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Monday, September 13, 2010

Cane Cholla


The cane cholla (or walking stick cholla, tree cholla, chainlink cactus) (Cylindropuntia imbricata) is a cactus found in arid parts of North America, including some cooler regions in comparison to many other cacti. It is often conspicuous because of its shrubby or even tree-like size, its silhouette, and its long-lasting yellowish fruits.

This species blooms in late spring or early summer. The flowers are purple or magenta, rarely rose-pink, about 2 in wide. The fruits are yellowish, tubercular like the stems, and shaped something like the frustum of a cone, with a hollow at the wide end where the flower fell off; they are often mistaken for flowers. The plant retains them all winter.

The fruits are also eaten by various wild birds and mammals, including pronghorn antelope, desert bighorn sheep, and deer.

One tablespoon of buds from the cholla cactus has as much calcium as eight ounces of milk. The buds are rich in soluble fiber that helps regulate blood sugar.

The fruit of some species is edible raw or boiled. To harvest it, twist it off the plant, or knock it off with a stick. Two long sticks can be used as tongs, or a pocket knife can be used. The fruit can be gathered and stirred with a stick or Chaparral branch, or other brush-like branch and then rubbed with a cloth to remove the glochids. Or wipe it with a wet cloth, or roll it in the sand and then soak it in water. Or, roll it in gravel or burn to remove the spines.

Peel the skin with a knife, or slice it away. The fruit can be impaled on a cholla thorn while you work on it. Some fruit is good raw, with or without salt, some roasted on hot coals for a half hour, which can be done before it is peeled, and some boiled and mashed, possibly with honey added. Some fruit can be dried and stored.

The dried cholla wood can be used for firewood, used to make picture frames, tool handles, lamp stands and many other items. The thorns can be used for sewing needles or to make improvised fish hooks.

Stay Prepared! Stay Alive!

Charlie

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