We have a section in the front yard that has a cedar elm tree surrounded by Tree Cholla cactus, Cylindropuntia imbricata. As you can see the body of the plant is made of cylindrical branches that have no regular arrangement. The cholla here has spread fill the space we grant it in the yard. The elm tree was not planted and came up amidst the cholla from seed eaten and scattered by one of our local birds. All the water last winter, and the wet spring brought this plant into flower in May of 2016.
I exercise care around the cholla because they have spines that like to embed themselves in flesh and hang on. When they do, a piece of the cholla can break off and be carried some distance from the parent plant and if it lands in fertile circumstances, more cholla! This talent of the cholla has to be considered when reducing or removing parts of the plant. Failure to keep pieces from finding new homes means More Cholla!
Our cholla patch occasionally produces the beautiful purple flowers typical of this species. It also is a barbed refuge for our local cottontail. We do not water or feed the cholla and it does what west Texas cacti do, it gets by on what’s available.
I am not sure how the cholla got its name; but on one, long ago field trip, the sound I and others made while having close encounters with the spines of this plant sounded like CHOYAH!! And these were followed by grunts and ouches as these things were pried from our flesh. This where young folk learn respect for nature, especially cholla.