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Desert Christmas Cactus, Pencil Cholla
Scientific Name: Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (DC.) F.M. Knuth
Synonym: Cylindropuntia brittonii, Opuntia vaginata, Opuntia leptocaulis, Opuntia brittonii, Opuntia frutescens
Family: Cactaceae
Desert Christmas Cactus, Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia  leptocaulis) Recommended Temperature Zone:
USDA: 9b-10

Frost Tolerance: Hardy to 23 F (-5C)

Minimum Avg. Temperature: 50F (10C)

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Origin: Southwestern USA (western Arizona to Texas), northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon) from 200 to 5000 feet elevation (60 to 1500 m)

Growth Habits: Slender erect 'cholla' shrub up to 3 feet tall (90 cm) or more; light green, slender joints

Watering Needs: Little water

Propagation: Cuttings


In the wild, the Pencil Cholla is encountered along washes. It can be easily missed as it is entangled with other shrubs and vegetation.

Desert Christmas Cactus, Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia  leptocaulis)

Desert Christmas Cactus, Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia  leptocaulis)

Blooming Habits:
The flowers in May-June are small and inconspicuous.

Fruiting Habits:
The green fruits have the shape and size of olives, and turn red when they mature in the winter months. They become then very visible and gave the plant its name of Christmas cactus.

Check for Field Collection numbers at Ralph Martin's Site


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Desert-Tropicals is dedicated to provide gardening advice, gardening ideas, and information about flower of all kind for landscape and collections. We try to check carefully the identification of the plants on the illustrations as well as the other information from the page, but occasionally errors do occur. if you notice anything that needs to be changed please contact us. Thanks.

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