What is a prickly pear?
If you’re ever on a hike in the field, look out for nature’s emergency kit, the Prickly Pear.
This handy cactus is very tough and grows easily in harsh terrains. What makes the Prickly Pear so special? It stores a lot of water while being a healthy food source. It is also a natural remedy for inflammation and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.
The most remarkable thing about this plant is that its flesh (mucilage) can be used to purify water, cleaning it from bacteria and toxins.
Scientists from Florida recently realized that if the Aztecs, the ancient people of Mexico, could use prickly pear to treat dirty water, modern society could too. They’re now looking into ways of using this ancient method to help fight the global water crisis. But here is another surprising thing the prickly pear can do: in powdered form, it can dissolve oil into tiny particles that can be eaten by microbes in the sea. Therefore, it can be used in marine conservation to absorb and clean up dangerous oil spills in the ocean.
By Eloise Kruger (Whyzz writer)
Access to clean water
About 750 million people all over the world, don’t have access to safe drinking water. They either have to walk very far to provide their families with drinkable water, or they get severely sick from drinking contaminated water. Imagine if everyone could have access to the flesh of a prickly pear, for a cheap and easy solution to clean water!
A famous legend from the Galapagos Islands tells the story of an Irish sailor, Patrick Watkins, called Irish Pat. About 200 years ago, he was left behind on the uninhabited Isabela Island for having insulted his captain. Although he found plenty to eat, like birds and tortoises, he almost died from not having fresh water. Apparently the water stored in the prickly pears’ flesh, helped him survive, and after months on the island, he finally got taken on board a whaling ship and was taken to Floreana Island.