Teddybear Cholla ( Cylindropuntia bigelovii )

The soft bristly cactus spines give the Teddybear Cholla its furry, cute appearance and mask the ferocious defense of this desert cactus. This member of the cactus family typically grows between 3 and 5 feet in height. Its body is built utilizing highly segmented branches which easily detached or broken when anything bushes against them giving the cactus the nickname “Jumping Cholla”

Teddybear Cholla ( Cylindropuntia bigelovii ) photographed near Nelson Nevada
Teddybear Cholla ( Cylindropuntia bigelovii ) photographed near Nelson Nevada

The green cactus segments are virtually completely surrounded by golden yellow spines which offer the plant some defense against rodents such as Kangaroo Rats and Black Tailed Jackrabbits, it is also believe to protect the skin of the plant from the hard desert sun. As the body segments age, they brown and even turn black with time and will fall off. The loosely secured body segments allow for the plant to reproduce and even a strong wind can cause a body segment to fall off and start a new planet. As a result, the Teddybear Cholla tends to grow in reasonably well defined stands or gardens.

This cholla is typically found in the Mojave or Sonoran Deserts below 3000 feet on dry and rocky slops. The flower is greenish white and typically blooms from February to May. There is a large stand of Teddybear cholla around the ghost town of Nelson Nevada. There the curators will warn the visitor of this cuddly in appearance plant along with gruesome stories of visitors and pets who travelled too close to it.

I remember well, the time as a child, I was paying attention to where I was going and not looking at where I was walking. I stepped on a body segment of the Teddybear Cholla and its barbed spine dug deep into the top of my foot through me tennis shoe.


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