En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - December 23, 2005

From: Roswell, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Medicinal Plants
Title: Dumb question about prickly pear
Answered by: Nan Hampton


This is probably a really dumb question but I am interested in picking the prickly pear next year when it is in season, and was wondering the best way to get all of the little stickers off of the pear. Also, what is the best way to use them for medicinal purposes. Thank you.


The easiest way to remove the small fine stickers (called glochids) is to burn them off. The Spring 2005 issue of our magazine, Native Plants has a "How to" article describing the process. We recommend using a kitchen propane torch, the kind you use for making Creme Brulee, for the glochids and using a paring knife to remove the larger thorns. It would also be possible to remove the glochids using the flame on your gas cooking top. Spear the prickly pear fruit (called a tuna) on a barbecue fork and rotate it over the flame until the glochids have burned off. (From painful personal experience I can tell you this doesn't work over a candle. The flame is not hot enough to successfully burn off all the glochids.)

An article from Gourmet Sleuth describes a method for removing the spines from the the tunas and the nopalitos (the cactus pads) that doesn't involve flames. Their method is to peel them—very carefully, of course. This page also talks about the medicinal uses which include lowering LDL cholesterol levels. On the Native American Ethnobotany web page of the University of Michigan you can enter "Opuntia" as the search term and find references to other medicinal and culinary uses for the various parts of the prickly pear cactus.

More Medicinal Plants Questions

Tree that successfully treats psoriasis
January 31, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty plants,I have a rather unusual question. Do you know of a tree/plant that you can grow in a container, looks like a conifer/evergreen, is green, has wispy looking branches, but when t...
view the full question and answer

Lippia alba for sale at Wildflower Center
June 09, 2013 - Do you have this plant for sale Lippia Alba. thanks
view the full question and answer

List of plants native to the Abilene, Texas area
September 15, 2011 - Am looking for direction to a complete list of plants native to the Abilene, Taylor County, Texas area (trees, shrubs, grasses, cacti and other plants that grew here before cultivation, eradication or...
view the full question and answer

Dog eats Celtis laevigata, sugar hackberry
May 21, 2012 - This is an odd question but I am a biologist and have for years notice an odd behavior in my Golden Retriever. When he gets stomach distress or something makes him nervous like an incoming thunderstor...
view the full question and answer

medicinal uses of Rudbeckia triloba
September 16, 2009 - Browneyed Susan, Brown-eyed-Susan, Thin-leaved coneflower, Three-lobed Rudbeckia Rudbeckia triloba L My question relates to the above species. I am doing research on historically medicinal plants...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center