|Description||Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus, is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae. Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas. Chollas are now separated into the genus Cylindropuntia, which some still consider a subgenus of Opuntia. Austrocylindropuntia, Corynopuntia, and Micropuntia are also often included in the present genus, but like Cylindropuntia, they seem rather distinct. Brasiliopuntia and Miqueliopuntia are closer relatives of Opuntia.
The most common culinary species is the Indian fig opuntia (O. ficus-indica). Most culinary uses of the term "prickly pear" refer to this species. Prickly pears are also known as tuna (fruit) or nopal (paddle, plural nopales) from the Nahuatl word n?palli for the pads, or nostle, from the Nahuatl word n?chtli for the fruit; or paddle cactus.
The genus is named for the Ancient Greek city of Opus, where, according to Theophrastus, an edible plant grew which could be propagated by rooting its leaves.|