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These Purple Cactuses Endemic From Mexico Should Be On Everyone's IG Feed

These gorgeous cactuses with vivid colors grow in Durango in Northern Mexico, and you can actually visit them.

Nopales are a variety of cacti characterized by having a specific texture and flavor. Most of them are green, but have you ever heard of purple nopales? It's not Photoshop or anything like that, purple nopales exist and are grown in northern Mexico.

Cacti grow in the wild far away from the cities, where time has the power to stop and become eternal; in places where there is no water and where existence becomes a philosophy of the Eternal. Of course, we are talking about deserts. Hostile environments where there is almost no life and where only those unique creatures with impressive skills survive.

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Where does the purple nopal grow?

This purple cactus can be found in northern Durango. There is a place called "La Zona del Silencio," adorned with this unique cacti species that has become the main attraction. This is considered an ecological reserve to protect the species that are native to the area.

Why do nopales turn purple?

This species of nopal seems to come from another planet. It acquires this striking color due to lack of water. Among its thorns are born beautiful yellow flowers whose center is usually reddish.

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"Like all plants, it has chlorophyll and chloroplasts, but these are replaced by other pigments that give it that color when it does not receive enough water," says biologist Gabriela Jiménez Casas, a researcher at the Institute of Ecology of the UNAM.

When can we see purple cactuses?

For this reason, we can only see purple nopales during the dry season. They are recognized as low shrubs with or without short trunks, with ascending branches. They tend to be orbicular and are often pigmented with a dark reddish-purple tint. Their thorns are scarce, and the few it has, they remain far apart from each other. They can be reddish, white, brown, or sometimes yellow, the color of their characteristic flowers that measure between 7 to 9 cm in diameter. 

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"The physiological changes are a response to the water stress suffered by this species," says the biologist. "These nopales are very hardy, but when there is a lack of water, their physiology changes, and they change color, we could say that they blush," explains Jiménez. 

In the rainy season, these nopales look green but when they do not receive enough water, the chlorophyll (responsible for photosynthesis) is replaced by carotenoids. These carotenoids are seen in legumes, for example, strawberries and beets, which give that pigmentation that goes from red to purple.

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This type of cactus reaches a height between 60 and 90 cm. It grows bushy, and its blades are elongated. They naturally have a color between blue and violet. This curious nopal has become the best-known attraction of the Zona del Silencio because of its unique beauty.

Can purple nopales be eaten?

Like all the nopales that grow in Mexico, this species is edible. They are a little less hydrated and have a different flavor than regular green nopales, but they're still delicious and nutritious.

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Nowadays, these purple nopales are not in danger of extinction since they reproduce in colonies. Nature will continue to surprise us in unimaginable ways.

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards

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