The Cholla Gardens is one of many points interest that can be found along Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park. Cholla are a common cactus that are usually widely scattered throughout the desert terrain. Based upon observation, there actually are very few places in the desert where cholla completely takeover the landscape and even fewer of the big cholla patches are conveniently located by the roadside. The Cholla Gardens is one such rare place, so be sure to take note when doing the Pinto Basin tour!
Cholla Cactus are known as the cutest cactus in the west and they are called "Teddy Bear Cactus" by many people. There are a few varieties of Cholla and the ones with the fat fuzzy spine clumps are most often given the Teddy Bear name. No matter how captivating a cute cholla may be, this is one cactus that you want to avoid touching because it has fish hook barb spines. These kind of cactus spines do not exactly pull out of the skin painlessly, so it is best to avoid contact, no matter how cute the cactus looks.
Just like with many desert cacti, the cholla plants ensure species survival by letting pieces of the branching arms break off during stormy weather so they can root on their own. Most often with cholla it is the small spiny ball pieces that fall off and high winds or flash floods can carry them for quite a distance. Dozens of the spiny round cholla balls can pile up on the ground, so it is best to watch ones step when strolling through a cholla patch. In fact, the round cholla clumps readily break free when the spines attach to something like a hiker's shirt sleeve and this lends to the other nickname for cholla, which is "Jumping Cactus."
When strolling through the Cholla Gardens it does pay to be keenly aware of the surroundings in order to avoid making contact, simply because there are so many of them in this vast cactus patch. Inclement weather can add a dramatic effect to the visit, but it may be best to avoid this area if high winds are in the forecast. Cholla certainly are beautifully surreal to gaze upon and this is reason enough to do the trip!
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