Wednesday, May 18, 2011

High Desert Plants & Wildlife: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 2

Two types of cacti are most prevelant in Northern New Mexico: Prickly Pear and Cholla. We will now talk about Cholla.

Chollas are also members of the Opuntia genus but have cylindrical, jointed stems rather than flat pads. Cholla cacti represent more than 20 species of the Opuntia genus in the North American deserts. Chollas are the only cactus with papery sheaths covering their spines. These sheaths are often bright and colorful, providing the cactus with its distinctive appearance.

Most Cholla cactus have orange or greenish-yellow flowers with a variety of colors. Most species bloom April through June, depending on local conditions. Stems and joints vary in width, length, shape, and color, as well as in the profusion of spines and glochids. Chollas may appear as ground creepers, shrubs or trees, varying in height from less than a foot to as tall as 15 feet.

Chollas are usually fast-growing, take little care, and many are very hardy. These beautiful cacti are famous for their distinct character and are standouts as specimens. Some Opuntias are miniatures that span only inches, and are essentially ground covers, while others are arborescent tree forms ranging up to 20 feet in height.

Like other cacti, most Chollas have large spines (actually modified leaves) growing from tubercles (small, wart-like projections) on their stems. But members of the Opuntia genus are unique because of their clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from the pads. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin.

Read more about Northern New Mexico Cactus on Taos Unlimited

1 comment:

  1. Oh thats so great that I came across such a wonderful creature of wild life. Love to see something new in nature.