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Home - Use - Prickly Pear Cactus - Geographical distribution

Nopales

Distribución geográfico del nopal

The characteristics of the prickly pear are closely linked to the arid environment in which it has evolved. It is found throughout the American continent from sea level to altitudes of close to four thousand meters, and dominates in plant communities we call wild prickly pear fields.

In Mexico, the Opuntia genus has a wide distribution, but the regions with the highest species richness are the central and northern highlands, the northwest, the Bajio, the Neovolcanic axis and the valley of Tehuacán-Cuicatlán. In the dry tropical regions and deserts of the north there is less richness, but it is there that endemic species of great importance can be found.

Brought to Europe by the Spanish, the dispersal of cactus through the world has been random since the sailors used to carry a plentiful supply of tunas with them to prevent scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency). Selected varieties were subsequently taken to establish plantations for various purposes, such as arresting land desertification or for the production of forage. Today, wild prickly pear has been naturalized and cultivated in many semiarid regions of the world. Some countries have plantations larger than those of Mexico, and with diversified genetic resources.

 
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