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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, up to 6 inches (15 cm) wide and 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.

Nopalea cochenillifera (Cochineal Nopal Cactus)

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USDA hardiness zones 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, these plants can generally be planted outside, left alone, and enjoyed.

These cacti will grow just fine in a garden, bu they can be grown in pots as well. To repot, ensure the soil is dry, then remove the pot and knock away the old soil. After treating any cuts with fungicide, place the cactus in a new pot and backfill it with potting soil. As with a new cutting, make sure not to water a newly repotting Prickly Pear for a brief period to avoid rotting its roots.

Opuntia 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… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Opuntia


Nopalea cochenillifera is endemic to Mexico.

Subspecies, Varieties, Forms, Cultivars and Hybrids


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