Cylindropuntia fulgida: An Overview of the Jumping Cholla Cactus

Cylindropuntia fulgida, also known as the jumping cholla, is a species of cactus native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. With its spiny, segmented stems and small, colorful flowers, the jumping cholla is a distinctive plant that plays an important role in the desert ecosystems of its native range. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the habitat and physical characteristics of the jumping cholla, as well as its reproduction and cultural and ecological significance.

Jumping cholla cactus

Why is it called jumping cholla?

Jumping cholla is named for its habit of “jumping” onto the clothing or fur of passing animals or humans. The plant has spines that easily detach from the stem and become embedded in skin or fur, leading to the belief that the plant “jumps” onto passing animals. The plant’s scientific name, Cylindropuntia fulgida, comes from the Greek word “puntos,” which means “pointed,” and the Latin word “fulgidus,” which means “shining.” This refers to the plant’s spiny stems, which are shiny and pointed.

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Jumping cholla identification

Habitat and Distribution

Jumping cholla is native to the desert and arid grassland environments of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It is most commonly found in Arizona, Nevada, and California in the United States, and in the states of Sonora and Baja California in Mexico. The plant prefers gritty, well-draining soil and full sun exposure, and is adapted to survive long periods of drought.

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Jumping cholla natural habitat

Physical Characteristics

The jumping cholla is a shrubby cactus with segmented stems that grow in clusters. Each stem is covered in spines, which serve to protect the plant from herbivores and provide insulation against heat and cold. The spines are typically yellow or brown in color, and may be up to 2 inches long. The plant also has small, colorful flowers that bloom in shades of pink, purple, or red. These flowers are typically about 1 inch in diameter and are followed by small, edible fruit. In its native habitat, jumping cholla can reach heights of up to 10 feet. However, in cultivation it is typically much smaller, reaching only a few feet in height.

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Jumping cholla propagation

Reproduction and Propagation

Jumping cholla reproduces both sexually, through seed dispersal, and vegetatively, through stem cuttings. The plant’s seeds are small and black, and are typically dispersed by wind or animals. To propagate jumping cholla through stem cuttings, a section of stem with at least one set of leaves is cut from the parent plant and allowed to dry for a few days before planting. The cuttings should be planted in well-draining soil and kept in a sunny location. While it is possible to propagate jumping cholla in cultivation, it can be a challenging process as the plant requires specific growing conditions and may be slow to take root.

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Jumping cholla soil needs

Cultural and Ecological Significance

Jumping cholla has a long history of cultural and medicinal use by indigenous peoples in its native range. The plant’s fruit is edible and has been used as a food source by Native American tribes. The plant’s spines have also been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for various ailments. In addition to its cultural significance, jumping cholla is also ecologically important as a food source for wildlife and as a component of desert ecosystems.

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Jumping cholla watering


Cylindropuntia fulgida, or the jumping cholla, is a unique and important plant that plays a role in the desert ecosystems of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. With its spiny, segmented stems and small, colorful flowers, it is a distinctive and visually striking plant. It reproduces both sexually and vegetatively, and has a long history of cultural and medicinal use by indigenous peoples. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating plant, consider researching its reproductive biology or the cultural significance of the jumping cholla to indigenous cultures.

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Jumping cholla cylindropuntia fulgida
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