Denise Goldberg's blog

Friday, February 03, 2012

Don't hug the cholla!

From a distance the-teddy bear cholla looks soft, but hugging the cholla is a really bad idea. From the Cholla Cactus Garden brochure available at Joshua Tree National Park:

From a distance, the top joints of Cylindropuntia bigelovii, a species of cholla (pronounced choy-ya) appear to be covered with soft, silvery bristles, which accounts for its common name, "teddy-bear" cholla.

However, each of its spines is tipped with a microscopic barb, and if you try to "hug the bear" or simply brush up against it, the spines will penetrate your shirt, your shoes, your pants, and espcially your skin, causing the joint to detach and stay with you. Then the origin of its second nickname, "jumping cholla" becomes apparent
The clever desert wood rat uses cholla joints to line the runway to its nest, protecting against (some) of the wood rat's prey.

teddy bear cholla, Joshua Tree National Park

teddy bear cholla, Joshua Tree National Park