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Nopalea cochenillifera (Cochineal Nopal Cactus)


Scientific Name

Nopalea cochenillifera (L.) Salm-Dyck

Common Names

Cochineal Nopal Cactus, Cochineal Cactus, Cochineal Opuntia, Prickly Pear, Nopal Cactus


Nopalea cochenillifera subsp. cochenillifera, Cactus cochenilifer (basionym), Cactus cochenilliferus, Nopalea coccinellifera, Nopalea nuda, Opuntia cochenillifera, Opuntia nuda

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Genus: Nopalea


Nopalea cochenillifera is a shrubby or treelike cactus up to 13.1 feet (4 m) tall, with thornless, light green stems. They are composed of paddle-shaped cladodes (joints) up to 20 inches (50 cm) long and up to 6 inches (15 cm) wide, which are linked together in a branched pattern. The flowers are developed at the top of the joints, usually in great abundance. They are narrow, erect, bright red to rose, up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and up to 0.6 inch (1.5 cm) in diameter.

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USDA hardiness zone 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Though the large variety of species within the Opuntia genus means different types of prickly pears may need slightly different care, all are desert cacti that need lots of sun, lots of light, and very little water. If you live in a hot, arid area – particularly the American Southwest – these plants can generally be planted outside, left alone, and enjoyed.

Prickly Pears can propagate either by cuttings or by seed. To propagate by cuttings, sever pads from a plant and let them dry so that the wounds heal. Then place the plants in a dry soil and refrain from watering them until they begin to grow to avoid rotting them. To propagate by seed, rinse away pulp from the seeds, make sure they’re thoroughly dry, and plant – ideally in the spring… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Opuntia


It is endemic to Mexico.

Subspecies, Varieties, Forms, Cultivars and Hybrids


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