Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (DC.) F.M. Knuth
Christmas cactus, Christmas cholla, Desert Christmas cactus, Pencil cactus, Tasajillo
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)
Synonym(s): Opuntia leptocaulis
USDA Symbol: CYLE8
This is a 2-5 ft., upright, shrub-like plant with many branches made up of slender, cylindrical joints. These narrow, spiny branches often twist together with the branches of adjacent plants to form inpenetrable thickets. New growth is dark green. With age the branches and trunk develop a scaly bark and turn pale tan. Spines in groups and of 2 types: one, 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long; and the other, about 3/16 inch long. Leaves very small, falling early in the growing season. Flowers greenish, yellow, or bronze. Small, attractive, yellowish-green flowers are followed by fruits which cling to the stem into winter. Fruit fleshy, red or purple, rounded, flattened at the end and tapering toward the base, ripening in late summer, edible
This plant has the most slender stems of all southwestern Chollas. During winter its bright red fruits add attractive color to the brown desert.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub , Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Size Class: 3-6 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: AZ , NM , OK , TX
Native Distribution: AZ to OK, TX & adjacent Mex.
Native Habitat: Mesas, flats, valleys & washes in deserts
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Gravelly, sandy and heavier bottomland soils
Conditions Comments: This cactus can be a pest if not controlled. It has narrow, spiny branches that twist together with the branches of adjacent plants to form impenetrable thickets. The sharp spines are difficult to remove from the skin. Flowers are small, yellowish-green followed by fruit that gives it one of its common names...Christmas Cactus.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Blooms ornamental, Attractive, Desert landscape
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: High
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0484 Collected Jul 30, 1993 in Atascosa County by Louise Morrell
NPSOT 0552 Collected May 18, 1988 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
BibliographyBibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.
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Recommended Species Lists
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Cylindropuntia leptocaulis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cylindropuntia leptocaulis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cylindropuntia leptocaulis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2007-09-06
Research By: NPC, WFS