Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus has pale yellow or greenish flowers and blooms from May to June. Cylindropuntia leptocaulisChristmas Cactus has red fruits at maturity. The leaves are modified into spines or glochids and emerging from areoles. Cylindropuntia leptocaulis Christmas Cactus is a perennial shrub native to AZ, NM, OK and TX. Christmas Cactus is salvage restricted in Arizona. Cylindropuntia leptocaulis Christmas Cactus is found in variable habitats including grasslands, chaparral and oak-juniper communities; in flats, bajadas and slopes where they prefer sandy loamy and gravelly soils. Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

Scientific Name: Cylindropuntia leptocaulis
Common Name: Christmas Cactus
Also Called: Christmas Cholla, Desert Christmas Cactus, Tesajo Cactus (Christmastree Cacti); (Spanish: Tasajillo, Alfilerillo, Catalinaria)
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Synonyms: (Opuntia leptocaulisOpuntia leptocaulis var. brittonii )
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 6 feet, usually less than 4 feet.
Growth Form: Shrubs or small tress; lacking trunks, often under larger shrubs.
Leaves: Leaves modified into spines or glochids and emerging from areoles.
Flower Color: Pale yellow or greenish; fruits bright red, fleshy, spinless but with glochids.
Flowering Season: May and June.
Elevation: 1,000 to 5,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Variable habitats; grasslands, chaparral and oak-juniper communities, flats, bajadas and slopes, prefers sandy loamy and gravelly soils.

Recorded Range: In the United States Christmas Cactus is found in AZ, NM, OK and TX. In Arizona Christmas is found throughout most of the state, few or no records in the northeast corner of the state.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.

Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, Christmas Cactus is salvage restricted.

Genus Information: In North America there are 29 species and 39 accepted taxa overall for Cylindropuntia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 43 accepted species names and a further 100 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 12 species of genus, California has 10 species, Nevada has 5 species, New Mexico has 8 species, Texas has 6 species, Utah has 3 species. Hybrids excluded, all data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Christmas Cactus, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis is in a group referred to as "pencil chollas" and is similar to and closely related to Arizona Pencil Cholla, Cylindropuntia arbuscula and to Klein's Pencil Cactus, Cylindropuntia kleiniae.

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Buckhorn Cholla, Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa, Arizona Pencil Cholla, Cylindropuntia arbuscula, Teddy Bear Cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii, Jumping Cholla, Cylindropuntia fulgida, Gander's Buckhorn Cholla, Cylindropuntia ganderi, Klein's Pencil Cactus, Cylindropuntia kleiniae, Walkingstick Cactus, Cylindropuntia spinosior and Baja Pencil Cholla, Cylindropuntia tesajo.

References: Date Profile Completed: 06/07/2015, 07/21/2015 ,updated 08/28/2017, updated 11/28/2017
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California, as Opuntia leptocaulis.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search (accessed 07/24/2017).
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 07/24/2017).
Donald J. Pinkava, FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 4 | Cactaceae| Page 101, 104, 105 | Cylindropuntia | Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
1969, Benson, Lyman, The Cacti of Arizona, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations,