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April 14, 2008

Cholla Cactus - Anza-Borrego Desert

Cactus at Anza-Borrego Desert State ParkThis very sculptural-looking cactus is alluringly beautiful and drops the ends of its branches onto the ground like little balls. But woe to anyone or anything that merely brushes even gently against it as its thorns are incredibly sharp and barbed. A gentle touch with the tip of the rubber toe on my shoe and the spines were a half-inch into the rubber and impossible to pull back out! Beware of these beauties if you visit Anza-Borrego desert.

This cactus plant is actually a Cholla Cactus. There are several varieties, but this one is Cylindropuntia bigelovii or the "Teddy Bear Cholla", so named because of it's fuzzy appearance. That cute fuzziness, however, is the mass of spines covering the plant. One of my friends knows this cactus as "the widowmaker"! You can read about this and other Cholla cacti at Wikipedia: Teddy-Bear Cholla. Or additionally at this Living Desert posting which describes clearly the perils of encountering this deceptively-looking teddy-bear.

Full-sized photos of this cactus can be seen in the Plants Photo Gallery (Dial-up Plants Photo Gallery)

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