Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla, Candelabrum Cactus, etc.)

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 2-11-17, #309-3.

Tree Cholla, Candelabrum Cactus, Cane Cactus, Walkingstick Cholla, etc.

Cylindropuntia imbricata

(Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. imbricata)

sil-in-drop-UN-shee-uh  im-brih-KAY-tuh

Synonyms of Cylindropuntia imbricata (5) (As of 12-5-22 from Plants of the World Online): Cactus imbricatus (Haw.) Lem. (1868), Cereus imbricatus Haw. (1821)(nom. cons. prop.), Echinocactus imbricatus (Haw.) Paxton (1840), Grusonia imbricata (Haw.) G.D.Rowley (2006), Opuntia imbricata (Haw.) DC. (1828)
Synonyms of Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. imbricata (19)(Updated on 12-5-22 from POWO): Cactus bleo Torr. (1827)(nom. illeg.), Cactus cylindricus J.James (1879)(nom. illeg.), Cylindropuntia arborescens (Engelm.) F.M.Knuth (1930), Cylindropuntia imbricata var. arborescens (Engelm.) Bulot (2002), Opuntia arborescens Engelm. (1848), Opuntia costigera Miq. (1859), Opuntia cristata Salm-Dyck (1845), Opuntia decipiens DC. (1828), Opuntia exuviata Salm-Dyck (1845)(nom. illeg.), Opuntia exuviata var. stellata (Salm-Dyck) Lem. ex Labour. (1853), Opuntia exuviatostellata Lem. ex Labour. (1853), Opuntia galeottii De Smet ex Miq. (1859), Opuntia imbricata var. arborescens (Engelm.) A.D.Zimmerman (2004), Opuntia imbricata var. ramosior Salm-Dyck (1850), Opuntia imbricata var. tenuior Salm-Dyck (1850), Opuntia magna Griffiths (1914), Opuntia ruthei A.Berger (1912), Opuntia stellata Salm-Dyck (1845), Opuntia vexans Griffiths (1911)

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Haw.) F.M.Knuth is the accepted scientific name of this cactus. It was described as such by Frederik Marcus Knuth in Kaktus-ABC in 1935. It was first described as Cereus imbricatus by Adrian Hardy Haworth in Succulent Plantarum Succulentarum in 1819.

Accepted Infraspecific Names (6)(Updated on 12-5-22 from POWO): Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. argentea (M.S.Anthony) U.Guzmán (2003), *Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. imbricata (autonym), Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. lloydii (Rose) U.Guzmán (2003), Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. rosea (DC.) M.A.Baker (2019), Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. spinosior (Engelm.) M.A.Baker, Cloud-H. & Majure (2019), Cylindropuntia imbricata subsp. spinotecta (Griffiths) M.A.Baker (2019). *When an infraspecific taxon is named, an autonym (“type-specimen”) is automatically generated whose description is closest to the (original) species. All have their own list of synonyms… 

The genus, Cylindropuntia (Engelm.) F.M.Knuth, was named and described as such by Frederik Marcus Knuth in Den Nye Kaktusbog in 1930. It was formerly a subgenus of the genus Opuntia.

As of 12-5-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 41 species in the genus. It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 150 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 4-20-17, #320-2.

I was given this cactus by Mrs. Wagler of Wagler’s Greenhouse in 2016. She said it was hardy here and I wouldn’t have to bring it inside for the winter. BUT, even though I wanted this cactus, there was a problem. NO label as with so many of her plants. Sometimes she has some common name that I can look up which does help. I accepted this cactus because, 1) I wanted it, 2) I couldn’t help myself, and 3) I don’t use my own advice when it comes to buying plants that are not labeled… Then again, I wasn’t buying this plant. It was a gift so I am off the hook. I remembered seeing this cactus in a photo of an old book on cacti, so I figured I could easily find the name anyway. Over a year later…

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-5-17, #325-2.

When I brought this cactus home, I put it in the bed behind the old foundation of my grandparent’s house since Mrs. Wagler said it would survive the winter. Then, months later, after a hard freeze and in the middle of the night, a thought popped into my head. “OH CRAP, I forgot about the cactus!” I grabbed the flashlight and went to check on it and it was just fine.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-27-17, #335-1.

