While there are many studies of the global influence of crops and plants, this is perhaps the first social history based around a plant in South Africa. Plants are not quite historical actors in their own right, but their properties and potential help to shape human history. In turn, the trail of the prickly pear in South Africa has been profoundly affected by the plant's biological characteristics. Plants such as the prickly pear tend to be invisible to those who do not use them, or at least on the peripheries of people's consciousness. This book explains why they were not peripheral to many people in the Eastern Cape, and why a wild and sometimes invasive. plant from Mexico remains important to African women in shacks and small towns.