By: Vicki – Echo
February 1, 2015
As you read this column, you will quickly realize that I do not have a knack for writing. What I do have is a fondness for cacti, and this fondness has inspired me to gain a little cacti knowledge.
As you explore the public lands around Yuma, you might see a variety of cholla (choy yuh) cacti. Cholla are small, treelike plants with long spines.
The Teddybear cholla (teddybear in appearance only) is a ferocious cactus with sharp, barbed spines. Stem joints will embed themselves into you if you accidentally get too close, and please, please don’t let your pets near these cacti. The Teddybear cholla blooms February to May and produces yellow to pale green blossoms.
Buckhorn cholla grows taller and appears more treelike than Teddybear cholla. Buckhorn has beautiful bronze-red blossoms and blooms April to May. Stag horn cholla looks very similar to Buckhorn cholla. In fact, I am unable to tell them apart. To me, the most interesting thing about cholla cacti, are their woody, honeycomb-like skeletons.
If you take a little time to look around, you will most likely spot some Beavertail cacti, a member of the Prickly Pear family. Beavertail is a pad cactus without long, needle-like spines, but with many clusters of tiny, barbed bristles that stick irritatingly into your skin. What I love most about Beavertail is the beautiful hot pink or magenta blossoms that appear March to June.
I saved the best for last! The mighty Saguaro (sah wah roh) cactus, a symbol of the American West, will only grow in the Sonoran Desert. The Saguaro is the largest cactus in the US. It will generally reach heights of forty feet. It is a slow grower and can take seventy years or more before it grows its first arm. Some Saguaro may have dozens of arms, while others may never grow one. I find the most fascinating thing about the Saguaro is its ability to thrive in the harsh environment of the Sonoran Desert. The skin of the Saguaro is thick, waxy and pleated and will expand as the cactus stores water during wet times. Then, during drought, the cactus can live on the stored water. Saguaros will produce white flowers in the late spring, usually April to June. I have only seen Saguaro blossoms in photographs. Something to look forward to!