Nopalea cochenillifera f. variegata

Various types of spineless cacti are common in Florida gardens, but spineless AND variegated? Not so much! The second I laid eyes on this cactus at our Master Gardener Plant Auction, I knew I’d be taking it home! 🙂

Nopalea cochenillifera, 12/15/13

Although auctioned as a “NO ID Opuntia,” the American Journal of Botany describes my new plant as one of 8 cacti recently moved from the Opuntia to Nopalea genus.  Chalk it up to key differences in the shape of the flower tubes, and the impact this has on pollination: nopaleas are visited by hummingbirds, opuntias by insects.   Who knew ❓

N. cochenillifera is drought-tolerant, yet, oddly, thrives in our rainy summers. At maturity this cactus assumes a tree like shape with branches of jointed pads reaching 12′ high. Just this morning, I noticed the first new pad forming since i brought the plant home:

Nopalea cochenillifera with new pad forming, 12/15/13

Nopalea cochenillifera is loaded with potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, copper, zinc and iron, as well as thiamine, lutein, niacin, riboflavin and beta-carotene. Farmers who raise goats and livestock value it as easy-to-grow fodder but humans can also benefit from including nopaleas in their daily diet.  Click and scroll for interesting recipes.

As an aside, we’ve been having very dismal, gray, un-Florida-like weather since Thanksgiving.  The cheery garden colors of summer and falll have been replaced by interesting textures and jewel tones:

Alternanthera Dentata Purple Knight, Assorted Coleus and Calladium and Syncolostemon Transvaalensis, 12/15/2013

Each winter since moving here, I anxiously await the tiny Soldier’s Orchid, and every year they arrive earlier, in greater quantity!  Here’s the first of 2013, randomly sprouting in a container:

Zeuxine strateumatica aka Soldier's Orchid, 12/15/13

That’s about it from not-so-sunny Vero Beach!  I can’t really complain though, it’s still warmer than normal and Christmas is in the air!

Until next time…..

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11 thoughts on “Nopalea cochenillifera f. variegata

    • After I won the auction, 4 people approached me for pads and I couldn’t say no. This is why I’m so excited to see the new pad forming–on auction day, this was actually a bigger plant!

  1. I’ve never seen a variegated cactus before, but I have eaten nopal quite often. Our cook in Mexico made it regularly, and it’s on the menu at Oyamel in DC. They’re really quite tasty!

  2. The variegated colouring is so unusual. But what is making me chuckle right now is looking at your garden colours, all the coleus etc and with the WordPress snowflakes falling gently on the screen 🙂 Love it!

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