Jardin de Cactus
Lanzarote's famous Cactus Garden (Jardín de Cactus), based toward the north of the island in Guatiza, is one of the island's hottest attractions all year round. Developed under the guidance of César Manrique it showcases over 10,000 different plants.
Cactus, Cactus Everywhere
This truly is a celebration of the plant world's spiniest species, comprising one of the best collections of cacti in the world.
Better still, these have all been displayed to their optimum effect against the beautiful backdrop of an amphitheatre like, giant bowl, hewn from an old quarry, that's laid out in steep terraces, echoing the stone wall patterns of the local fields.
Even Giant Metal Ones
You certainly have no need to worry when you're trying to find The Cactus Garden.
In fact there's no real way to miss it as a giant, eight metre high, green, metallic sculpture of a cacti, spikes and all, stands sentinel-like over the car park and main entrance.
This cacti motif is cleverly repeated everywhere: on door handles, in the big wrought iron front gates and in slightly more abstract forms throughout; such as in the beautiful glass ball sculpture that adorns a sinuous spiral staircase in the stylish bar, situated beneath the restored Gofio mill, at the rear of the garden.
This is all the work of César Manrique, the island born artist and architect who famously helped to shape relatively restrained development on Lanzarote during the 1970's and 80's, whilst other parts of Spain ran headlong into the arms of high-rise, mass-market tourism.
A Prolific Influence
Manrique's prolific output is reflected in the fact that he not only designed virtually every major tourist attraction on the island, albeit in collaboration with many other eminent artists and architects, but also that he designed each of them in great depth too.
Attention to Detail
For example, at every one of the official seven centres of culture and tourism Manrique created a special motif, or logo, such as the Fire Devil at Timanfaya or the crab at Jameos del Agua.
This suggests an incredible attention to detail that encompasses more than just a little marketing nous as well as meticulous and highly developed design skills.
Spectacular Planting with 1,000 + species
Similar attention to detail can be found not just in the planting within the garden itself but also within the structure and colours of some of the 1,000 plus species on show, with many displaying incredible complexities and colours on close inspection and stunning flowers at certain times of the year.
Estanislao Gonzales Ferrer
The plant selection, design and layout was the work of an eminent botanist, Estanislao Gonzales Ferrer and the collection of both cacti and succulents have been drawn together from the Canary Islands, Madagascar and America.
A Significant Location
Sensitively, The Cactus Garden is located right in the heart of Lanzarote's traditional cactus growing country, where 300 acres are still given over to the exclusive cultivation of the Tunera cacti.
The Importance of Cochineal
This helps to highlight the historic significance of the region in the production of Cochineal and its importance to the economy of the island.
Do They Really Use Crushed Beetles?
The Tunera cacti attract cochineal beetles. Their crushed larvae, once scraped from the plant, were once the mainstay of a thriving island industry.
The invention of artificial colourants reduced demand for this natural dye. It is still used in certain items of food and drink though as, unlike its chemical cousins, it isn't highly toxic.
Whilst times may have changed in the cochineal industry at least one enterprising local has adapted.
Every day, in the car park outside The Cactus Garden, groups of tourists flock around as a local farmer demonstrates just how you actually go about harvesting a beetle.
Admission: €5 adults, €2.50 children
Open: Daily 10.00 - 17.45