While my computer was out for repair I had a lot of time on my hands. SO, one evening I decided to try and find the name of this cactus. Unfortunately, I could not find the book I was thinking about, but I did find another one I had forgotten about. The book is titled “Cactus Of The Southwest” by W. Huben Earle, copyright 1963. Getting past the technical description of this cactus, it stated that the origin was unknown but it was introduced into England in 1830 by Loddiges. It further said it could be found growing in Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico…

Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Southwest United States and Northern Mexico
Zones: USDA Zones 4a-11 (-30 to 40° F)
Size: 4-10’ tall plus
Light: Full sun
Soil: Very well-draining soil
Water: Average water needs during the summer

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-31-17, #339-44,

It also included other synonyms not mentioned in The Plant List (that was before I started using Plants of the World Online). It mentioned Cactus cylindricus James 1783. SO, I checked that name out on The Plant List and it said that name was unresolved as was Cactus cylindricus Lam. So, the same name was unresolved with two men wanting the credit. But, the old book gives the date 1783 for James description while The Plant List says 1825. The other guy, whose name abbreviation is “Lam.” (Lamarck), documentation is dated 1783. There are two synonyms with the same name documented by Ortega in 1800 and Vellozo in 1825. It also lists Opuntia magna and Opuntia spinotecta by Griffiths both in 1914. Then I got a headache so I didn’t do any further research at the time.

I really like old plant books, but so many scientific names have changed and there were A LOT.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 6-11-17, #343-5.

The Cylindropuntia imbricata is native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, including cooler areas not known to other cacti. They have also naturalized in arid regions in South Africa, South America, the Mediterranean basin, and Australia.

Cylindropuntia imbricata on (Tree Cholla) 6-18-17, #345-8.

In some areas, this cactus has become invasive because the stem joints fall off and take root or they get stuck in animals fur and fall off somewhere else. Even though the fruit is spiny, some animals, even cows, eat them and then defecate the seeds.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 6-24-17, #349-18.

There are many common names for this cactus including Tree Cholla, Giant Tree Cholla, Candelabrum Cactus, Cane Cactus, Walkingstick Cactus, Tree Cactus, Tope Pear, Hudson Pear, Rosea Cactus, Devil’s Rope Cactus, Chain-Link Cactus, Cane Cholla, and Coyote Candles.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 10-22-17, #385-5.

According to Wikipedia, plants are grown as ornamentals. Their dead stems decay to leave a hollow tube with a pattern of lengthwise slits which can be used as canes or to make curios. The Roman Catholic Penitentes used to tie fresh stems of this cactus to their back during Holy Week processions. OUCH!!!

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 12-3-17, #392-2.

On December 3, 2017, when the above photo was taken, this cactus was not looking so hot. Well, it was winter…


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 1-21-18, #404-1.

January was very cold with several days -10 degrees F. The Cylindropuntia imbricata was not looking so good… I was wondering if it were a goner.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-6-18, #436-15.

Then, when temps started warming up, it started showing signs of life.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-17-18, #443-28.

I think it is interesting how it grows leaves in the spring.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-25-18, #448-7.

That leads to more stems…

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-31-18, #450-18.

The Cylindropuntia imbricata can grow to a height of 15’ but their typical height is around 3’. They have two kinds of stems (cladodes). The main stem (orthotropic) that supports the plant grows plagiotropic stems which grow in a star-like pattern. These produce purple or magenta flowers in late spring to early summer. The flowers are followed by yellowish fruit which are tubercular (lumpy) like the stems.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 6-14-18, #459-20.

The Cylindropuntia imbricata is a very interesting plant to grow. It is doing something different almost every time I take photos.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 6-28-18, #465-9.

Hmmm… It was growing leaves again when I took the above photo on June 28.

Bill Ross’s Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 7-1-19, #467-12.

I drive by a house often that has a Tree Cholla. One day I decided to stop and ask if I could take a photo. I didn’t realize who lived there at the time but friends of mine from church lived there before. I was surprised to see Ross’s lived there now, who I had also known many years before. Well, after over 20 years of being away many people have moved, left, or died.

