Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus 
Opuntia humifusa


    The Eastern Prickly Pear has very few harmful predators due to its sharp spikes. However, humans can be a danger to this plant. Its fruit is often harvested for human consumption. The fruit can be used to make candies, jellies, drinks, and many other things. It was also be eaten raw after it has been properly cleaned to get all of the spikes off. The pads of the cactus can also be cooked and eaten. 
    Other than consumption, the cactus has also shown some positive results being used in medicine. Some compounds that it contains with medical relevance are 3-methoxytyramine, candicine, hordenine, N-methyltyramine, and tyramine. These compounds provide a wide variety of benefits to the body. Some act as antibiotics and others play a role in hormone production and distribution. Opuntia is also being studies as a possible treatment for type II diabetes. Interested in other organisms used in medicine? Click here to learn about the antibiotic penicillin.
    Other than humans, insects also interact with this plant. The bumblebee has a mutualistic relationship with the cactus in that the bee feeds on the sweet sap of the plant and in doing so spreads pollen  from the flower. Some birds also tend to eat the fruit of the plant. This consumption of the fruit helps spread the seeds so more plants can grow. To learn more about how these animals affect the life of the Prickly Pear, visit the Reproduction portion of this site.