Focus on flora: Rose cactus

Focus on flora: Rose cactus

The rose cactus is not necessarily what its name implies. We know that roses and cacti are two very different plants, but this is a cactus whose blossoms resemble those of a rose.

One of the few cacti with true leaves, the rose cactus, or Pereskia bleo, is an intriguing plant with many applications, including keeping unwanted guests out of your yard, using it for the medicinal qualities in its leaves, and consuming its strangely shaped edible fruit.

Pereskia bleo is native to Central and South America and is used across tropical and subtropical regions as an ornamental. It has deep orange flowers which pop in the cooler winter months, and then mature into beautifully odd-shaped yellow/orange fruits. The fruits are waxy in touch and appearance, and hold small black seeds inside.

This plant prefers full sun to part shade, and well drained soils, similar to most other plants in the Cactaceae family. Although similar to other cacti, rose cactus is easily identified by its black clusters of spines that line up and down the branches of its woody base. These spines grow from areoles and are very painful to the touch.

Pereskia bleo’s leaves have been used for a number of medicinal purposes, but as with most medicinal plants, it is best to consult a professional before trying these. The fruits, though quite sour, are edible. Caymanian chef and winner of UK Young Chef of the Year 2017, Jack Barwick, is preparing a special treat from the fruits of the rose cacti growing in Camana Bay’s Canella Court for the Slow Food Day Harvest Dinner on 14 April.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 print edition of Camana Bay Times.


About the author

Shannon Schmidt is the Horticulture Manager at Dart’s Arboretum Services Ltd. Joining Dart in 2012, Shannon previously worked in parks, public gardens and tourism properties, among others. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, Shannon loves island life, spending time paddleboarding around the canals and mangroves, in the sea, and spending time outdoors with her two energetic Boston Terriers Nollie and Ebbie and her equally energetic partner Chase! Shannon holds a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management from The Pennsylvania State University and a Diploma in Horticulture from the Longwood Gardens Professional School of Horticulture, and loves spending time swinging in a hammock, with her favourite smoothie from Jessie’s Juice Bar and reading material from Books & Books.

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