Tree Cholla, Candelabrum Cactus, Cane Cactus, Walkingstick Cholla, etc.
Syn.: Cereus imbricatus Haw.
Syn.: Cactus imbricatus (Haw.) Lem
Syn.: Grusonia imbricata (Haw.) G.D. Rowley
Syn.: Opuntia imbricata (Haw.) DC.
Cylindropuntia imbricata (Haw.) F.M.Knuth is the correct and 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.
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. According to Plants of the World Online by Kew, there are currently 39 accepted species in the genus (as of when I am updating this page on July 9, 2019). Those numbers could change and it doesn’t reflect the varieties and subspecies (infraspecific names) within the species. There are currently three accepted infraspecific names within the species.
I was given this cactus my 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 cactus, so I figured I could easily find the name anyway. Over a year later…
When I brought this cactus home, I put it in the bed behind the old foundation of my grandparent’s house. Along with a few other succulents I was experimenting with, they were soon covered up by the Marigold ‘Red Brocade’ also growing in the bed. 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.
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 (now I have to figure out who he was). It further said it could be found growing in Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico…
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.
It also included other synonyms not mentioned in The Plant List, Llifle, or the CactusGuide. It mentioned Cactus cylindricus James 1783. SO, I checked that name out on The Plant List and it says that name is unresolved as is Cactus cylindricus Lam. SO, the same name unresolved with two men wanting the credit. BUT, the old book gives the date 1783 for J. James description while The Plant List says 1825. The other guy, who’s name abbreviation is “Lam.”, documentation is dated 1783. His name is SO LONG I didn’t even want to write it down. 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.
Upon further research later…
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.
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 are spiny, some animals, even cows, eat them and then defecate the seeds.
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.
According to the Wikipedia, the 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!!!
On December 3, 2017, when the above photo was taken, this cactus was not looking so hot. Well, it is winter…
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.
Then, when temps started warming up, it started showing signs of life.
I think it is interesting how it grows leaves in the spring.
That leads to more stems…
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.
The Cylindropuntia imbricata is a very interesting plant to grow. It is doing something different almost every time I take photos.
Hmmm… It was growing leaves again when I took the above photo on June 28.
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 the Ross’s lived there now, who I had also known many years before. Well, after after over 20 years being away many people have moved, left, or died.
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.
Which led to another growth spurt…
Here you see the leaves are being replaced by spines and glochids…
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.
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.
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.
Even the Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’ is beginning to grow new leaves. A good sign spring is right around the corner.
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.
As usual this time of year, the Tree Cholla is starting to do weird things.
I will be glad when it flowers…
The Cylindropuntia imbricata is a neat cactus, but I think its spines are ULTRA SHARP!
How’s that for a hairdo?
The leaves are actually part of new branches that grow each spring.
It’s pretty amazing how much it grows each spring…
At some point I will need to make some changes. The Cylindropuntia imbricata, Sedum kamtachaticum ‘Variegatum’, and Sempervivum ‘Killer’ are all growing in the same cast iron planter…
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.