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Marcus, Joseph A.
Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (DC.) F.M. Knuth
Christmas cactus, Christmas cholla, Desert Christmas cactus, Pencil cactus, Tasajillo
Synonyms: Opuntia leptocaulis
USDA Symbol: cyle8
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
This is a 2-5 ft., upright, shrub-like plant with many branches made up of slender, cylindrical joints. These narrow, spiny branches often twist together with the branches of adjacent plants to form inpenetrable thickets. New growth is dark green. With age the branches and trunk develop a scaly bark and turn pale tan. Spines in groups and of 2 types: one, 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long; and the other, about 3/16 inch long. Leaves very small, falling early in the growing season. Flowers greenish, yellow, or bronze. Small, attractive, yellowish-green flowers are followed by fruits which cling to the stem into winter. Fruit fleshy, red or purple, rounded, flattened at the end and tapering toward the base, ripening in late summer, edible
This plant has the most slender stems of all southwestern Chollas. During winter its bright red fruits add attractive color to the brown desert.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow , Green
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jul , Aug
AZ , NM , OK , TX Native Distribution:
AZ to OK, TX & adjacent Mex. Native Habitat:
Mesas, flats, valleys & washes in deserts USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Low Light Requirement:
Sun Soil Moisture:
Dry Heat Tolerant:
Gravelly, sandy and heavier bottomland soils Conditions Comments:
This cactus can be a pest if not controlled. It has narrow, spiny branches that twist together with the branches of adjacent plants to form impenetrable thickets. The sharp spines are difficult to remove from the skin. Flowers are small, yellowish-green followed by fruit
that gives it one of its common names...Christmas Cactus.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Blooms ornamental, Attractive, Desert landscape
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: High
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0484
Collected Jul 30, 1993 in Atascosa County by Louise MorrellNPSOT 0552
Collected May 18, 1988 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
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Record Modified: 2007-09-06
Research By: NPC, WFS