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Buckhorn Cholla Opuntia acanthocarpa


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Buckhorn Cholla
credit: Al_HikesAZ/CCSA

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Alternate name: Staghorn Cholla

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description The main trunk of this tree-like cactus is short and erect; branching open and low to ground. Branches are cylindrical; the joints light green.
Habit: native perennial shrub; succulent stems, in segments 4-20 in (10-50 cm) tall by 0.75-1.25 in (2-3 cm) diameter; new growth is gray-green to purple-green; old growth has rough, scaly, brownish black bark.
Height: 3-15 ft (1-4.5 m)
Leaf: stout sheathed spine, straw or silver-brown becoming gray, to 1 in (25 mm) long or more; 15-25 or more spines per areole.
Flower: delicate, lemon yellow to copper to red to pink, 2-3 in (5-7.5 cm) wide.
Fruit: pear-shaped or barrel-shaped, densely spiny, yellow-green berry, maturing to tan, shriveled, dry mass; 0.6-1.4 in (15-35 mm) long, 0.6-0.8 in (15-20 mm) diameter; drops before next flowering.

May to June.

Flower April - May

Habitat Mojave Desert, edges of juniper woodlands, rocky slopes; 3600-3950 ft (1100-1200 m).

Range Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

Discussion Also known as staghorn cholla, yellow flowered cane cactus. Now classified as Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa var. acanthocarpa following a reorganization of the genus Opuntia. Collection of this plant in the wild is restricted in Arizona.

The Buckhorn Cholla is often found growing in the same range as the Silver Cholla, and sometimes it is not easy to tell them apart. The Silver Cholla usually has one main trunk and a tubercle length one to two times the width. The Buckhorn Cholla usually has serveral small trunks and tubercle length three to several times the width. The Buckhorn Cholla is often quite shrubby, but some plants are treelike and reach up to 13 feet tall. The flower buds are sometimes steamed and used as food by the Pima Indians.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution S. California, s. Nevada, Arizona & extreme s.w. Utah

Site Preference Open areas to 3500 ft.

Soil Preference Sandy soils.