WILDFLOWERS OF NEW MEXICO

 
 

These 3–9-foot tall, distinctive cacti dot the eastern plains, Chihuahua Desert scrublands, and high desert plateaus of NM. The woody base branches into a dense bush of segmented stems lined with rounded ridges of tubercles  with clusters of stiff thorns. The trunks reach 10-inches in diameter (rarely). Note the thorny,  jointed segments are 10–15 3/4-inches long and 3/4–1 1/4-inches in diameter. Cattle grazing the high plains and desert grasslands spread the joints which can create Cholla “forests.”


FLOWER: April–August (depending on rains). Flowers 3–4-inches wide with brilliant magenta, purplish, pink, or lavender petal-like tepals bloom on stem tips. Numerous greenish-red filaments tipped with yellow anthers surround the cream-colored stigma lobes. The firm, yellow, ridged fruit persists throughout winter.


SPINES: Tubercles mostly 3/4–1 3/8-inches long (20–35 mm) have 8–15 brownish to yellowish spines 3/8–1 1/4-inch long (8–30 mm); spines have a sheath covering easily slipped off.  Avoid touching the stem and fruit which have tufts of wicked hair-like, barbed glochid bristles.


HABITAT: Dry sandy, rocky soils of plains, grasslands, desert scrublands, foothills, pinyon-juniper woodlands.


ELEVATION: 4,350–7,800 feet.


RANGE: AZ, CO, KS, NM, OK, TX.


SIMILAR SPECIES: The look-alike Walkingstick Cholla, C. spinosior, in sw NM, has shorter tubercles, mostly 3/8–5/8-inch long (9–15 mm). Whipple’s Cholla, C. whipplei, in the western half of NM, has slightly thinner stems and yellow flowers.The small yellowish-green-pinkish flowers and much smaller diameter stems distinguish Pencil Cholla, C. leptocaulis and Candle Cholla, C. kleiniae.


NM COUNTIES: Nearly statewide in low- to mid-elevation dry habitats (not reported in Curry, De Baca, Lea counties).

CANE  (TREE)  CHOLLA  CACTUS

CYLINDROPUNTIA IMBRICATA (OPUNTIA IMBRICATA)

Cactus Family, Cactaceae

Perennial Cactus, shrub/tree

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Range Map for

Cylindropuntia imbricata

1. Woody, jointed stems with ridges of tubercles with stout spines covered in a loose sheath (upper arrow).

2. Areoles on tubercles have 8–15 spines (lower arrow).

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