birdandhike.com logo
Home | Vegetation | Plant Species | Cactus
Cholla Cactus (Cylindropuntia and Grusonia spp.)
Cactus Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Teddybear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii)

Cholla cactus is the general name for a group of cactus with elongate, cylindrical, branching stems. Cholla occurs in Lower Sonoran (Creosote-Bursage Flats) and Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zones, and they are abundant components of some vegetation communities. Several species occur around Las Vegas.

Family: Cactus (Cactaceae).

Other Names: Each species seems to have several common names.

Plant Form: Generally upright, many-branching stems.

Height: To 6 inches to 6 feet, depending on species.

Trunk: Upright species tend to have a "trunk" that is not much thicker than a regular stem segment.

Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) with Cactus Wren

Leaves: Generally none (reduced to spines). Short-lived leaves appear at stem tips just before flowering.

Flowers: Large, yellow to red, showy flowers; blooming in late spring and early summer.

Seeds: Usually many, but the species generally grow from broken stems that fall on the ground.

Distribution: Various species are distributed throughout the southwestern deserts, usually in gravelly and rocky soils.

Elevation: 1,000 to 5,000 ft.

Comments: Several species of cholla occur around Las Vegas. The species generally can be identified by the length and thickness of the stems and the density of the spines.

Blue Diamond Cholla (Cylindropuntia multigeniculata)

Blue Diamond Cholla (Cylindropuntia multigeniculata). Low, compact cactus with many short (2 inch), thick spiny joints. Grows as low shrub (to 2.5 ft) or mat.

New stems grow at right angles to older stems. Flowers during early summer; greenish-yellow. Fruit spineless, yellow, appears mid-summer. Occurs on dry, limestone hillsides. This rare species grows only in a few places, including on Blue Diamond Hill along the west side of Red Rock Canyon NCA and on the Desert National Wildlife Range. This rare species is protected.

Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa)

Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa). Tall, upright cactus with long stem segments.

Stem segments relatively thick, relatively long (6 to 12 inches). Grows 4 to 6-ft tall. Spines in clusters, emerging from elongated bumps, 12 to 14 per bump. Green stem color is clearly evident. Flowers yellow with red filaments. This species is abundant along the Scenic Loop Road at Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Matted Cholla (Opuntia parishii)

Matted Cholla (Grusonia parishii). Low growing, very spiny cholla that grows in clumps to about 6-feet across with stems growing 4 to 8-inches tall.

Stem segments 2 to 3-inches long, club-shaped (narrow at the base and wider [1-inch diameter] at the tip). Spines to about 2-inches long. Flowers yellow, about 1-inch across. Fruits 2 to 3-inches tall, persistent, smooth, yellow, with several rings of tiny spines. This is an uncommon species found on sandy flats at elevations of about 3,000 to 4,000 feet in southern California, southern Nevada, and western Arizona. A few specimens occur near the Red Rock Canyon NCA visitor center.

Pencil Cholla (Opuntia ramosissima)

Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima). Very narrow stem segments with long, but sparse spines.

Relatively thin, relatively long stems growing to 4-ft tall. Spines solitary rather than in clusters. Green stem color is clearly evident. Close-up views of the stem reveal a diamond-shaped pattern. Flowers yellow-orange to red. This species is fairly common at Red Rock Canyon NCA along the road to Calico Basin and near the visitor center.

Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)

Silver Cholla (also Golden Cholla) (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa). Upright, usually open cactus with short stem segments. Green stem color clearly evident. In some areas, the spines are silver, hence the name Silver Cholla; but in other areas, the spines are golden, and it gets another common name: Golden Cholla.

Stem segments relatively thick, relatively short (3 to 4 inches). Usually grows to about 3 ft tall. Spines in clusters, emerging from elongated bumps. Each spine is covered with a silvery sheath that can be plucked off. Green stem color is clearly evident. Flowers yellow-green with yellow filaments. This is a common species throughout the Las Vegas area and is easy to find at Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Teddybear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii)

Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). Upright cactus with short stem segments and extremely dense spines. Green stem color generally hidden by spines.

Similar to sliver cholla, but more upright and so many spines that they hide the green of the stems. Dead stems remain attached to the trunk, forming a dark brown skirt. The name “teddybear” comes from the furry appearance. This species can be found at Lake Mohave (Lake Mead NRA) on the road to Nelson.

Whipple Cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei).

Whipple Cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei). Upright cactus with short stem segments that tend to come out at right angles. Green stem color clearly evident.

An upright shrub with one or more main stems and many short stem segments that tend to branch off at right angles. Height usually to 3-4 feet. Tubercles narrow. Spines short (about 3/4-inch long), eight per tubercle. Flowers usually yellow, to about 1 1/2-inches diameter. Fruit yellow, spineless, persistent. This species is more common east of Nevada, but it can be found on the Desert National Wildlife Range.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 081227

All Cactus Plant Species Index Glossary Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home

 

Google Ads