Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cholla Cactus

The cholla cactus (pronounced chaa-ya )are all over the desert where we live. We had to remove several when we moved to our place here to keep the horses, dogs, cats, and, yes, us, too from getting into them. They are sometimes called jumping cactus. It seems like they jump on you when you get close even tho they really don't. They can be anywhere from a few inches tall to 6 - 8 feet tall. When they die the skeleton or wood from the cactus are used for making all kinds of craft items. Especially lamps. The skeleton is hollow up the center and has interestingly shaped holes in them. They can be from a couple of inches around to usually about 6 inches. The other day we decided to ride out across the desert to see if they were blooming. I have added a photo in the right corner of a really nice close up of a blossom. Under it you can see some of the stickers or thorns. To the right side and slightly blured is a piece of a skeleton. The blossoms are such a beautiful, vivid shade of purple. They attract all kinds of insects and bees. There were bees in nearly every blossom we looked at, and they were so loaded with pollen they could barely fly. After the flower fades it makes a yellow fruit that is eaten by many desert rodents and a few birds. It isn't as well liked as the pricklypear cactus fruit, that a lot of people use to make cactus candy and jelly. I have done that but it is very time comsuming to pick the fruit, cook it, until the stickers on the fruit are soft and the fruit is ready to be put through a strainer and makes a juice that can be used for jelly, and candy. Pricklypear cactus have a yellow flower with purple fruit, the opposite of the cholla. I haven't found but a few pricklypear blooming yet.
This year the flowers have been few and far between. The cactus blossoms better and has better fuit when there is better rain. Out drought is keeping a lot of the desert flowers from blooming this year. Still it made for a nice drive and fun to watch the bees making fools of themselves trying to fly with all that pollen. And I have never found a bee hive in the desert. Most are a type of bee that makes a small nest under ground. I would like to know more about them.

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