Jumping Cholla Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Published: 01 Sep 2021

Modified: 22 Nov 2021

jumping cholla

The jumping cholla is a beautiful, big cactus found in the Sonoran Desert. Now, despite its magnificent beauty, people will be surprised about the fact that this plant has a nasty side. Its barbed cactus spines would attach to people and animals coming too close resulting in a common painful reaction. Known to flourish in the very harsh environment of the desert, this plant has developed a wonderful adaptation to protect itself from hungry plant-eaters. The jumping cholla can symbolize the strive for survival and staying strong even when facing hard challenges in life. Listed below are our informative and entertaining facts about this awesome plant that will surely be worth your time.

  1. Cylindropuntia fulgida is a cholla cactus native to Sonora and the Southwestern United States.
  2. In the Southwestern United States, the range extends into the Colorado Desert of California, and in Arizona.
  3. Cylindropuntia fulgida grows at elevations ranging from 300 to 1,000 m.
  4. The jumping cholla is an arborescent tree-like plant with one low-branching trunk.
  5. It often grows to heights of 4 m (13 ft), with drooping branches of chained fruit.
  1. They have 6 to 12 spines that grow from each areole.
  2. They have a 2-3 cm silvery-yellow spike that covers their branch. The spikes would darken to a gray color with age.
  3. The jumping cholla blooms from February to March.
  4. Their flowers are yellow-greenish in color and would appear at the end of the branches.
  5. Its spine becomes rough and scaly with age.
  6. The fruit of these plants are fleshy, pear-shaped to nearly round, wrinkled with a few spines. They are usually sterile.
  7. Its name is pronounced as the Jumping “Choy-a”.
  8. The name, jumping cholla comes from the ease with which the stems detach when brushed.
  9. The jumping cholla is very sensitive to touch. A person can get bits of cactus hanging on their clothes without even knowing it.
  10. Usually, the ground of a mature plant will be covered with its dead stems. Young plants would start to grow from stems that have fallen from the adult plant.
  1. Jumping chollas live for decades in the wild.
  2. The fruit of a jumping cholla represents an important source of food and water for deers and bighorn sheep during long periods of drought.
  3. Jumping chollas usually produce sterile fruit. The plant often propagates via parts of the stem.
  4. People would use its wood for making handicrafts.
  5. They have a dense spiny coat that acts like a shield that prevents overheating and hungry herbivores at a safe distance.
Table of Contents

The jumping cholla can make its own food.

A jumping cholla’s stem is divided into a number of parts, collecting water and absorbing sunlight. The energy from that process is then converted into food and released as carbon dioxide.

They can form a forest of needles.

When there are a lot of jumping chollas growing near each other, they often build a forest-like  canopy. This area is quite dangerous to humans and animals alike because of the cholla’s sharp spines, which are identical to porcupine quills. Your skin can easily tear and get caught in these spines, even penetrating as deep as your muscle fibers.

cactus, jumping cholla, plant
Image from pixabay

It is alluringly pretty with illumination.

The spines of a jumping cholla are covered with a thin, paper-like sheath that can be tan, gold, silver, or white-colored. This layer reflects light and produces a beautiful, colorful effect. Chollas are a large genus of beautiful, tricky, unusual, and semi-dangerous cacti, so being careful around them would not hurt.

Their detachable spines are responsible for the unusual name of this plant.

Why the name ‘jumping cholla’, though? The simple answer is because of their spines, which can appear to jump and strike any living being naively going near this plant. Although these barbed cactus spines don’t really pounce on anyone, they can still easily separate from the cholla and cling persistently when someone gets too close.

Their barbs are very complicated to remove.

The jumping cholla has barbed spines. They are microscopic, but they easily penetrate the skin and are additionally complicated to remove from the body. However, the plant itself is not trying to deliberately hurt us, it’s just trying to survive, instead. When people or animals manage to remove the spines, they usually fall to the ground in a new location and can root right there.

Their fruit hangs like a chain.

These plants typically grow about 4 cm long.  They often produce flowers the following year, which add new fruits to those from the previous seasons. These hanging chains of fruit gave it the name “hanging chain cholla.”

cactus, plant, desert, hanging fruit
Image from pxhere

These plants are being left to flourish.

Luckily out of harm’s way from pesky human affairs, jumping chollas flourish in their environment because they thrive in hard places that don’t entice visits from people. At the same time, they detach their spines and then hitch a lift on to travelers or animals who pass by, thus, improving their reproduction rate.

Keep your eyes peeled for them.

If you want to avoid making contact with these plants, you only have to make sure that you are highly observant of your surroundings as you make your way. However, you won’t find these cacti in your normal daily stroll.

They are not poisonous.

Many fear the poisonous potential of the jumping cholla’s needles. The truth is, they’re not poisonous nor infectious, at all. They just normally cause throbbing pain and irritation because of how pointy the needles are.

cactus, big, plant, desert
Image from Flickr

They are big and beautiful.

Aside from the huge saguaro cactus, the jumping cholla are one of the loveliest cacti there is, despite their annoying tendency of sticking on people’s body. Moreover, the jumping cholla has leaves that have been altered to extend as pointy spines. In some of its species, these spines are enveloped with a delicate case that keeps the plant cool from severe heat waves. Sometimes, these cases can be rich in different colors, but oftentimes just look ivory in appearance.