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Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Cactus Around Las Vegas, Vegetation Around Las Vegas
Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)

General: Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa), also called Silver Cholla, is an upright cactus with joined, cylindrical stems. They often have a narrow upright trunk, but some are essentially prostrate (grow along the ground). Golden Cholla tends to have many short branches that are densely covered with golden or brown spines. The stem segments usually are shorter than 4 inches and tuberculated. The flowers are yellow-green and about 2.5-inches in diameter. The spines are covered with a papery sheath that can be plucked off.

Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Typical Golden Cholla.

Golden Cholla often is a common component of vegetation communities on well-drained sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils on desert flats, bajadas, and moderate slopes into the lower mountains in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zone.

Golden Cholla and Silver Cholla are the same species, but I have chosen to treat them separately because they look different and they grow in different areas. The only differences is that in Golden Cholla, the spines are golden; while in Sliver Cholla, the spines are sliver. Around Las Vegas, Golden Chollas are common and easy to see along the Mormon Well and Gass Peak roads in the Desert National Wildlife Range.

Family: Cactus (Cactaceae).

Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Very dark Golden Cholla.

Other Names: Silver Cholla.

Plant Form: Usually upright and shrub-like; some small populations grow prostrate.

Height: Usually to about 3 feet.

Trunk: Usually has a narrow trunk (no larger in diameter than other stem segments).

Stems: Divided into segments; cylindrical. Segments generally less than 4-inches long and about 1-inch in diameter.

Stem Surface: Tuberculated. Tubercles are elliptical, about twice as long as wide (contrast with Buckhorn Cholla, which have long, stretched out tubercles).

Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)

Spines: Central: 9 to 20 per group, to about 1-1/2 inches long; golden color; covered with a papery sheath that can be pulled off.

Glochids: Present.

Flowers: Blooms late spring and early summer. Inflorescence: solitary flowers. Flower: diameter about 2 inches, yellow-green; filaments pale green to yellowish.

Fruit: Dry, tuberculated, with dense spines.

Seeds: Many, small.

Habitat: Dry, well-drained sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils on upper bajadas and moderate slopes in the lower mountains.

Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Purple Golden Cholla.

Distribution: Southern California to Utah and Arizona.

Elevation: About 1,000 to 5,000 feet.

Comments: Hybridizes with other chollas.

The common names, silver and golden, refer to the color of the spines. In some populations, the spines are light and silvery; while in other populations, the spines are darker and somewhat golden.

Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Golden Cholla fruit
Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Golden Cholla fruit
Golden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)
Yellowish Golden Cholla
more to come ...

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate. Names generally follow the USDA database.
copyright; Last updated 141116

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