Pereskia aculeata

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Barbados gooseberry
Pereskia aculeata4 cropped.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Pereskia
Species: P. aculeata
Binomial name
Pereskia aculeata
Mill.
Synonyms[2]

Pereskia aculeata is a scrambling shrub in the family Cactaceae. Common names include Barbados gooseberry, leaf cactus and ora-pro-nobis. It is native to tropical America. The leaves and fruits are edible, containing high quantities of protein, iron and other nutrients, and it is a popular vegetable in parts of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais under the name of ora-pro-nóbis.

Description[edit]

Like other members of the genus Pereskia, these plants are unusual cacti with spiny non-succulent stems and large leaves.

It is a scrambling vine growing to 10 m (33 ft) tall in trees, with stems 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) thick. Younger stems have hooked thorns and older stems have clusters of woody spines. The leaves are 4–11 cm (1.6–4.3 in) long and 1.5–4 cm (0.59–1.57 in) broad, simple, entire, and deciduous in the dry season. The strongly scented flowers are white, cream or pinkish, 2.5–5 cm (0.98–1.97 in) diameter, and numerous, produced in panicles. The fruit is a rounded berry, translucent white to pink, yellow, orange or red, and 2 cm (0.79 in) in diameter. The leafs are edible, containing 20 to 30% of protein in the dry leaf matter. The fruit are also edible, containing numerous small seeds. It somewhat resembles the gooseberry in appearance and is of excellent flavor.

Distribution[edit]

Native[edit]

Panama, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Virgin Islands (U.S.), French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay.

Introduced[edit]

United States, Mexico, South Africa and Australia.

Ecological significance[edit]

A flea-beetle (Phenrica guérini) and a leaf-mining moth (Epipagis cambogialis), feed on the leaves.

Although Pereskia aculeata is edible and of high nutrition quality, been an alternative to conventional food, this plant is a declared weed in South Africa where it does extensive damage to forest areas by smothering indigenous trees. Infestations occur in some KwaZulu-Natal forests and are embedded in the canopy and difficult to remove. The plant has a tendency to form large, impenetrable clumps and the spines on the stems make control of large infestations difficult. The plants can regrow from leaves or pieces of stem. One specimen that had infested a tree had its stems cut at the base, but after four years the 'dry' stems of the Pereskia that fell from the tree still set root and regrew.[3]

Control[edit]

An old cut stem showing regrowth despite not being in contact with the ground.

These plants are extremely difficult to kill and eradicate. It can be controlled by Triclopyr or biological control with the leaf-feeding flea-beetle, Phenrica guérini, which has caused significant damage to Pereskia plants at Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, South Africa, but although the beetle was also released widely in KwaZulu-Natal, it has not become established there.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Taylor (2002). Pereskia aculeata. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 9 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  2. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ Purves et al. (1995)