Friday, March 5, 2010

Pencil and Branched Pencil Cholla

Pencil cholla is one of many different types of cholla. It is easy to see why it gets its name. It is comprised of many narrow, jointed segments that look somewhat like pencils. It grows with a trunk, instead of as a sprawling shrub. It is found in sandy and gravelly plains, valleys and washes. There is a similar type of cholla, the diamond cholla, or branched pencil cholla, which is a shrub with gray, pencil-like stems, with grooved, diamond shaped or cross-hatched patterns. It has yellow or tan spine sheaths with an orange tip. Both have long, but sparse, solitary spines. It is relatively rare - I have only seen it a few times. As I look at different pictures of pencil and branched pencil cholla on the internet, I find examples that look quite different from each other. I also find different sites which give varying characterics and so I may be mix and matching here. It does appear that there are different types of each kind of both pencil and branched pencil cholla, and that branched pencil cholla is often called pencil cholla.

When I initially started this blog, I had the impression that my photos were all of pencil cholla and that none were of branched pencil cholla. Now that I am completing the blog, I have completely shifted to thinking that they are all branched pencil cholla. One of the fun things about doing the blog, and actually doing a little spotlight on various types of plants or animals, is that I learn about them with the little bit of research I do, and it makes me more knowledgeable when I am out in the desert in the future.

The photo below was taken years ago on the Chuckwalla Bench in southeastern California. The quality is not really good. My initial thought was that it was pencil cholla. 
This is also on the Chuckwalla Bench. I believe it may be the same cholla, but I'm not sure. 
As I get looking closer at the sheathing on the spines, it appears yellowish with an orange tip and the segments do appear grooved, but not as diamond-shaped as I have seen other pictures of. My guess is this is a branched pencil cholla.
The next pictures were taken in Joshua Tree National Park. I believed the one below to be a pencil cholla, as it is growing with a trunk.
A close-up of the same cholla.
If the close-ups below are of the same cholla, and it has been so long ago that I'm not sure, then I lean toward it being a branch pencil cholla as it has the golden spines and appears to have the diamond-shaped cross hatching.
This, even-closer view, gives a little better look at the cross-hatching.
This is a different cholla and I believe it is probably a branched pencil. It has the golden sheaths and also appears to have the cross-hatching segments. But notice how much more purple and gray it looks. It also looks little like the cholla I photographed on the Chuckwalla Bench.
A little closer view.
One of my desires is to find a good source for distinguishing the different types of cholla, with both descriptions, pictures and locations. I really love cactus and the desert, in general. The animals and plants that have had to adapt to the harsh environment to survive are wonderful to view and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. You'd make an excellent botanist, Bob. Maybe when you retire from law, you can go back for your degree in botany. You'd have to pick up all the prereqs, but I'll bet you could get your PhD by the time you're 80.