Ayrampo - A useful Andean cactus

Ayrampo - botanical name 'Tunilla soehrensii' - is a species of the genus Tunilla, which is a sister genus of the much more common genus of the Opuntia, known as 'prickly pears', 'nopalea', 'tunas' or 'paddle cactuses'. Same as the Opuntia the Tunilla have their own 'prickly pears' (English) or 'Kaktusfeigen' (German). In Spanish there exist various names: 'nopales' (North-America), 'tunas' (South-America) and 'higos chumbos' (Spain) for the fruits of the tribe of Opuntieae. However mostly all these names refer to the fruits of the Indian Fig Opuntia (O. ficus-indica), which is only one certain species of the sister genus of the Opuntia.

The botanist Alberto Vojtěch Frič named the genus of the Tunilla 'Airampoa'. Sources state the name 'Ayrampo' to be of Quechuan origin [1] [8]. Therefor several other transcriptions exist, like "Ayranpu [7] [8]",  "Haranpu [8]", "Ayrampu [6]", "Airampo [2] [3] [6]", "Airampu [9]" or "Irampo [1]".

 >Ayrampo - Ein andiner Feigenkaktus


Ayrampo is an endemic species in the south of Peru, Bolivia, north of Chile and the north of Argentina in heights above 3'000m [5]. It grows strongest between 3'300 and 4'000m. [5]

Human usage of Ayrampo

Technical use

The flower and fruit are natural dyes, having a dark carmine color used for dying fibers like wool. [2] [5] [6] [9]

Culinary use

  • Food colorant
    It’s a natural food colorant (e.g. to give color to beverages, cough syrup, bread, pastry). [2] [3] [5] [6]
  • Infusion
    The seeds are often used for refreshing infusions. [2] [3] [8]
  • Ice cream
    It’s also common to prepare it in ice cream form with a little of cinnamon. [2] [3]

Medical use

  • Antipyretic
    The infusion made with the seeds reduces or limits high fever. [2] [3] [4] [6] [8] 
  • Antiphlogistic
    The infusion is also a treatment against inflammations [5] of mucous membranes, like conjunctivitis (extertanally) [4] [6] [8] or ulcers like aphths (recurring oral aphthae and recurrent aphthous ulceration) [1] [4] [6] or peptic ulcers [2].
  • Laxative
    The juice of the quenched cladodes has a purgative effect. [1]

Scientific classification of Ayrampo

Domain: Eukaryota
(unranked): Archaeplastida
Kingdom: Plants (Plantae)
Subkingdom: Embryophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe: Opuntieae
Genus: Tunilla
Species: T. soehrensii

Former scientific name
Opuntia soehrensis [1] / Opuntia soehrensii [2] [4] [8] from 1919 (first descripcion by Nathaniel Lord Britton and Joseph Nelson Rose [8]) to 2000 (establishment of the genus Tunilla by David Richard Hunt und James Iliff).


Tunilla soehrensii grows into dense, tangled structures not higher than 30cm [1] to 50cm [2].

Tunilla soehrensii typically grows with flattend, but almost cylindrical [1], rounded cladodes (also called platyclades) with a length of up to 6cm. They are protected with 7cm long spines.

Its 5,5cm long flowers are of dark red [1] [3] or yellow [2] [3] [8], sometimes of orange, red or pinkish color.

Its 2,5cm long fragil fruits have a dark red color [1] [5] (or green [2] [3]? {probably when immature}), containing seeds of similar red color [1] [2] [3] [8].
The fruits can be harvested when they turn red; between April and first half of June. [5]


[1] Entry at Medicina Intercultural 2013/11/03  [es]
[2] Article on La Patria online 2013/11/05 [es]
[3] Article on Peru this Week 2013/11/03 [en]
>Airampo: the Andean fruit with medicinal properties and favored y gourment chefs
[4] Article on Olimpiadas Nacionales de Contenidos Educativos en Internet 2013/11/04 [es]
>Plantas que curan
[5] Article on buenas tareas 2013/11/04 [es]
>Ayrampo by samayanierman
[6] Article on Diagnostico Medico 2013/11/04 [es]
>El airampo, bueno para regular la presíon sanguínea
[7] Excerpt from Religion und Riten der Aymarà 2013/11/05 [de]
>In einigen Orten...werden noch die Früchte des Ayranpu verwendet...und deren Sauerkirschfarbe...
[8] Entry at El Diccionario Quechua - Espanol - Quechua 2013/11/05  [es]
[9] Text on awajwarmi.com 2013/11/05  [de, es]
>...con rojo del airampu (fruto cactáceo andino)...