Cochineal Cactus

Cochineal Cactus

 

(Nopalea cochenillifera), a treelike or shrublike cactus 3 to 4 m tall, on which the cochineal insect lives and feeds. The flat, segmented stems of the cochineal cactus are similar to those of the opuntias. The cactus is native to Mexico and tropical Central America. In the early 19th century the cactus was widely cultivated in Spain, Algeria, India, South America, and other countries for the sake of the cochineal insect, which was used to make carmine. When carmine began to be manufactured synthetically, cultivation of cochineal cactus largely ceased, and only in the Canary Islands are large plantings still found.

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