|Developing fruit of Pereskia aculeata|
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 leafs and fruits are edible, containing high quantities of protein, iron and other nutrients.
It is a scrambling vine growing to 10 m (33 ft) tall in trees, with stems 2–3 cm (0.79–1.2 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 (0.59–1.6 in) broad, simple, entire, and deciduous in the dry season. The strongly scented flowers are white, cream or pinkish, 2.5–5 cm (0.98–2.0 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.
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.
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.
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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pereskia aculeata.|
- Grocer's Encyclopedia: The Encyclopedia of Food and Beverage, by Artemas Ward, New York, 1911.
- Pooley, E. (1998). A Field Guide to Wild Flowers; KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. ISBN 0-620-21500-3.