Opuntia stricta, Cactaceae
A month ago today I was coming back to Glasgow from a visit to my family in Milan, so I feel a bit nostalgic. The first thing they did as my boyfriend and I arrived was to take us to the beach in Liguria -we went to Cogoleto, birthplace of Christopher Columbus- so I grabbed the chance to take some photos of plants. There are quite a few species of Opuntia which have naturalised there, but the one you see above is generally known as compact prickly pear and native to an area encompassing southern North America, Central America, including the Caribbean, and northern South America. It is now present not only along many Mediterranean coasts, but basically anywhere it could thrive, in Africa, Southern Asia and Australia, often causing trouble as it can be rather invasive. Aside from being quite decorative, it is often used to create hedges and living fences.
Both the fruits, red when ripe, and the young pads are edible, but this applies to most Opuntia species; you might know these food products with their Spanish name, respectively, tuna and nopal, they are both delicious and you should try them if you have never had the chance!
While I was taking photos I noticed a pad was laying detached, quite dry, curled up on itself and failing to root. It came home to Scotland with me, I flattened it down for a few days with the help of some heavy botany books and potted it up. Still a bit wrinkly, but It looks much happier now!