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Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata (Tree cholla)
Bettinger, Edith

Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Haw.) F.M. Knuth var. imbricata

Tree Cholla, Teddy-bear Cholla, Cholla, Cane Cactus, Walkingstick Cholla

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Synonym(s): Cereus imbricatus, Opuntia arborescens, Opuntia imbricata, Opuntia imbricata var. arborescens, Opuntia imbricata var. imbricata, Opuntia imbricata var. vexans


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Tree cholla grows tall and upright, sometimes bushy but usually treelike, 3-8 ft. in height, sometimes taller. The main trunk is round and can reach 3-4 in. in diameter with age. The spiny stems are jointed and cylindrical. Large, showy flowers open out wide and are reddish-purple in color. Fruits ripen from green to rose to yellow.

This is the first bush-like or tree-like Cholla (pronounced CHOY-yah) encountered when traveling from the East to the Southwest. Near the Rio Grande other species appear, and in Arizona there are many, making identification more difficult. Once the flesh has weathered away, their woody stems are hollow, with many holes, and are popular souvenirs.


From the Image Gallery

23 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 15 feet tall, often shorter.
Flower: Flowers 3 inches
Fruit: Yellow 2 inches long

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AZ , CO , KS , NM , OK , TX , UT
Native Distribution: W. KS & CO, s. to Mex.
Native Habitat: Mesas; deserts

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy or gravelly soils. Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: Pronounced "choy-ya". Slow grower but eventually gets shrubby or tree-shaped. Woody stems appear braided and the yellow fruit are showy. Dead stems have interesting "skeletons" once the soft tissue has decomposed away. These are often used as souvenirs. Provide good drainage. Caution: has sharp spines.


Use Ornamental: Showy, Planned landscape, Desert landscape, Blooms ornamental, Fruits ornamental
Use Wildlife: Nectar-insects, Nectar-bees, Nesting site, Fruit-birds
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Deer Resistant: High

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata


Record Modified: 2022-10-18
Research By: TWC Staff

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