Prickly Apple, Apple Cactus, Fragrant Apple Cactus

by Green Deane

in Edible Raw, Fruits/Berries, Plants, Trees/Shrubs

Harrisia Trio: Endangered Edibles All


Just as it is important to know what to eat, it’s as important to know what not to eat, or if you do, how to do it right.

Above are three endangered cactus, all with edible fruit. Let’s say you are in a mangrove swamp, your canoe has floated away because you didn’t watch the changing tide. You also didn’t have the good sense to tell anyone where you were going or what you were going to do on your month off.  Since no one lives within miles of you there is no cellphone tower nearby for your phone to work.  After a week of resisting the fruit of these endangered species you succumb to your hunger. You find up to 1500 seeds in each one. Spread the seeds around, give them to your friends with green thumbs after you’re rescued. You will be rescued because you now have a mission, to help the endangered species that helped keep you going. Just don’t tell anyone with a badge you ate the fruit of an endangered species… kinda like eating Spotted Owl eggs….

Other than DNA testing, the only way to tell the Harrisia simpsonii (above right) apart is the former has fruit that ripens to red and the latter to yellow. The Harrisia fragrans (center above) is so rare we let it remain mysterious. I became interested in the species when I saw H. simpsonii while out kayaking. The red ruit stoot out among the greenery, problem part of the plant’s strategy to attract creature attention and spread its seeds around.

Harrisia (hair-RIS-ee-uh ) honors William Harris (1860-1920) of Jamaica who contributed greatly to our knowledge of the flora of that island. He was superintendent of the Public Gardens and Plantations of Jamaica.  Arboriginium (ab-or-RIJ-in-um ) has been on pre-Columbian shell mounts and that is why it is called arboriginiumSimpsonii simp-SON-ee-eye) honors south Florida naturalist Charles T. Simpson (1846-1932. See Simpson Stopper.)   Fragrans (fray-granz) means fragrant.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Prickly apple and Apple cactus: Shrubby,  to 12 feet tall, on the ground or on shells or the like, sometimes vine like, often branched, one to one and half inched through, cylindrical,  with nine or 10 ridges, spines 3/4 to an inch long,  in groups of 6 or 12. Flowers nocturnal, funnel shaped, white, no odor. Young pointed buds are covered with hair. Fruit oblate, dull red or yellow.

TIME OF YEAR: Nearly year round

ENVIRONMENT: Hammocks, mangrove swamps


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