Botany Photo of the Day work-learn student Taisha is again the author. She writes:
Today's photo is of Pereskia aculeata (Cactaceae) or the Barbados gooseberry. This photograph was taken by a regular contributor to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr pool, 3Point141@Flickr. Thanks for sharing, 3Point141!
Pereskia aculeata (PDF with additional photographs) is one of 17 recognized species in its genus, which is considered one of the best living representations of the ancestral cactus. Species in the genus have leafy habits, non-succulent stems with stomata, and delayed bark formation. Pereskia aculeata is an erect woody shrub when young, but becomes scrambling or vinelike as it matures.
Like other Cactaceae, Pereskia aculeata has distinctive spine-bearing areoles, floral cups with leaf-bearing nodes, and numerous perianth (calyx and corolla) segments. The spines usually occur in pairs or trios in the leaf axils. The deciduous leaves of this species are waxy, alternately-arranged, and elliptical to oblong or ovate in shape. Yellow to white flowers are arranged in corymbs or panicles. The fruit is round and orange-yellow to red with leathery skin. The fruits, with only a few black to brown seeds inside, remain surrounded by the sepals of the calyx until ripe.
The Barbados gooseberry is native to much of Central America and South America. It is also naturalized in parts of the southern USA (Florida and Texas), China, South Africa and Australia. In Brazil, it is known as the ora-pro-nobis and is widely distributed between the states of Bahia and Rio Grande do Sul. In a study evaluating the nutritional components of this species by Takeiti et al. from the University of Campinas, the leaves of Pereskia aculeata were observed to have a high level of dietary fibre, plenty of minerals, high levels of vitamins including vitamin A, C and folic acid, and some essential amino acids. Due to their high nutritive content, those who live in less developed areas of Brazil eat the leaves of Pereskia aculeata as a vegetable (see: Takeiti et al. 2009. Nutritive evaluation of a non-conventional leafy vegetable (Pereskia aculeata Miller). International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 60(S1):148-160).