Overview

Brief Summary

The buckhorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) is an open and spreading woody cactus, up to 1 m tall. The gray-green stems, also called "joints", are cylindrical, 5-30 cm long and 17-20 mm in diameter with tubercles or nodules. Each tubercle has a cluster of stiff spines, which are covered with loose papery sheaths. The flowers are up to 5 cm long and range from yellow to purple-red with shades in between. The fruits are obovoid, dry, shriveled and spiny and drop off later in the season. The seeds are light yellowish to gray-brown, 3.5 to 4 mm. long.

Varieties of C. acanthocarpa (var. acanthocarpa, var. coloradensis, var. major and var. thornberi) are found in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah; in Arizona, all of the varieties are protected plants.

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Distribution

Range Description

The species occurs in Mexico in the states of Baja California and Sonora and in the United States in Arizona, Utah, California and Nevada (Hunt et al. 2006) at elevations of 300 - 1,300 m. (Paredes et al. 2000).
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Global Range: Mojavean and Sonoran Deserts. California, Nevada, Arizona.

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Trees or shrubs, sparsely to densely branched, 1-2(-4) m. Stem segments firmly attached, cylindric, 10-30(-50) × 2-2.5(-3) cm; tubercles prominent, narrow to broad, 1.5-4.5 cm; areoles elliptic to subcircular, 4-5.5 × 4-5 mm; wool white or yellowish to tan, aging gray-black. Spines 6-20(-30+) per areole, often accompanied by 0-5 short bristlelike spines at areole margins, usually in distal areoles; major abaxial spines deflexed to divergent, subterete to flattened; major adaxial spines ascending-divergent, terete, yellow or tan to deep red-brown, aging gray, the central spine longest, 12-30(-38) mm; sheaths white to grayish with yellow to golden tips, baggy to tight fitting. Glochids in inconspicuous to small adaxial tuft, yellow to brown, 0.5-2 mm. Flowers: inner tepals bright yellow to bronze to brick red, spatulate, 20-30 mm, apiculate-emarginate; filaments red; anthers yellow; style and stigma lobes white to light green. Fruits tan at maturity, obconic to ellipsoid, 15-35 × 15-20 mm, dry, tuberculate, densely to sparsely spiny (rarely spineless), with apical flange above shallow umbilicus; basal tubercles longest; areoles 12-30. Seeds pale yellow to tan, angular or squarish in outline, warped, 3.5-5 × 3-4.5 mm, sides smooth, each with 2-4 large depressions; girdle smooth.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Opuntia acanthocarpa Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow, Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 3: 308. 1856
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species grows on the high plain of the Sonoran Desert of Arizona (Paredes et al. 2000). The species grows in a variety of habitats including dry thorny scrub and oak woodlands. The species also occurs on a variety of substrates including sandy alluvium, steep rocky hillsides, and on a variety of rock types.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Sandy or gravelly soils of benches, slopes of mountains, mesas, flats, and washes in the desert, woodland and brush.

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 to >300

Comments: Ninety-nine estimated EO's (Benson 1982)

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General Ecology

Opuntia acanthocarpa commonly germinates and grows under the canopy of nurse plants. Hilaria rigida is the most common nurse plant for this and other cholla cacti but this species will utilize other favorable microhabitat. As the cactus develops it often begins to compete with the nurse plant for resources and is often responsible for die backs in the nurse plant. Mature plants can reciprocally play a nurse plant role for other species.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Pinkava, D.J., Baker, M. & Puente, R.

Reviewer/s
Goettsch, B.

Contributor/s

Justification
This is an extremely widespread and abundant species and there are no major threats. Hence, it is listed as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: Approx. 100 EO's from the Mojvean and Sonoran Deserts.

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Population

Population
Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa is very abundant.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
Given its wide range, this species is not facing any major threats.
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Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs in many protected areas across its range.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

In the Southwest the Hualapai and Pima harvested the unopened flower buds of buckhorn cholla with two long sticks. The sticks were used to grab the mature buds and twist them off into a large flat basket or bucket. The spines are then removed prior to cooking. Traditionally the buds were baked in an earthen pit, lined with stones, and heated with mesquite (Prosopis velutina) firewood. Then the buds were eaten right away or dried and stored for future use. Pima individuals who had stomach troubles were put on a special diet of these buds made into gruel. Some individuals still gather buckhorn cholla today.

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Wikipedia

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa, commonly referred to as Buck horn cholla, is a cactus native to the deserts of southern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and Arizona in the United States.

The plant is found in the Mojave Desert and the Sonoran Deserts, including the Colorado Desert of California.

Varieties[edit]

There are a number of recognized varieties include:

Flower
During winter dryness.

Ethnobotany[edit]

  • Early spring was called ko’oak macat (the painful moon) by the Tohono O’odham because of scarce food supplies. During this season, they turned to cacti for food and pit-roasted thousands of calcium-rich cholla flower buds.
  • Today’s O’odham people still pit-roast or boil the cholla buds, which taste like asparagus tips.

References[edit]

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Notes

Comments

Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa hybridizes with C. abyssi, C. echinocarpa (= C. ×deserta), C. bigelovii (= C. ×campii), C. leptocaulis (see C. ×tetracantha), C. ×multigeniculata, C. spinosior, C. versicolor, and C. whipplei (= C. congesta). Hybrids of C. acanthocarpa and C. ×multigeniculata are more open in habit, with longer stem segments than C. ×multigeniculata and with reddish filaments like C. acanthocarpa.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Kartesz has sometimes (e.g. 1994) included Opuntia ganderi, an endemic Californian plant, as a variety (Opuntia acanthocarpa var. ganderi). This record is for the treatment that is only slightly narrower, excluding O. ganderi.

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