Nopalea cochenillifera

(Linnaeus) Salm-Dyck

Cact. Hort. Dyck. 1849, 64. 1850.

Common names: Nopal chamacuero cochineal nopal cactus tunita
Basionym: Cactus cochenilliferus Linnaeus Sp. Pl. 1: 468. 1753 (as cochenillifer)
Synonyms: Opuntia cochenillifera (Linnaeus) Miller
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 4. Treatment on page 149. Mentioned on page 144.

Shrubs or trees to 4–5 m; trunks 15–20 cm diam. Stem segments linear to narrowly obovate, sometimes slightly falcate, (10–)15–35(–50) × 5–15 cm; areoles 2–3+ cm apart, 2–5 mm diam.; wool tawny, whitening with age. Spines usually absent or 1(–3), particularly on older pads, straight or curved, brown, aging gray, stout, to 2 cm. Glochids inconspicuous. Flowers 4–7 cm; inner tepals spatulate; crowded pink filaments and white style much longer than tepals, to 15 mm; nectar chamber elliptic to obconic. Fruits ellipsoid, 25–40 × 20–25 mm; areoles well distributed. Seeds tan to gray, 3–5 × 1.5–3 mm, slightly pubescent. 2n = 22 (Mexico, Puerto Rico as an escape).

Phenology: Flowering winter (Sep–Mar).
Habitat: Hammocks, fields, sandy soils
Elevation: 0 m


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Introduced; Fla., Mexico, West Indies (Cuba, Puerto Rico), Central America (Panama).


The stem segments, or pads, of Nopalea cochenillifera are used as food, fodder, and poultices, and for rearing cochineal insects to obtain a red dye (once a major industry). This species may have been selected for spinelessness in Mexico, much like Opuntia ficus-indica, to ease the culturing and collection of cochineal scale insects for red dye.

Selected References


Lower Taxa

... more about "Nopalea cochenillifera"
Donald J. Pinkava +
(Linnaeus) Salm-Dyck +
Cactus cochenilliferus +
Nopal chamacuero +, cochineal nopal cactus +  and tunita +
Fla. +, Mexico +, West Indies (Cuba +, Puerto Rico) +  and Central America (Panama). +
Hammocks, fields, sandy soils +
Flowering winter (Sep–Mar). +
Cact. Hort. Dyck. +
Introduced +  and Illustrated +
Opuntia cochenillifera +
Nopalea cochenillifera +
species +