|Chainfruit Cholla (Opuntia fulgida)|
DESCRIPTION: Also called Jumping Cholla. Commonly 8' tall but may be much taller. Joint segments usually 1-2" in diameter. Flowers are pink (1" wide), and bloom in summer. Fruits are usually green, persistent, and form long chains.
NATURAL HISTORY: Most reproduction is asexually from stem joints and fruit rinds (both of which contain areoles that have buds that can resprout into new plants) that often are dispersed by animals. The name, Jumping Cholla, comes from the erroneous belief that the stem segments can jump off the plant, fly through the air, and stick to you. In reality, unless there is a very strong wind, what happens is a person will just barely brush a spine. The spine has a barb that grabs ahold. Then the stem joint detaches very easily. After a little while, the person will "notice" the stem joint stuck to them. By this time, the offending cactus likely won't be close-by, but there will be one a ways away which "must have" jumped its stem joint all the way over to the person. This is an adaptation the plant uses to get its progeny dispersed.
To remove a joint, use a comb (or use twigs like chopsticks) to jerk it out. But beware: when the joint comes out, it often goes flying (into innocent bystanders).