It is native to tropical America. The leaves and fruits are edible, containing high quantities of protein, iron and other nutrients, and it is a popular vegetable in parts of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais under the name of ora-pro-nóbis.
Pereskia aculeata commonly called rose cactus or pereskia, is botanically classified as a cactus, but takes the form of an evergreen to a deciduous shrub or small tree with a rounded crown typically maturing to 6-16’ tall. It often develops a brown trunk (to 8” diameter). It is native to tropical areas of eastern Brazil but is cultivated in many places elsewhere for its attractive rose-like flowers. Pereskia is the only genus in the cactus family that has persistent non-succulent leaves which are short-stalked, fleshy, elliptic-ovate to obovate-lanceolate (to 3-9” long and to 2 1/2”wide). Leaves are edible (may be added to salads or cooked). Black to brown spines (to 2” long) in groups of 1-6 rise from areolas in the leaf axils. Pink to purplish-pink flowers (2” diameter) centered by yellow stamens bloom in few-flowered terminal clusters in summer. Flowers are followed by fleshy, pear-shaped fruits (2-4″ long) that mature yellow, red or green.