A Guide to the Different Types of Cholla Cactus

Cholla cacti (genus Cylindropuntia) are a group of cacti known for their unique appearance and characteristic spiny branches. There are several species of cholla cacti, each with its own distinct features. Here are some common types of cholla cacti:

1. Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)

The Teddy Bear Cholla is named for its fuzzy appearance, which is caused by the dense covering of golden spines. It has cylindrical stems that grow in clusters and can reach heights of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters). Despite its soft appearance, the spines of the Teddy Bear Cholla are barbed and easily stick to clothing or skin.

2. Chain Fruit Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)

The Chain Fruit Cholla gets its name from the chain-like clusters of small, greenish-yellow fruit that develop on the plant. It has segmented stems covered in spines that vary in color from yellow to red. The Chain Fruit Cholla is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

3. Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor)

The Staghorn Cholla is named for its distinctive branched stems that resemble the antlers of a stag. It has dense clusters of spines that vary in color, ranging from yellow to reddish-brown. This cholla species is native to the Sonoran Desert and can be found in parts of Arizona, California, and Mexico.

4. Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)

The Silver Cholla is characterized by its silvery-gray appearance due to the dense covering of spines. It has cylindrical stems with pronounced tubercles and yellow flowers. The Silver Cholla is found in desert regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

5. Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)

The Buckhorn Cholla is known for its slender, cylindrical stems and clusters of curved spines. It typically has greenish-yellow flowers and reddish-brown fruits. The Buckhorn Cholla is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

These are just a few examples of the many species of cholla cacti. Each type of cholla has its own unique characteristics, spination patterns, and adaptations to survive in arid desert environments. It’s important to appreciate these cacti from a distance and avoid touching them due to their sharp spines, which can cause injury if handled improperly.