Cuddly-Looking, But Don’t Touch!

Backlit Cholla Cactus

Backlit Cholla Cactus

It’s hard to believe that Martine and I left for the Anza Borrego Desert two weeks ago today. Thanks to the multiple daily crises of a tax season, it’s almost as if it never happened. Except, the desert does something to me: Somehow I feel better able to tolerate the mess and the tension. Last year, I wanted to leave for a few days to the Owens Valley—another prime desert locale—but we couldn’t find the time.

One of the most beautiful plants in the deserts of California is the cholla cactus. It is also one of the most deadly, because its spines are slightly barbed. They detach easily if one brushes against the plant and can usually be removed safely only with the help of a comb.

There are many different species of the Cylindropuntia genus, including the aptly named teddy bear cholla and the jumping cholla (the latter because the spines seem almost to jump at you).

When backlit, cholla cactus plants are luminescent, as in the picture above.