The flowers have an urn-shaped calyx which persists around the fruit and is strongly veined, with five stiff, broad, almost prickly lobes; these, when the soft matter is removed by maceration, form very elegant specimens when associated with leaves prepared in a similar way.
Prickly pear (opuntia) hedges are as frequent as in Sicily.
At the base of the tube, in both groups, the ovary becomes developed into a fleshy (often edible) fruit, that produced by the Opuntia being known as the prickly pear or Indian fig.
On the more barren soil the sumach shrub, the leaves of which are used for tanning, and the prickly pear grow freely.
The best-known fruits, besides dates and grapes, are figs, sycamore-figs and pomegranates, apricots and peaches, oranges and citrons, lemons and limes, bananas, which are believed to be of the fruits of Paradise (being always in season), different kinds of melons (including some of aromatic flavour, and the refreshing water-melon), mulberries, Indian figs or prickly pears, the fruit of the lotus and olives.
The latter are borne three together, invested by a cupule of four green bracts, which, as the fruit matures, grow to form the tough green prickly envelope surrounding the group of generally three nuts.
A thousand mountain torrents have scooped out for themselves picturesque ravines, clothed with an ever-fresh verdure of prickly thorns, stunted gnarled shrubs, and here and there a noble forest tree.
Some 320 species of fern have been collected, and there are large numbers of spiny and prickly plants, as well as numerous grasses, reeds and rushes, many of them of great service in the native manufactures of mats, hats, baskets, &c.
- Prickly Pear (Opuntia vulgaris).
The prickly ash, Virginian creeper and staff-tree find here their northern limit; and the mountain maple, Canada blueberry, dwarf birch and ground hemlock their southern limit.
An important product of the plateau and of the open districts of the tierras calientes, growing in the most arid places, is the " nopal " or prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus indica).
Not to mention the olive, which must have been introduced at a remote period, all the members of the orange tribe, the agave and the prickly pear, as well as other plants highly characteristic of Sicilian scenery, have been introduced since the beginning of the Christian era.
Bananas are the most important crop. Other fruits grown in smaller quantities include oranges, figs, dates, pineapples, guavas, custard-apples and prickly pears.
Tobacco, maize and potatoes have been introduced; and the aloe and prickly pear, called in Morocco the Christian fig, are also found.
That which flows from the lower incisions is often collected on tiles or on a concave piece of the prickly pear (Opuntia), but is less crystalline and more glutinous, and is less esteemed.
In the southern provinces flourish also various subtropical exotics, such as the banana, the West Indian cherimoya, and the prickly pear or Indian fig (Opuntia vulgaris), the last frequently grown as a hedge-plant, as in other Mediterranean countries, and extending even to the southern part of the table-land.
In the forests are numerous bright-plumaged birds and many species of monkeys, mostly ground monkeys - the trees being too prickly for climbing.
Oxycedrus, a common plant in the Mediterranean region, forming a shrub or low tree with spreading branches and short, stiff, prickly leaves.
The agave and prickly pear, the myrtle, the olive and the dwarf palm grow luxuriantly; and the fields are covered with narcissus, iris and other flowers of every hue.
Written as this name is in pictures or rebus, it probably suggested the invention of the well-known legend of a prophecy that the war-god's temple should be built where a prickly pear was found growing on a rock, and perched on it an eagle holding a serpent; this legend is still commemorated on the coins of Mexico.
Hence the epigram of Antonios Kriezes to the queen of Greece: " The island produces prickly pears in abundance, splendid sea captains and excellent prime ministers."
Various other adulterants are sometimes used, such as the inspissated juice of the prickly pear, extracts from tobacco, stramonium and hemp, pulp of the tamarind and bael fruit, mahwah flowers and gums of different kinds.