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File:Cylindropuntia kleiniae.jpg
Cylindropuntia kleiniae
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Opuntioideae
Tribe: Cylindropuntieae
Genus: Cylindropuntia
(Engelm.) F.M.Knuth

Numerous, see text

File:Opuntia cylindrica.JPG
Cane Cactus, in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Blooming cholla cactus with bird's nest in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Cylindropuntia is a genus of cacti (family Cactaceae), containing the cholla, native to northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States. They are known for their barbed spines that tenaciously attach to skin, fur, and clothing.

Stands of cholla are called cholla gardens. Individuals within these colonies often exhibit the same DNA as they were formerly tubercles of an original plant.


Cylindropuntia was formerly treated as a subgenus of Opuntia, but have now been separated based on their cylindrical stems (Opuntia species have flattened stems) and the presence of papery epidermal sheaths on the spines (Opuntia has no sheaths).[1] A few species of mat- or clump-forming opuntioid cacti are currently placed in the genus Grusonia.

The roughly 35 species of Cylindropuntia are native to the southwest and southcentral United States, Mexico, and the West Indies, The Flora of North America recognizes 22 species. Some species have been introduced to South America (Chile, Ecuador, Peru) and South Africa.[2]

Selected species

In popular culture

  • John Grady, the protagonist of Cormac McCarthy's novel All the Pretty Horses, describes riding his horse after a heavy storm and seeing small birds that had been impaled on roadside cholla. [3]


  1. Pinkava, D. J. 1999. Cactaceae cactus family: Part 3. Cylindropuntia… J. Arizona-Nevada Acad. Sci. 32: 32-47.
  2. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
  3. Chapter 1-I, page 85
  4. Chapter 14, page 25