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Teddybear Cholla Opuntia bigelovii


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Teddybear Cholla - habit
credit: Bernard Gagnon/CCSA

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Alternate name: Jumping Cholla

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description Soft and fuzzy in appearance, the painfully clinging spines of this miniature tree make it one of the most formidable and respected cacti of the Southwest. Its short, stubby branches are densely covered with dense pale gold or pale green spines.
Habit: native perennial shrub or subshrub.
Height: 3-10 ft (1-3 m)
Trunk: upright, densely branched, to 2 in (5 cm) diameter.
Stem: succulent, curving up and out, with whorled segments; cylindrical joints 1.5-8 in (4-20 cm) tall, to 4 in (10 cm) diameter; easily detached.
Leaf: very sharp spine, pale yellow to grayish-tan, to 1 in (25 mm) long; densely held in clusters 7-15 per areole.
Flower: yellow to pale green, sometimes stripoed with red or lavender, to 1.5 in (38 mm) wide; diurnal.
Fruit: green becoming yellow, barrel-shaped, pineapple textured, 0.6-1.6 in (1.4-4 cm) long, to 1.1 in (28 mm) diameter, with deciduous spines; persisting indefinitely.

Warning The spines of the Teddybear Cholla stick instantly and hold tightly by means of minute, backwardly directed barbs. When a joint (which seems to "jump" when detached by a light touch or bump) is severely stuck, the victim's best solution is to cut the spines with scissors or clippers and pull them from the flesh with pliers.

Flower March to June, then August to September depending on rains.

Habitat Sandy and gravelly soils; desert sands, mesas, dry rocky or gravel slopes, creosote bush scrub, gravelly to rocky washes, bajadas; 1000-3000 ft (300-900 m); also cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Mojave and Sonoran Deserts: Southeastern California, Nevada, and western Arizona; south to northwestern Mexico.

Discussion Now reclassified as Cylindropuntia bigelovii or Cylindropuntia bigelovii var. bigelovii. Also known as jumping cholla cactus, silver cholla cactus. Protected in Arizona and Nevada.