The Jardin de Cactus is located close to the village of Guatiza and is home to over 10,000 of the plant world’s spiniest species. Arrayed to optimum effect in a bowl like auditorium that was formerly a quarry.
The origins of the Cactus Garden date back to the 1970´s – when the island born artist and architect Cesar Manrique was seeking sites on Lanzarote to transform into unique tourist attractions.
Manrique´s philosophy was to fuse art with nature – and this he achieved to great effect after persuading the island government to acquire the land here and renovate the traditional windmill which stands over it. However work was then shelved until the late 1980´s as other projects around the island were progressed.
In the meantime though the eminent botanist Estanislao Gonzales Ferrer set to work collecting cacti and succulents from across the world, as well as indigenous species from the Canary Islands. And in 1990 the Jardin de Ccatus first officially announced its presence to the world – with the inauguration of a giant metal cactus sculpture at its entrance. Indeed this cactus motif is worked into many aspects of the site – such as on door handles and in sculptures located throughout the gardens.
Visitors are met by a traditional taro shaped entrance which hides the site within and which then gives away to a panoramic view across the gardens. Which are planted on dry stone walled terraces – so echoing the fields around and the traditional methods of agriculture on Lanzarote.
Indeed the Cactus Garden has been located with a great deal of sensitivity as this part of the island was once the centre of Lanzarote´s lucrative cochineal industry.
The cochineal beetle has an insatiable thirst for the sap of the tunera cactus. And enterprising locals use to harvest the beetle’s larvae and then crush them to make a powerful red dye. Which was used to colour the coats of the 18th century British army – amongst many other uses.
However – this period of prosperity for the dyestuff ran out as artificial colourants came onto the market in the later 1800´s. But it is still possible to observe just how this process was made possible as a local farmer is always standing ready to provide a demonstration in the car park.