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Opuntia littoralis generally grows in dense clumps spreading several meters wide and up to a meter-3 feet tall. The branches are made up of oval-shaped flat segments up to 22 centimeters long. It is covered in clusters of yellowish spines 2 to 4 centimeters long. The flowers are yellow or red. The fruit is purplish red and up to 5 centimeters long. The large spines of prickly pear are not barbed, but the plant also has smaller spines called glochids, that if contacted by skin may be painful and difficult to remove.
chaparral in rocky and sandy soils, this plant is a cactus This spotting was done at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, an estuary and bird sanctuary located next to the Pacific Ocean.
The prickly pear has many uses. The fruit is edible and is used for jelly, soups and in drinks. The pads of the plant itself are sometimes eaten, and the seeds may be used as a thickener. The plant is also used as a dye and has been studied for treatment of diabetes.