Opuntia - Prickly Pear
Facinating plants that look like landlocked coral especially when the goats have eaten them.
The prickly pear grows in particular abundance on Hydra. The Mediterranean climate suits them perfectly. Prickly pears typically grow with flat, rounded cladodes (also called platyclades) that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles called glochids, that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. Many types of prickly pears grow into dense, tangled structures.
The fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus fruit or cactus fig, is edible, although it has to be peeled very carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If not properly peeled, spines can be ingested, causing discomfort of the throat, lips, and tongue, as the small spines are easily lodged in the skin.
Cactus figs, the coloured protusions along the edges of the flat, green paddle like leaves, are often used to make candies, jelly, or drinks such as vodka or lemonade if you're brave enough to deal with the spines.
These plants grow in profusion all over the island and the wild goats adore eating them.
The internal structure of the Prickly Pear plant is facinating and in areas where goats roam free, you can find plenty of evidence of dismantled plants that have almost been 'eaten' whole by the animals.
Instead of the mushy, wetness of a succulent plant or the woodiness of a tree, the internal stucture of a Prickly Pear bush is more like coral. Indeed when you look what is left after the plants have been stripped by the goats, the likeness to sea corals appear even more like landlocked relations!