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What is Cylindropuntia?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

Cylindropuntia is one genus classification given to plant species that fall under the Cactaceae family. Commonly referred to as chollas, plants of this genus are characterized by their cylindrical stems and the presence of a paper-like casing on the spines that cover their stems and branches. The 35 species that make up the genus grow in the form of small trees, rarely higher than 10 feet (3 m) tall.

Nearly all types of plants included in this genus are native to the northwest and south central regions of the United States, Mexico, and the West Indies. Certain species that belong to the Cylindropuntia genus can also be found in other parts of the world, including Chile, Australia, and South Africa. They are among the most drought-tolerant plants. In certain parts of the United States, the cacti that fall under this genus are the only types of plants that are able to thrive.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The Cylindropuntia bigelovii is one plant species classified under this genus. It is found in the deserts of California, Arizona, and Mexico at elevations of 100 to 300 feet (30 to 91 m) above sea level. This particular cactus is commonly referred to as the teddy bear cholla because the spines that cover its stems and branches give it a furry and soft appearance. The teddy bear cholla reproduces through the branches that fall off from the main stem of the plant.

Another plant species that is classified under this genus is the Cylindropuntia fulgida. This cactus is often found in the southwestern regions of the United States and in the northern parts of Mexico. It is known by the locals as the jumping cholla because of its ability to latch onto clothes and bodies of passersby at the slightest touch. The plant is sometimes referred to as the hanging chain cholla because of the chained fruit on its drooping branches. As with the teddy bear cholla, this particular type of cactus reproduces with stems that have fallen from the adult plant.

The Cylindropuntia rosea, or Hudson pear, which grows in many parts of western Australia and Queensland, is considered a pest. Growing up to 9.8 feet (3 m) high, the strong spines of the cactus are known to pierce tires and inflict injury on both animals and humans. The plant is of concern to the Australian government, which has spent roughly $200,000 Australian Dollars (AUD) to manage its growth.

Another member of this genus is the Cylindropuntia leptocaulis. Often called the desert Christmas plant, it is a shrub that does not resemble the other cacti in the genus, mainly due to the absence of spines on its stems. Its green branches and yellow flowers with red tips make it resemble an ornate Christmas tree; hence the name. The plant’s average height is 1.6 to 5.9 feet (0.5 to 1.8 m), and it is found among the deserts, woodlands, and grasslands of the southwestern United States and Mexico. It looks very similar to the diamond cholla, Cylindropuntia ramosissima.

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