by Harry Gate
This month’s plant is Opuntia imbricata. This is a member of the cholla branch (Cylindropuntia) of the Opuntia family, characterized by stem-like growth, as opposed to pads. As it’s common name of tree cholla implies, this plant can achieve significant size as it matures. The older stems become woody, with an outer layer of bark. The primary range is Texas and Mexico, but is very hardy and its range extends as far north as as Colorado and Kansas. The plant pictured is one of many I have growing outdoors in my backyard. They have proven to be extremely hardy, surviving winter after winter with minimal damage, even being totally covered in snow and ice. Over the years, a single branch has matured into a small tree about 5 ft tall and 3 feet wide. Mine blooms every year around the end of June, producing the beautiful magenta flowers as shown in the picture. I do not remember the original source of the plant, but I believe it was Intermountain Cactus. The literature list many varieties, indicating the plant hybridizes easily. If you are looking for an impressive plant to anchor a succulent garden, away from traffic, opuntia imbricata would be an excellent choice.
Incidentally, if anyone is interested, I have cuttings ranging in size from a rooted joint to a large arm. Also available are cuttings of Opuntia davisii. Contact me and I will bring them to the next meeting.