Bill Ross’s Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 7-1-18, #467-13.

Bill said he got his start from Mr. Crane, or from the people who moved there after Mr. Crane passed, who lived around the corner. I knew the Cranes for many years but can’t remember his first name.

In the above photo, you can see where the flowers and fruit had been.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 7-29-18, #487-35.

Which led to another growth spurt…

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 8-26-18, #499-18.

Here you see the leaves are being replaced by spines and glochids…

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 12-3-18, #536-1.

Since it is winter, the Cylindropuntia imbricata is a little droopy since this one stays outside all year. This has been a very interesting plant since Mrs. Wagler (Wagler’s Greenhouse) gave me a start in 2016. It is always doing something interesting and different.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) close-up on 12-3-18, #536-2.

The Cylindropuntia imbricata produces leaves from its areoles in the spring and can be very interesting for at least a month. The leaves shed and are replaced by the spines. The stems branch out, sometimes only in one direction, to form a tree-like appearance. The strange-looking elongated tubercles seem to overlap which gave rise to the species name which comes from the Latin verb “imbricere” which means “to tile a roof”. Its areoles are kind of an oval shape from which grow glochids, radial spines, and central spines This is one cactus you definitely want to avoid touching if possible. I get stuck almost every time I cultivate around this plant, pull grass and weeds, or take photos. Every time I get stuck I have a spine or glochid (s) in my skin to pull out. It’s OK because this plant is pretty neat otherwise. I will be glad when it finally flowers for the first time.


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 3-3-19, #549-1.

The winter has not been that bad and the Cylindropuntia imbricata didn’t even turn red like it did last January. We had periods of nice temps followed by snow and cold that would only last a few days to a week at a time It did that several times, though.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 3-17-19, #553-4.

Even the Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’ is beginning to grow new leaves. A good sign spring is right around the corner.

Cylindropuntia imbricata Tree Cholla) on 4-7-19, #558-7.

The Cylindropuntia imbricata has perked up a lot by April 7 when the above photo was taken. I removed some of the Chickweed in the bed and even though I was careful, the Tree Cholla managed to bite me a few times with its very sharp thorns. Soon it will be doing weird things like growing new leaves and branches. I don’t think it is old enough to flower, but I will be keeping an eye on the one down the street.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 4-23-19, #562-2.

As usual this time of year, the Tree Cholla is starting to do weird things.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 4-23-19, #562-3.

I will be glad when it flowers.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-5-19, #566-17.


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-5-19, #566-18

The Cylindropuntia imbricata is a neat cactus, but I think its spines are ULTRA SHARP!

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-5-19, #566-19.

How’s that for a hairdo?

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-5-19, #566-20.


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-13-19, #571-8.


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-13-19, #571-9.

The leaves are actually part of new branches that grow each spring.

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-19-19, #575-8.

It’s pretty amazing how much it grows each spring…

Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 5-25-19, #576-23.

At some point, I will need to make some changes. The Cylindropuntia imbricata, Phedimus kamtschaticus (Syn. Sedum kamtschaticum) ‘Variegatum’, and Sempervivum ‘Killer’ are all growing in the same cast iron planter…


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 4-1-20, #682-1.

Spring is a great time of year when plants start coming back to life. It is always great to see the Cylindropuntia imbricata starting to green up so it can stand guard in its territory. Flowers would be nice…


Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla) on 3-20-22, #862-7.

The Cylondropuntia imbricata was still alive and well when the above photo was taken on March 20 in 2022. No flowers again in 2022…

I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


2 comments on “Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla, Candelabrum Cactus, etc.)

  1. Scott Dee says:

    My goodness, that’s a cactus with a good history! It’s amazing that the new growths are so gentle-looking in comparison to the spines of the mature plant. And seeing that cactus in the snow is bringing me back to a very happy day in Joshua Tree park.
    Amazing site!


    • Hello Scott! OH, YES! The spines of this plant are treacherous. No matter how careful I am when I am weeding it always manages to grab me. It defends its territory very well. I visited the Joshua Tree Park website. That would definitely make a great trip. Thanks for mentioning the site and thanks for the comment!


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