Types of Cholla Cactus Plants You Can Grow at Home

Types of Cholla Cactus Plants You Can Grow at Home


We are gonna talk about the Cholla cactus plant today also known by the name of Cylindropuntia. This plant has more than 20 species from the Opuntia genus. And as the name suggests, they are from the family of Cactaceae and are native to the North American deserts. The term Cholla has been given to many shrubby cacti from the same genus. They have got cylindrical stems with segmented joints. These stems are generally the modified branches that can perform several functions like storing water to processing photosynthesis and also producing flowers.

Chollas also have their tubercles like any cactus which are small and have wart-like projections on the stems. One can observe sharp spines which are nothing but modified leaves in them. The Cholla plant is the only cactus with papery sheaths in them which can be seen growing from the spines. The sheaths are bright and colourful which makes these cacti unique.

The cholla cactus is generally found in the American Southwest deserts which have got different species with different locales and different elevation ranges. Most of the species need coarse and well-drained soil as they are native to the deserts. You might also find species of the cholla cactus that got adapted to the mountain forests whereas most of the others would need steep and rocky slopes in the mountain foothills to thrive. To identify the cholla cacti, look for the orange or the green-yellow flowers. Most of them have these beautiful flowers in them.

Cholla generally blooms during April and all through June – it depends on the locality. The stems and joints also vary for different species and weather conditions. They can vary by length, widths, shape, and colour. Chollas appear as the ground creepers or the shrubs and trees. The different species vary by height as well. The Devil Cholla can grow to a height of about 15 feet.

Types of Cholla cactus

Buckhorn Cholla

These are the light green cholla plants which are quite famous in different locales. The buckhorn cholla has inconspicuous and light-coloured spine sheaths. Some of the variations include acanthocarpa, coloradensis, ganderi, major and thornberi. They are native to the Sonoran desert and can grow 3 to 10 feet in height. The joints are long and straggly. The plant bores spiny and dry kinda fruit. They also go by the name of tree cholla.

The cane cholla

They can grow in the desert floors to the grasslands and lower mountain slopes. They develop a thick trunk within them and have purple jointed joints. They are found in the Chihuahuan desert of southern Arizona and can grow up to 8 feet tall. The thick and tubercled joints are generally covered with grey spines.  They can bloom from deep purple to yellow and white flowers. the fruits are spineless and fleshy which generally yellow and grow in winter.

The Jumping Cholla

The jumping cactus is one of the most popular species among the cholla family. The jumping cholla cactus, also known as the Opuntia fulgida is one of the largest cholla cactus plants. They can grow up to 15 feet tall and have got a lot of spines and sometimes grows like a tree as well. This tree cholla adds new fruits every season and can create a chain of about 2 feet and thus is also known by the name of chain cholla or the chain fruit cholla. They can grow white and pink petals in their flowers with 1 ½ inch green and pear-shaped berries.

Christmas Cholla

They are the most slender ones in their family. They are widely distributed in the whole Chihuahuan desert and grow red berries seasonally. They grow about 4 to 6 feet in height and grow yellow to bronze flowers. The fruits are bright red and grape-sized which can last throughout the winter.

Devil Cholla

There are lots of different species of the Devil cholla and they are all club cholla. Why club? Because of their club-shaped joints which have well-defined tubercles. The devil cholla doesn’t have sheath on their spines. All of them are low growing and they often form thick mats in them which are almost impenetrable. The spines come in different colours and they are quite sharp – almost like daggers. Some of the popular species are Opuntia clavata, Opucia parishii, Opuntia schotti, Opuntia stanlyi.

The Pencil Cholla

The pencil cholla is quite similar to the Christmas cholla and they grow with a trunk rather like the sprawling shrubs. They do enjoy the sandy and gravelly plains. They are also found in the Sonoran desert and can grow to a height of 2 to 5 feet. The joints are long, thin, and deep pencil-sized. The flowers range from yellow to orange in colour and grow fleshy and green fruits.

Silver Cholla

The white and yellow sheaths of the Silver cholla which also go by the name of gold cholla are bushy and short. They have short terminal joints at the end of the long joints. They can grow up to 5 feet and grow greenish-yellow flowers. The fruits are spiny and dry.

Teddy Bear Cholla

The name itself sounds interesting, right? The teddy bear cholla resembles the fuzzy arms and legs of teddy bears. They can be easily distinguished by the dense and straw-coloured spines in them. The teddy bear cactus can grow about 5 to 9 feet in height and grows egg-shaped yellow fruits. The flowers can be green to yellow and have lavender streaks.

Cholla cactus wood

Cholla wood is said to be one of the most extravagant driftwood in the market. The shape of the wood is unique and looks like an ancient African artifact. These are beneficial, especially when used with vivarium. You can also build your aquarium or terrarium with this wood. The cholla wood is the inner skeleton of the cacti plant. When the plant dies, the green outer layer of the plant turns into wood with time. They are considered softwood because it is said to remain evergreen. They are also used for decoration, furniture, and construction purposes.

Cholla cactus injury

The cholla cactus plant injury is quite common, the sharp spines of the cacti can hurt. They can cause long-lasting morbidity and cause painful granulomatous lesions. Even after the removal of these cactus spines, granulomas can still develop. Early treatment is the only way out. Immediate removal of these spines is important and the avoidance of bacterial superinfections is to be given priority. A surgical approach is to be done.

Cholla removal
Cholla removal can get a bit tricky sometimes, once it's grown. You need to grub the plant with a pick mattock. For that, first, cut the main root about 2 to 4 inches below the ground level. Then start removing the plant from there.

Cover the plant with a tarp at first and tuck it against the base of the plant. Enclose all possible branches. Then dig the soil around the ground. Keep inserting shovel until the soil feels loose. Then start using the shovel under the plant. Place a pail over the cactus and lift the shovel under the root, flip the plant next.

Cholla adaptations

Cholla plant develops a lot of different adaptations because it has to survive the arid desert environment. They develop thick covering to their spine shades – this protects them from the desert heat and animals eating them out. The stems are further separated into different segments which helps them to store water and conduct photosynthesis.


Does cholla cactus jump?

No, they don’t jump. They are called the jumping cactus as the joint attachments are very loose and can sting passersby just like that.

Are cholla cactus poisonous?

The cholla cactus is dangerous. The spines can cause the skin to embed in soft tissues of our mouth, tongue and are considered to be fatal.

What's the most dangerous cactus?

The most dangerous cactus is the Saguaro, they can be as tall as 50 feet. The needles are very long and shard.

What is a cholla cactus attack?

Passing near a jumping cholla can be dangerous, they can sting and attack a skin just like that.

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