Chain Fruit Cholla
Jumping Cholla

Cylindropuntia fulgida
(Opuntia fulgida)

Cylindropuntia fulgida photo © by Michael Plagens

Hikers soon learn not no even walk in the vicinity of this plant. There are often many spiny stem joints on the ground that will latch onto a loose cuff or shoelace. This specimen was observed in the Goldfield Mountains.

pedulous fruit chains of Cylindropuntia fulgida, Jumping Cholla

Each nearly spherical fruit represents another year in the growth of the chains. The fruits apparently do not contain fertile seeds and so do not ripen. Photographed at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; the image is also shared at the Wikimedia Commons.

FRUIT: A curious feature of the fruit will readily identify this species. Most of the fruits do not ripen. Instead they remain on the plant and then a new flower and fruit develops upon the old fruit the next year. This may continue for many years producing pendulant chains of nearly spherical green fruits.

Photo © by Michael Plagens

FLOWERS: Short tepals leaving the whole flower only 2 cm in diameter. The flowers shown here were open in August in the Superstition Mountains, Maricopa Co.

JOINTS/STEMS: The joints readily break off and will often root to form a new plant. The ground about mature plants are usually littered with many dead or sprouted joints. Twelve centimeters long and up to five centimeters in diameter.

SPINES: The ultra-sharp, barbed spines may be either quite long, dense and glistening so as to almost obscure the stem, or else be much sparser and shorter. Varietal status has been given to many different populations.

TRUNK: A distinct trunk very often branches just above the ground into several large diameter branches that darken giving the whole plant a very treelike appearance. Plants 3 or 4 m tall are common.

RANGE: A common to abundant cactus from near Phoenix to Tucson and southwestward to Organ Pipe National Monument. Together the plants form fantastic looking forests that may range over many hectares. Found sporadically in western Arizona as well.

Crematogaster ants can often be seen patrolling the surfaces of a Jumping Cholla. In essence the cactus hires the ant to ward of plant eaters of all kinds. The pay is sweet exudate from the areoles. These ants are also known as Acrobat Ants.

Cactaceae -- Cactus Family

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Sonoran Desert Field Guide
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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 9 Nov. 2007,
updated 26 Feb. 2020.