Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)

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This page last updated on 06/19/2017
(Fig. 01)
(Fig. 02)
Picture Notes: All of  these pictures of Jumping Cholla were taken at the Techatticup Mining Camp in Eldorado Canyon.  The pictures in (Figs. 01 and 06) were taken on a recent visit on 05/27/2017. The remaining pictures were captured on a hike with the rock hounds of the Henderson Heritage Park Senior Facility on 02/17/2011. It is amazing at how plentiful these cacti are here; as these pictures show, this canyon is just loaded with them. As you can see from (Fig. 02), from a distance they look like a fuzzy, soft plant with many short, fuzzy branches looking like teddybear arms, growing from the top, hence the nickname Teddybear Cholla. As you get closer (Fig. 03) you realize that the cuddly looking plant is completely covered with silvery spines. If you are unlucky enough to touch the spines, you will find yourself painfully stuck to a spiny segment that seems to have "jumped" off the plant. Segments will also "jump" when stepped on and attach themselves to your leg.
(Fig. 03)
Description: The Cylindropuntia fulgida or Jumping Cholla has several common names: Teddybear Cholla, Silver Cholla, hanging chaincholla and Cholla Guera. Its Genus is Opuntia; its Species is bigelovii. It is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.  The cholla is an arborescent (tree-like) plant with one low-branching trunk.  Its dense, 1 inch spines completely hide the stem. The cylindrical segments are light to bluish green. They are about 10 inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter. The jumping cholla can be 3 to 12 feet tall and has a single trunk with short drooping branches of chained fruit at the top. The stems are light green and are strongly tuberculate, with tubercles (small, wart-like projections on the stems) (Fig. 03) measuring 6 to 9 mm. Together, the plants form fantastic looking forests that may range over many hectares. The ground around a mature plant will often be covered with dead stems and young plants started from stems that have fallen from the adult. They attach themselves to desert animals and are dispersed for short distances. During droughts animals like the bighorn sheep rely on the juicy fruit for food and water. Because they grow in inaccessible and hostile places of the desert, populations of this cactus are stable.
(Fig. 04)
The spines on young branches are silvery white, and have a detachable, papery sheath. As they age, they become dark chocolate brown to black in color. It blooms from February to May. The greenish-yellow flowers (Fig. 06) grow at the end of the stems. They are about 1.5 inches in diameter. The fruit is less than 1 inch in diameter, and sometimes has spines growing on it.
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)