylindrical, and greenish trunk/stems that may present large and sharp spikes.
- Their foliage is slightly covered in reddish to brown spines that can grow about 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) long from white areoles. From each areole can rise upright one or more “prickly” spines.
- When reaching maturity, Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti exhibit flowers of various shades of pale yellow to bright orange. They usually measure up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long and wide.
- Their blossoms are followed by adorable-looking fruits of the same sizes. They look very similar to pears and present many colors including yellow, red, purple, or orange-red.
- The juicy, fragrant, and slightly flavored fruits contain about one to five tiny and woolly seeds. They can be collected very easily and used in propagation.
- Thanks to their similar environmental requirements, Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti can be grown among any other desert species in gardens and even pots.
Growing Brazilian Prickly Pear
Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti are among the easiest houseplants to grow and care for as long as their growing conditions are similar to those from their natural habitat. Like all desert species, they will grow best in warm locations with lots of sunlight and little water.
If you already live in a region with hot and arid climates, the only thing you must do is to find a nice place outside to plant your cacti and leave them alone to enjoy the natural conditions. If not, however, you will have to mimic their native environment to ensure your cacti grow healthy and happy.
Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti thrive when they are exposed to bright and strong light. Outdoors, plant them in a location where they can receive plenty of full to partial sunlight all day. When growing in pots, make sure you place these cacti in the brightest spot from your home, such as near east, west, or south-facing windows.
Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti do well in the warmest temperatures you can provide them with. They are somehow cold hardy in regions where winters are not too harsh and temperatures stay above 20 °F (-6.7 °F), but not for too long. If you live in a cooler area, it is suggested to grow your cacti indoors in a warmer environment. You can also keep these cacti outdoors in a pot and bring them back inside when the temperatures drop too low or winter is settling in.
Planting Brazilian Prickly Pear
These prickly, not picky cacti can grow in any type of acidic to neutral soil as long as it is well-draining. When growing Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti indoors, look for a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom and fill it with a commercial potting mix specifically designed for cacti and succulents. For optimal drainage, you can add a substrate of perlite or pebbles in their container.
Brazilian Prickly Pears grow at a pretty slow pace, so they need repotting less often than other species. When their roots become crammed, you can transplant your cacti in a pot that is slightly larger than the current one in spring. However, they should be repotted once every year to always provide them with fresh soil. Skip watering for a week or more for newly repotted plants.
Watering Brazilian Prickly Pear
Like with most cacti, you will have no problems with these desert species when it comes to watering. Thanks to their high tolerance of drought, they can thrive even if their owner forgets about them once in a while. As a general rule, it is always better to provide Brazilian Prickly Pears with less water than to let them sit in soggy soil and over-water.
If you give them a deep soaking and allow the soil to dry out completely, you have no chance to do something wrong to these cacti. Make sure you check the soil in-between waterings and provide your plants with water only when it feels dry to the touch.
When the winter has settled in, you can skip watering for good until spring shows its first warmth. Also, it is better to let your Brazilian Prickly Pears be during cooler, humid, or overcast days to avoid stressing the plants too much.
Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis, From Amazon
Propagating Brasiliopuntia Brasiliensis
If you are satisfied with these beautiful-looking cacti and their easy-going style, why not have more of them? Or maybe you could surprise your best friend with a tiny and cute Brazilian Prickly Pear cactus.
Either way, you should know that your cactus can be propagated through seeds and cuttings without much effort on your part. And once your first try shows nice results, we assure you that you will want more and more babies right away!
The seeds can be collected from their fruits, so Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti can be propagated this way only when they will bear some. Take out the seeds from the fruits and remove any excess pulp that can be found around them.
Plant the seeds in a tray, bed, or pot that is filled with fresh potting soil and keep them in a warm location. You can also cover the container with plastic wrap to maintain the ideal humidity for germination.
Once the first signs of growth occur, remove the plastic wrap, move the seedlings to a bright location, and provide them with regular watering anytime the soil feels dry to the touch.
Propagating Brazilian Prickly Pear cacti through cuttings is the most common method used by gardeners. For optimal results, make sure you are using healthy pads in the process. The pods can be removed from the mother plant with bare hands or using a sharp and sterilized knife to cut them.
Once the little pods have been removed, let them dry in a warm and shaded place for one or two weeks to allow the wounds to heal completely. Fill a pot with fresh dry cactus mix and plant your cuttings carefully in it. You must refrain from watering until they develop a strong root system to avoid any possible rotting.
Who said that cacti cannot be flawless and mesmerizing? Just look at these! Although they can intimidate every curious passenger, Brazilian Prickly Pears do not have as many demands as it may seem. As long as you find the perfect environment and spoil them with lots of love, your tree-like cacti will be a great and protective companion for a long time!
Are you growing Brazilian Prickly Pear? Share your experience with us in the comments!