The Teddy-Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii), or Cholla de Oso in Spanish, is a densely-branched tree or shrub that can survive with very little water in its native Sonoran desert. It stores water in its core stem and can endure years of drought. The Teddy-Bear Cholla is sometimes the only source of water for quail and other birds of the desert throughout the year.
Like the Barrel Cactus, its needle-like spines offer shade, reflect light, and hold moisture near the plant’s surface. From a distance this tree looks soft and cuddly but in fact its spines are barbed and can attach themselves easily to skin and clothing, so exercise caution around this cholla when exploring this desert habitat.
Did you know? The Seri Indians of Sonora, Mexico boil the root of the Teddy-Bear Cholla to make tea.
To see photos of the Teddy-Bear Cholla, visit the San Diego Natural History Museum’s San Diego County Plant Atlas.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Melli, SDNHM