Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Pereskia aculeata Mill.

Uncactus-like shrubby perennial, becoming scandent, with long branches, short-stemmed, lance-shaped leaves, with 2 or 3 leaves at the base, and white to pink flowers followed by pinkish, edible fruit.  Often used as a root-stock for grafting Zygocactus and Schlumbergera.  [RHSD, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘Though one of the very earliest introduced of tropical shrubs, having been cultivated in the Royal Gardens of Hampton Court in 1696, and ever since in botanical establishments, Pereskia aculeata is, from its ragged habit, sickly green foliage, and shyness of flowering, a very little known plant amongst horticulturists.  At Kew it has been cultivated ever since the foundation of that establishment, but there is no record of its having flowered till last year, when a plant trained up a rafter of the Succulent House did so (in the month of October), and that is here figured.  P. aculeata is a very variable plant in habit, foliage, the number of petals, and their colour.  It forms a straggling or climbing bush or small tree, the branches of which have been described as twining, though more generally it climbs by means of the spines, which are hooked on young branches, but long and straight in old; the spines are seated on small cushions, which in the older parts are densely tomentose.  The bark of the trunk and even young branches is pale and corky.  The leaves vary from obovate or almost orbicular to elliptic-lanceolate.  The flowers, which are one and a half inches in diameter, have the petals pure white, rosy, or yellowish white with a rosy blush (as in those here figured).  The fruit is the size of a small goose-berry, globose, yellowish, transparent, few-seeded, and covered with small spreading leaves, which are the free tips of the sepals.  The leaves are used as a pot herb in Brazil, and the berries are eaten throughout the tropics of America.’  [BM t.7147/1890].

‘This species is often cultivated, the flowers being handsome, although they have an offensive odor. The fruit is edible, and is sometimes used for making preserves. The leaves are said to be employed in Brazil as a pot herb. In the British West Indies the plant is sometimes known as Barbados gooseberry or Spanish gooseberry.’ [Standley – Contributions from the US National Herbarium, vol.23, Trees and Shrubs of Mexico, p.859/1920-26].

History at Camden Park

Pereskia aculeata is marked with a ‘c’ in an 1836 edition of Loddiges’ catalogue held at Camden Park [CPA].  In William Macarthur’s code, used and explained elsewhere, this means grown at Camden.  It is almost certain that it was grown in the gardens around this time but may have been short lived as it did not appear in the catalogues.


Pereskia aculeata has significant weed potential. ‘Leaf cactus is on the Alert List for Environmental Weeds, a list of 28 non-native plants that threaten biodiversity and cause other environmental damage. Although only in the early stages of establishment, these weeds have the potential to seriously degrade Australia’s ecosystems. Introduced into Australia in the 1920s as a garden ornamental, and first recognised as naturalised in the suburb of Sherwood, Brisbane, leaf cactus is a potential threat to eucalypt communities in subtropical northern Australia.’ []. Naturalised in northern NSW along river banks [FNSW].

Published Apr 01, 2010 - 02:09 PM | Last updated Jul 15, 2010 - 05:29 PM

Figured are spiny stems, oval pointed leaves and white, pink-flushed flowers. Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.7147, 1890.

Pereskia aculeata Mill. | BM t.7147/1890 | BHL

Family Cactaceae
Region of origin

Caribbean and Central America

  • Pereskia pereskia Karst.
  • Pereskia godseffiana Sander
  • Cactus pereskia L.
Common Name

Barbados gooseberry, Lemon vine

Name in the Camden Park Record

Pereskia aculeata 

Confidence level high