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!
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 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 The cheery garden colors of summer and falll have been replaced by interesting textures and jewel tones:
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:
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…..
- Try Nopalea Today! (futuretwit.com)
- Spineless Opuntia (nopales) to combat desertification (Esteban CORRAL / Willem Van Cotthem) (desertification.wordpress.com)
- Go for a show of winter color with broad-leaved evergreens (seattletimes.com)
- Ecophysiological and Anatomical Mechanisms behind the Nurse Effect: Which Are More Important? A Multivariate Approach for Cactus Seedlings (plosone.org)