Additional notes (click to expand)


Previously grown as Nopalea cochenillifera
Plants of the World online, Kew Science link

Other use

This is the host to the cochineal scale insect, Dactylopius coccus. The insect produces the scarlet dye carminic acid, which has a chemical structuyre similar to alizarin - see Rubia tinctorum. The carboxylic acid group in carminic acid makes it bond well with protein fibres, although aluminium slats can be used as a mordant to give better colour fastness.
Sequin, M. (2012). The Chemistry of Plants. Perfumes Pigments and Poisons. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK. p.173

Geographical distribution

  • Northern America, Mexico

Opuntia cochenillifera (L.) Mill.

Genus: Opuntia
Species: cochenillifera (L.) Mill.
Common names: Cochineal Plant
Distribution summary: Mexico
Habit: Succulent
Hardiness: H2 - Tender; cool or frost-free greenhouse
Habitat: Sunny, dry, rocky hills
Garden status: Currently grown
Garden location: Plants in pots (POT)
Flowering months: July, August
Reason for growing: Other use

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