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Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Tasajillo)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (DC.) F.M. Knuth

Tasajillo, Christmas Cactus, Pencil Cactus, Christmas Cholla, Desert Christmas Cactus

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Synonym(s): Opuntia leptocaulis

USDA Symbol: CYLE8

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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 impenetrable 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.

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

36 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 5 feet tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jul , Aug


USA: AZ , NM , OK , TX
Native Distribution: AZ to OK, TX & adjacent Mex.
Native Habitat: Mesas, flats, valleys & washes in deserts

Growing Conditions

Water 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.


Use Ornamental: Blooms ornamental, Attractive, Desert landscape
Conspicuous Flowers: 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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According 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

2 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium


Bibref 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.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-03-14
Research By: NPC, WFS

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