Cholla , Tree Cholla

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Haw.) F.M. Knuth (syn. Opuntia imbricata)

Cactaceae (Cactus family)


Cholla is a tree-like, large, upright cactus reaching a height of 10 to 13 ft or 3 to 4 m tall. This plant is often called "walking stick cholla." A mature Cholla can have a trunk reaching up to 10 inches or 25 cm in diameter. It is very spiny with barbed white to reddish spines, about 0.75 to 1 inch long. Its stem has many joints with ridges.    The flowers are pink to purplish, with yellow anthers, are 1 to 2 inches long, and are located on the ends of the stems. Bloom time may occur from May to June. The fruit begins as a green color, turns yellow when mature, and has tubercles. The fruit produces seeds a little over 1/10 inch long.      The fruit provides fair forage for wildlife but is rarely consumed by grazing livestock. Spines may be burned off to feed cattle, despite being unpalatable, if forage is scarce. Cholla provides nectar for insects and nesting sites for bird species.  


Cholla occurs on clay and clay loam soils or foothills in West Texas, especially in the High Plains and Trans-Pecos regions. It occurs on elevations ranging from 1,800 to 6,000 ft or 548 to 1829 m. Cholla is distributed from Texas, northward to Kansas and Colorado, and westward to New Mexico and Arizona. It has a very high heat tolerance. Cholla grows in a variety of habitats including grasslands, scrublands, and deserts.