Native to the desert Southwest, including Texas, the chollas are garden-worthy plants for anyone trying to minimize water use in a dry landscape. Like their Opuntia relatives, they have sections. Unlike the flat Opuntia, these are cylindrical, as their name suggests. In a garden they are sculptural and offer showy flowers and fruit. Remarkably cold hardy and drought tolerant.
chain-link cactus, walking-stick cholla
cylindropuntia imbricata (Opuntia imbricata)
- Native from Colorado to Mexico.
- Treelike cactus with short trunk and branching, cylindrical stems; very slow growing, eventually reaching 36 feet (sometimes as much as 10 feet.) tall.
- Never plant it near walkways or in gardens where children play; it has many sharp, inch-long spines as well as small, hairlike prickles that are more painful when they stick you (and harder to remove).
- Magenta, 2- to 3 inches blossoms in early summer; yellow, 112 inches-long fruits.
- Very cold hardy.
desert christmas cactus, christmas cholla, pencil cactus, tasajillo
cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Opuntia leptocaulis)
- Native to Texas and desert Southwest.
- To 2-3 feet (rarely to 6 feet.) high and equally wide.
- Joints are 1-12 inches long, inches thick, and have 1- to 2 inches-long spines.
- Spring flowers, to inches across, are green to yellow.
- Fleshy fruits about the size and shape of olives mature from green to red, usually around Christmastime and hang on all winter.
- Very striking cold-hardy species.