Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Coast Cholla

Sumac

Coast Cholla

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Coast Cholla
Scientific Name:Cylindropuntia prolifera
Family:Cactaceae
Plant Type:Shrub
Size:up to 6 feet high
Habitat:dry slopes and grasslands at low elevations near the coast or in Sage Scrub
Blooms:April to June

There are a handful of cactus plants found in the area and they can be divided into the prickly pears with their dish-shaped pads and the cylindrical-stemmed chollas. Both types contain special structures in the leaf axils called areoles which are where spines, flowers and branches form from. The branching and fleshy stem segments have two kinds of spines, the more obvious of which are not barbed but there is a secondary much smaller set of spines called glochids which are barbed.

Coast Cholla normally blooms from April through June, with rounded rose to magenta blossoms about an inch in diameter. There are small leaves which appear on new growth but last only a few months. The end joints on the plant's stems dislodge easily and their spines attach to clothing or fur on passersby; a nuisance to us but the primary means of reproduction for the plant. This plant is abundant in the exo-Santa Monica Mountains Thousand Oaks area in and around Wildwood Park while not very common within the Santa Monica Mountains proper.

This plant was formerly classified in the genus Opuntia. The genus name Cylindropuntia means cylindrical. The species name prolifera refers to the plant's proliferation by means of off-shoots. The Valley Cholla, Cylindropuntia californica or Opuntia parryi, is a related cylindrical-stemmed cactus.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Other Similar Plants:
Prickly Pear Opuntia oricola

Originally featured: January 2012
Last modified: May 12 2017 23:40:55.
References:
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves