Localities documented in Tropicos sources
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Southern Arizona, southeastern New Mexico, and Mexico to Sinaloa.
Sonoran-Sinaloan Transition Subtropical Dry Forest Habitat
This taxon is found in the Sonoran-Sinaloan transition subtropical dry forest ecoregion, which comprises a distinct zone of dry forest that forms a north-south transition between the Sonoran Desert to the north and the Sinaloan dry forests to the south. There is a generally low faunal endemism and faunal species richnesss; for example, only 310 vertebrates species are found in the ecoregion, with a notable lack of amphibians and reptiles present. Characteristically tropical species include the magnificent Black-throated Magpie Jay (Calocitta colliei). On the other hand, many more typically northern desert species are also found here, including Jumping Cholla cactus (Opuntia fulgida) and Fish-hook Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wisliznei).
Bio-climatically, the ecoregion is classified as a dry steppe life-zone, in contrast to the more humid seasonal forests to the south, and arid deserts to the north. Like neighboring regions, rainfall predominates in the summers. Annual rainfall is approximately 10-20 cm. Because of its proximity to the coast, fluctuations in annual temperatures are only on the order of 10-15° C (difference between median monthly high and low temperature). Frost and temperatures below freezing are rare, in contrast to the Sonoran Desert, to the north. Unlike the distinctly xeric desert vegetation to the north, and the tropical deciduous forest to the south, the vegetation of the Sonoran-Sinaloan transition dry forest is dominated by a deciduous thorn forest or selva espinosa. Pockets of semiarid mattoral as well as thorn scrub are also present.
Dominant trees in this forest include many species from the families Acaciaceae, Burseraceae and Leguminosae. Cacti, such as Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi), are often conspicuous and abundant. Overall, this dry forest is less pronounced and more seasonal than its southern cousin, particularly as one moves north to the margins of the Sonoran Desert. Common and characteristic plants include several acacias: Boat-thorned Acacia (Acacia cochliacantha); and Sonoran Tree Catclaw or Tésota (Acacia occidentalis). The former, a shrub, or small tree, is the only local acacia with boat-shaped thorns. The latter acacia flowers prolifically in March, perfuming the air so heavily that it can often be sensed by scent before it is seen. Another common species in the thorn forest is Torote Prieto (Bursera fragilis).
A number of mammalian taxa are found in this arid ecoregion, among them the following special status taxa; Margay (Leopardus wiedii NT); Mexican Big-eared Bat (Plecotus mexicanus NT); Mexican Long-tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana NT); and the Lesser Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae VU).
Although precise figures are not available, this region also supports a number of endemic and rare plants, including the arborescent morning glory or palo santo (Ipomea arborescens). This species flowers in the dry season, thus providing pollen to nectar-feeding long-tongued bats (Choeronycteris mexicana and Glossophaga soricina) – amongst the most important pollinators of the Sonoran region – at a time when few other plants are in flower.
- World Wildlife Fund & C. Michael Hogan. 2013."Sonoran-Sinaloan transition subtropical dry forest". Encyclopedia of Earth, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC ed. Rhonda Lorraine Millikin
- G. Ceballos and A. García. 1995. Conserving neotropical diversity: The role of dry forests in Western Mexico. Conservation Biology 9:6 (1349-1356).
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Sandy soils of valleys, plains, mesas, washes, and low hills in desert.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Comments: Eighty-two collections from U.S. mapped in Benson (1982).
Life History and Behavior
As in this species, some Opuntia are referred to as 'jumping cacti' because they can break off from their parent plants, easily take root and have retrorsely-barbed spines that attach to animals. It is not uncommon to find monocultures of clonal individuals. It is also known in O. fulgida that its fleshy fruits can break-off and become vegetative propagules (Rebman and Pinkava 2001).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Opuntia fulgida
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Opuntia fulgida (which is comprised of two varieties) is in southern Arizona, southeastern New Mexico, and Mexico as far southward as Sinaloa; sometimes common.
Comments: Most cacti are subject to horticultural collecting, for landscaping or hobby interest.
The greatest range of the jumping cholla is the entire of Sonora, except the Sierra Madre Occidental cordillera on the east and northeast; the range stops 100 mi north of the Sinaloa border on the south, and it is not found in the northwest in the Gran Desierto de Altar. It does occur on the islands in the Gulf of California, including the major islands of Tiburon and Isla Ángel de la Guarda.
In the Southwestern United States, the range extends into the Colorado Desert of California, and in Arizona. There it occurs south and southwest of the Arizona transition zone of the Mogollon Rim; in the northwest-central Sonoran Desert of Arizona, it is in a few selected locales. It also reaches into the northeast section of the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada and Utah, and in the very southern section of the Great Basin Desert of southern Utah. It also occurs just south of the east-west section of the Bill Williams River, east of the Colorado River in the Yuma Desert.
It grows at elevations ranging from 300 to 1000 m (1000 to 3000 ft). While the name "jumping cholla" is applied especially to this species, it is also used as a general term for all chollas.
The jumping cholla is an arborescent (tree-like) plant with one low-branching trunk. It often grows to heights of 4 m (12 ft), with drooping branches of chained fruit. The stems are light green and are strongly tuberculate, with tubercles (small, wart-like projections on the stems) measuring 6 to 9 mm. Together, the plants form fantastic looking forests that may range over many hectares.
Leaves have been reduced to spines, 6 to 12 of which grow from each areole. Young branches are covered with 2 to 3 cm (0.5 to 1 in) silvery-yellow spines, which darken to a gray color with age. These spines form a dense layer that obscures the stems. Slower growing or older branches have sparse and/or shorter spines. As the spines fall off of older parts, the brown-black bark is revealed. It becomes rough and scaly with age.
Flowers are white and pink, streaked with lavender. They are about one inch wide, and are displayed at the joint tips (or old fruit tips), blooming in mid-summer.
Most of the fleshy, green fruits are sterile, pear-shaped to nearly round, wrinkled with a few spines. They are typically about 4 cm (1.5 in) long, often producing flowers the following year which add new fruits to those of previous seasons. It is these hanging chains of fruit which give it the name "hanging chain cholla".
The "jumping cholla" name comes from the ease with which the stems detach when brushed, giving the impression that the stem jumped. Often the merest touch will leave a person with bits of cactus hanging on their clothes to be discovered later when either sitting or leaning on them. The ground around a mature plant will often be covered with dead stems, and young plants are started from stems that have fallen from the adult. They attach themselves to desert animals and are dispersed for short distances.
Other names for this cactus include chain fruit cholla, cholla brincadora, and velas de coyote.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cylindropuntia fulgida.|
- Teddy-bear cholla
- Cholla the painting horse, a horse with a special skill in painting named after the Jumping Cholla
- Chain fruit cholla
- Jumping cholla
- Little. Atlas of United States Trees, Volume 3, Minor Western Hardwoods, Little, Elbert L, 1976, US Government Printing Office. Library of Congress No. 79-653298. Map 104, Opuntia fulgida.
Cylindropuntia fulgida forms hybrids with C. spinosior (see 6. C. ×kelvinensis) and C. leptocaulis. Hybrids, which are rare in south-central Arizona, have stems of intermediate diameter, (0-)1-5 spines per areole, one spine much longer than others, and spineless, yellowing, and often reddish fruits in chains of four to six, or more.