Now that it’s 100 degrees, it seems like our wet, cool spring was months ago instead of a few weeks. The desert sure outdid herself this year. The cacti were bursting with blooms and the cholla were no exceptions. Saguaro National Park is in our backyard, within minutes we can be taking a short or long hike along the trails.
Buckhorn Cholla can have yellow, pink, orange or red flowers.
The flowers are every bit as beautiful as a rose.
This reminds me of a bouquet. Except this one would be a little bit of a challenge to deliver.
There are a few cholla buds on this one. The buds have sustained the Tohono O’odham for generations. Just before the buckhorn flowers in the spring, it’s buds are hand picked, cleaned of their many thorns and dried for year round use. Later the buds are soaked and re-hydrated. Cholla buds are incredibly healthy. Two tablespoons of buds (28 calories) has as much calcium as a glass of milk (100-150 calories). When the O’odham relied on the desert for their nutrition, diabetes was unknown. The people are in danger of disappearing, a result of easily obtained prepared foods, overall bad nutrition and lack of exercise. Their desert souls were not designed to live off processed food. Today there are many successful programs in place to reverse this dreaded disease.
Can you imagine dodging all these thorns to get to the buds? They hurt and need to be pulled out. You don’t want to break one off and leave parts behind. It can lead to some pain. The O’odham used two sticks to get to the buds. Today many people use tongs.
Bees are the primary pollinators. Another reason why we need to keep our bees healthy.
Buckhorn Cholla can live up to 30 years or more. Their average height is three to seven feet. They have been known to grow to over 13 feet. Cholla’s are a favorite nesting sites for many birds. They are not so spiny that the birds are in danger, but spiny enough to protect them from many predators. In addition to providing food for the Sonoran Desert’s indigenous people, small mammals feed on the seeds and fruits including Western chipmunks, pocket gophers, brown gophers, Harris ground squirrels, prairie dogs, kangaroo rats, skunks, and cottontail and jackrabbits. Antelope, white tailed deer and mountain sheep feed on the vegetable parts and fruit. The cholla also provides sustenance for many of the desert birds. Mother Nature sure covered her basis with this one.