All About Chollas

All About Chollas

Go out into the desert and you’ll quickly realize that, while everything looks the same from a distance, there’s a huge variety of plants when you get up-close and personal. However, with the cholla cactus, you might wish to keep a respectful distance while admiring this interesting plant.


Cholla, pronounced “cho-ya,” look a little like trees in that they have a variety of thin branches. These branches look a little furry but, close up, you realize that the fur is very prickly. (In fact, the prickly pear is also a type of cholla, but we’ll talk about that another day.)


There are around 20 chollas in the opuntia, or cactus,  family. They are special in that their spines, called glochids, have a papery covering that is colored red or yellow. You really, really don’t want to brush up against a cholla and, if you have a dog, keep him safely on a leash around these plants. The spines comes off at the drop of a hat and quickly lodge in your skin. In fact, one of the reasons the jumping cholla is so called is that the spines appear to “jump” at you!


The cylindrical stems of most chollas are, upon closer inspection, jointed. These joints are multi-tasking: they produce flowers, store water and feed the plant through photosynthesis (the spines on any cactus are actually desert-adapted leaves).


There appears to be a cholla for every occasion. They grow in most western deserts, down low and up as high as eight thousand feet. They grow together in clusters. You might be able to find out information about flowering times through Bureau of Land Management or National Park Service offices. The range is from April to June, usually, and you’ll see these inhospitable-looking plants bloom orange or yellow-green. doesn’t sell cacti in any shape or form. But we do appreciate each blossom for what it is: a precious thing that’s utterly beautiful. Each year, we shape thousands of blooms into exquisite arrangements so you can tell your loved ones Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon or just plain, “Hello.” We work with only the best local florists to bring you flower arrangements across the globe…even in the Southwest.
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