Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Sonoran Desert Flora >>> Cholla Cacti >>> Cylindropuntia ramosissima

Diamond Cholla
Branched Pencil Cholla

Cylindropuntia ramosissima

Photo © left by Michael Plagens

Photographed a few kilometers north of the Gila Bend Mountains, Maricopa County, Arizona. 17 February 2008. The image is hosted at Wikimedia Project.

Notice in the photograph above that the soil in the immediate vicinity of the cholla is churned up. That is due to digging activity of various mammals and reptiles. Here animals find some protection from the sun and of course from larger predators. The plant also gains from this activity. When it rains, water infiltrates better to where the roots are located. Waste, particularly nitrogen, left by the animals also is a ready source of fertilizer. So the animals and the plant together form a microhabitat better suited to both from what would otherwise be continuous desert pavement.

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RANGE: A cholla of western areas of the Sonoran Desert into the Mojave Desert. Most likely encountered in areas of 'Desert Pavement' - flat areas of windswept, closely spaced small stones.

SPINES: Densely spiny - the spines are long, glistening and often conspicuously yellow tipped.

JOINTS: The stems are succulent and formed into smaller diameter, cylindrical joints. The tubercles are only slightly raised and are diamond shaped in outline. The structure appears to reinforce the the spines.

FRUIT: mature fruit is small, dry and bears many spines.

SHRUB: Forming a hemispherical shrub mostly leass than 60 cm high. Occasionally upright with a taller structure.

FLOWERS:Small flowers with many petals are orange to brownish. Blooming April or May.

The tubercles reinforce the fiercely sharp spines. The image is hosted at Wikimedia Project.

Cactaceae -- Cactus Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009