Buckhorn Cholla

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa
(Opuntia acanthocarpa)

Buckhorn Cholla photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed near Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona. June 18, 2002.

The flower color is variable, from yellow to orange to nearly red. Also visible in this photo are fleshy, spike-shaped leaves on the new shoot. These tender leaves are edible and tasty! Pull gently while twisting. They wither and are shed by the plant within a month or so. Observed at Mesquite Wash, Maricopa Co., AZ.

Withered flower petals of Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Once the flower has been pollinated the fleshy petals wither around the stamens and stigmas and thus remains attached to the end of the fruit for a few days. Inside a suite of insects devour the leftover pollen and unneeded flower parts. The cactus sap beetle is a prominent host of this niche; emerging from the flower above and enlarged at right.

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa dry fruit Buckhorn Cholla photo © by Michael Plagens

By summer the mature fruit dries into a prickly burr. 12 Aug. 2017. White Tank Mountains, Maricopa Co., Arizona.

JOINTS: The stems are succulent and formed into cylindrical joints mostly less than 30 cm long and 2½ to 5 cm in diameter. The tubercles on the joints are conspicuously raised and elongate.

FRUIT: Mature fruit turns dry and brown and is set with spines as well as glochids.

RANGE: A frequent cholla throughout the hot deserts of southwestern Arizona.

SHRUB: Normally a shrub rarely surpassing 2 m tall. Occasionally with a distinct central trunk.

FLOWERS: Numerous petals are variable in color ranging red, yellow or purplish.

SPINES: Up to two dozen per areole, 30 mm long, silvery or tan but turning dark with age.

Cactaceae -- Cactus Family

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This salmon colored bloom was observed in the Estrella Mountain Wilderness on 19 Apr. 2009.

More Information:

a sap beetle, Carpophilus from Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa flower

The small ant to the left of the sap beetle is a Forelius. Observed at White Tank Mountains, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 21 April 2019.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 5 July 2002,
updated 3 Dec. 2019.