Teddy Bear Cholla, Jumping Cholla
Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Stem succulent to 3 to 5 feet tall
Sonoran Desert and warmer regions of Mohave Desert in southeastern California, southwestern Arizona, western Sonora and Baja California
Sandy flats, gravelly to rocky washes, bajadas and hillsides below 3,000 feet elevation
Living Desert Location:
Ethnobotanic Garden, Upper Colorado Garden, Yuman Garden
Since this species usually makes no viable seed, it relies on detached segments to form new plants by rooting and growing.
Teddy Bear, or Jumping Cholla, has an upright trunk with closely spaced horizontal branches near the top of the trunk. The stems are protected by a dense covering of yellowish spines which makes this cactus look soft from a distance, hence the common name Teddy Bear. This covering of spines not only provides protection from herbivores like rabbits and rodents, it also is believed to protect the stems from intense sunlight and may be a cooling mechanism for the cactus. The spines are very sharp and well barbed. Younger spines are yellowish and turn black with age. Yellow-green flowers emerge at the tips of the stems in spring, and the fruits that follow usually have no viable seed.
The chollas and the prickly pear cacti (Opuntia) have a segmented growth pattern. The prickly pears have flattened segments, or pads, and the chollas have cylindrical segments. The segments of the Teddy Bear Cholla are easily detached from the plant by a soft touch of a passing animal or human, or even by strong winds. Many people might swear that the cactus jumped at them and grabbed them, which explains the common name, Jumping Cholla.