Cylindropuntia wigginsii (L.D.Benson) H.Rob.
Grusonia echinocarpa (Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow) G.D.Rowley
Opuntia echinocarpa Engelm. & J.M.Bigelow
Opuntia wigginsii L.D.Benson
Common Name: Silver Cholla
Cylindropuntia echinocarpa is a spiny, evergreen, succulent, spreading, densely branched shrubby or tree-like cactus; it can grow 50 - 200cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food. It is often grown as an ornamental, there are different named forms[
Cylindropuntia echinocarpa is a widespread species that can be locally abundant despite its scattered distribution. The species is found in many protected areas across its range and there are no known threats. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2017)[
The plant has numerous minutely barbed glochids - these are barbed spines that are usually small to minute and are very sharp and brittle. The glochids are very easily dislodged when the plant is touched and can penetrate the skin where, because of their barbs, they become stuck and are very difficult to see and remove. They can cause considerable irritation and discomfort[
Opuntia species can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, especially in older parts of the plant. Perfectly alright in small quantities, foods containing oxalic acid should not be eaten in large amounts since it can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[
Southwest N. America - California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, northern Mexico (Baja California, Sonora)
Mojave and Sonoran deserts, desert grasslands, juniper and oak-juniper woodlands, flats, bajadas, canyons, sandy, loam, alluvial to gravelly substrates; at elevations from 50 - 1,700 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
In cultivation, Cactus plants generally will not succeed in moist climates. They usually require a sunny position in a well-drained, circumneutral soil and to be kept more or less dry in the dormant season[
The outer wall of the fruit is actually formed from stem material and, in many species of Cylindropuntia, once detached from the plant will form roots and grow into a new plant. This is often the main way in which a plant will reproduce[
The flower buds and young stem sections - cooked[
]. The cylindrical stem sections are 30 - 120mm long and 10 - 25mm in diameter[
]. Harvested in spring, they were traditionally pit-baked then eaten or dried for later use[
]. They were often eaten as a staple food in the spring[
Seed - sow early spring in a very well-drained compost in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some protection from winter wet. Make sure you have some reserve plants in case those outdoors do not overwinter.
Cuttings of leaf pads or fruits at any time in the growing season. Remove a pad from the plant and then leave it in a dry sunny place for a couple of days to ensure that the base is thoroughly dry and has begun to callous. Pot up into a sandy compost. Very easy, rooting quickly.