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TEDDYBEAR CHOLLA

TEDDY BEAR CHOLLA (Opuntia bigelovii)

The teddy bear cholla is named for its furry "cuddly" appearance but is actually a densely spined plant. This dense covering of spines almost completely obscures the stem, shielding it from exposure to intense sunlight. Characteristically, the base of the plant is black or chocolate-brown in colour, where the older branches have fallen off, while the younger branches have a golden or silvery appearance, depending on the colour of the spine sheaths. The plants grow to 1-1.5 metres tall, with many short branches, which are readily detached by animals or even wind and then take root in the soil. The image above shows many young plants that have established in this way around their parents. In fact, this is the main method of propagation of this species of cholla - the plants do produce flowers and fruits but the seeds are usually sterile.

Teddy bear cholla is widespread and abundant in the lower, warmer parts of the Mojave Desert and in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico. Sometimes whole hillsides can be covered with a forest of these plants, all derived from fallen, rooted branches (image below).


Forest of teddy bear cholla on a dry slope in the lower region of the Mojave Desert


Close-up of spine-covered branches and yellow fruits (usually sterile) of teddy bear cholla

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This site is no longer maintained and has been left for archival purposes

Text and links may be out of date