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How a bug and a cactus changed history

October 10, 2019 @ 6:30 pm


Many Texans know this little trick to amaze the kids — find a prickly pear cactus pad with fluffy white stuff on it, mash the white stuff between your fingers and watch them become dyed a bright crimson. But there’s way more to that phenomenon of nature — the cochineal insect — than you probably knew.

The rest of the story is the topic for the October meeting of the Native Plant Society’s Cross Timbers chapter in Weatherford. Wildlife biologist Ricky Linex will present a program titled “In Search of a Perfect Red — The Story of How the Insect Cochineal and Prickly Pear Cactus Forged a Dyeing Industry that Lasted For Centuries.” The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at Mount Pleasant School, 213 Raymond George Way in Weatherford.

Five hundred years ago, Linex said, the Spanish conquistadors arriving in what is now Mexico discovered the Aztecs selling a red dyestuff in open markets. When the dye was shipped back to Spain it created a sensation as the brightest red color that was known, and this dye ruled the color trade in textiles for 350 years. But it took several hundred years for Europeans to figure out where the dye came from — a scale insect called cochineal. Linex’s talk will explore the fascinating history of this insect and its dependence on the common prickly pear.

Linex is a wildlife biologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service headquartered in Weatherford and is well known across the 52 counties in North central Texas where he works. He is the author of “Range Plants of North Central Texas, A Land Users Guide to Their Identification, Value and Management,” a plant identification book for Texas.

Visitors are welcome and light refreshments will be available.

The mission of the Cross Timbers Chapter is to promote the conservation, research and use of native plants and plant habitats in Texas through education, outreach and example. For more information visit http://npsot.org/wp/crosstimbers.


October 10, 2019
6:30 pm
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Mount Pleasant School
Dubellette St, Weatherford, TX 76086
Weatherford, TX 76086 United States
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