Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Tree cholla cactus

with 16 comments

Cholla Cactus 9223

As you’ve been seeing, yellow proved to be a conspicuous color during our stay in the Trans-Pecos region of west Texas. Often the yellow came from the leaves of deciduous trees, but here that color stood out in the fruits of the cactus known as tree cholla (Cylindropuntia imbricata var. arborescens) on the grounds of old Fort Davis on November 20.

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 7, 2015 at 4:52 AM

16 Responses

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  1. When I’ve painted a sky that blue nobody believes me! 🙂


    December 7, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    • The wide-angle lens and the camera’s sensor may have combined to make the uppermost part of the sky a little bluer than it really was, but probably no more than it appeared to me through my polarized sunglasses. Many landscape photographers put a polarizing filter in front of their lens, at least in part to achieve that sort of saturated color, but I haven’t used a polarizer in a long time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      • Actually, I frequently see skies this blue and once when I was challenged I took the person outdoors and asked them to look up. It proved a revelation to them. However, I usually tone it down these days.


        December 7, 2015 at 3:26 PM

  2. Bloom time in your part of the world is amazingly short, but so amazingly interesting. The flowers, the interesting adaptations, the gorgeous colors are really special.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    December 7, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    • It was too late in the year for me to see any cactus flowers in the Trans-Pecos but these bright yellow cholla fruits were a welcome and unexpected substitute.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2015 at 2:44 PM

  3. This is a real delight. I see these every time I visit Kerrville, but I’ve never found them flowering, and I’ve never seen the fruit. This plant certainly looks healthy and happy, and it’s really interesting to see how the fruit mimics the shape of the stems. I think it would be easy to miss the fruit if it still was green.


    December 7, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    • According to one of my books, the magenta flowers of this species appear from May through August, so I was way too late to see them. Still, the chunky yellow fruits are so attention-grabbing that I don’t mind having missed the flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2015 at 9:43 PM

  4. I’ve seen Opuntia (Prickly Pear) fruit sold in markets, but not sure if they are also Chollas mixed in. What I’ve seen are red, so maybe these yellows are indeed different. I understand that Opuntias and Chollas are different, but not sure if the markets know that.

    Steve Gingold

    December 8, 2015 at 4:36 PM

    • The chollas used to be classified in Opuntia but now they’re in Cylindropuntia. The article at


      says that all the buds and fruits of the chollas are edible, but of course the difficulty of getting to them may make them not worth the trouble.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2015 at 4:51 PM

      • I’ve used Oxalic Acid to bleach wood. No raw chollas for me, thank you. I wear leather winter gloves when transplanting cacti. Welders gloves would work too. But I agree, sometimes the work involved makes you question whether it is worth it. Unless, of course, you are bleaching wood.

        Steve Gingold

        December 8, 2015 at 5:01 PM

        • I’ve never used oxalic acid to bleach wood or deal with cacti, but I’ve eaten it. According to the website of Dr. Weil: “Concentrations of oxalic acid are pretty low in most plants and plant-based foods, but there’s enough in spinach, chard and beet greens to interfere with the absorption of the calcium these plants also contain.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 8, 2015 at 9:08 PM

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