14/07/19 – Some Opuntia photos from a recent walk…

One thing we really enjoy about visiting (and now living in) Spain is all of the cacti and succulents we come across literally every day. It’s especially impressive when you consider that we’re currently living in a small city while we figure out the best place to set up our land plan!

Recently, we walked for a few hours around the protected area which surrounds part of Sabadell, an hour or so from the centre of Barcelona. While we didn’t think to photograph all of the cool plants we saw, we did stop to take a look at a couple of large Opuntia cacti growing along our way.

Sadly (dependent on your perspective), it’s quite common for such plants to become infested to a lesser or greater degree with bugs such as the cochineal beetle (commercially used to make food colourings), which manifest themselves as clusters of white fluff and leave purple smears if squashed (hence the food colouring).

From what we’ve read so far, these particular beetles aren’t that bad for the plants which unwillingly host them, but we’re not too confident of this ourselves, based purely on the visual appearance of many of the larger infested plants we’ve come across.

Anyway, without any further ado, here’s some Opuntia photos!


Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
Here’s a section of a massive Opuntia stand alongside the main road coming into the city.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
As you can see from these pictures, many Opuntia species suffer from infestation by the cochineal beetle.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
It looks like this pad’s an absolute goner!
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
Here you can see a still relatively healthy looking pad, although it does look like the bugs plan to continue their expansion until the whole surface is covered.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
Here’s the simplest visual confirmation of the identity of the bugs – squashed cochineal beetles result in this shade of purple. You probably already know this, presuming you’ve come across the commercially available food colourings produced from the species.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
This is a much smaller, healthier-looking Opuntia, growing alongside a dried-up river as you leave the city.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
You might notice from these Opuntia photos that this plant is also infested with cochineal beetles, although to a much lesser extent than the first . It’s also displaying some nice-looking new growth.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
Some young Opuntia pads growing out of a dried up section you’d think was dead if not for the new growth.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
We liked this pad in particular!
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
Now this was a really cool thing to be able to photograph! The vascular system of an Opuntia pad, revealed to the outside world as the skin and fleshy tissue has dried up and been eaten.
Opuntia species infested with cochineal beetles, growing in Spain
A close up of the remaining Opuntia vascular tissue, similar in appearance to a network of roots.