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Cylindropuntia imbricata
Cylindropuntia imbricata
Cylindropuntia imbricataSynonym: Opuntia imbricata (Cane Cholla, Tree Cholla)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-deserts. Sandy, rocky openings and grasslands. Summer.
BLM lands near Hovenweep National Monument, Utah, June 11, 2007.

These tall and spreading Cacti are common in south-eastern Colorado; scattered in northern New Mexico but in abundance through central and southern New Mexico; and they also occur in magnificent form in far southern Arizona. (See the map below.)

One species of Cylindropuntia that grows at Chimney Rock National Monument in southwest Colorado had in the past been identified as Cylindropuntia imbricata, but almost all Cactaceae experts now indicate that Cylindropuntia imbricata does not exist at Chimney Rock or anywhere else in southwest Colorado. The putative Cylindropuntia imbricata are actually hybrids of C. imbricata and C. whipplei. The name given to these hybrids has varied over the years: Cylindropuntia x viridiflora, Cylindropuntia x media (P.V.Heath, "Cactus and Succulent Journal of Great Britain", (1994) 4(4): 142, and Cylindropuntia x anasaziensis. Cylindropuntia x media is the most widely accepted name for the hybrid.

Some Cactaceae experts believe that the southeast Utah plants shown on this page are also hybrids, but I think the morphological evidence shows that they are C. imbricata.

Main branches of C. imbricata are stout and thick, spines are numerous but do not obscure the main branch, and flowers are large, numerous, and attractively magenta.  The plants thrive on hot areas of sand, rock, and grasslands where they commonly grow four to seven feet tall and four feet wide.  Most of the population shown in the photographs on this web page and the next grow four to five feet tall and wide.

The Cylindropuntia genus and the species Cylindropuntia imbricata were named by F. M. Knuth in 1935.  The genus name is for the cylindrical stem shape of this Cactus, which was formerly in the Opuntia genus.  "Imbricata" means shingled and refers to the shingle-like arrangements of the tubercles  --  the long, narrow bumps along the stem.

Cylindropuntia imbricata

Cylindropuntia imbricata

Cylindropuntia imbricata

Cylindropuntia imbricata Synonym: Opuntia imbricata.  (Cane Cholla, Tree Cholla)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-deserts. Sandy, rocky openings and grasslands. Summer.
BLM lands near Hovenweep National Monument, Utah, June 17, 2007.

 

The three or four rows of tubercles immediately below the flowers are soft, new spring growth.  Notice that the older tubercles below the new growth are longer, wider, and a lighter shade of green.  Spines on the new growth are at first soft and short but they will stiffen and lengthen within a few weeks.

 

 

 

The second photograph shows the contrast between the new and old growth. The dark green growth and the flowers all grew in the first few weeks of the spring of 2007.  The lighter green stem and longer spines are the growth from 2006.

 

 

 

 

As the new growth in the upper and lower left of the third photograph indicates, not all new growth produces flowers.

 

 

Click for second page of Cylindropuntia imbricata photographs.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Cylindropuntia imbricata

Range map for Cylindropuntia imbricata
NOTE: The presence of Cylindropuntia imbricata in southwest Colorado is questionable. (The one green county is Archuleta.) The plants found there are considered by almost all botanists to be vegetatively reproducing hybrids of C. imbricata and C. whipplei.