Cylindropuntia bigelovii, the teddy bear cholla (choy-ya), is a cholla cactus species native to Northwestern Mexico, and to the United States in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

C. bigelovii has a soft appearance due to its solid mass of very formidable spines that completely cover the stems, leading to its sardonic nickname of "teddy bear" or "jumping teddy bear".

The teddy-bear cholla is an erect plant, 1 to 5 ft (0.30 to 1.52 m) tall with a distinct trunk. The branches or lobes are at the top of the trunk and are nearly horizontal. Lower branches typically fall off, and the trunk darkens with age. The silvery-white spines, which are actually a form of leaf, almost completely obscure the stem with a fuzzy-looking, but impenetrable, defense. The spines are 1 in (2.5 cm) long and are covered with a detachable, paper-like sheath.

The yellow-green flowers emerge at the tips of the stems in May and June. Flowers are usually 3.6 cm (1.4 in) in length. The fruit is 1.9 cm (0.75 in) in diameter, tuberculate, and may or may not have spines. These fruits contain few if any viable seeds, as the plant usually reproduces through a dispersal strategy of dropped or carried stems. These stems are often carried for some distance by sticking to the fur or skin of animals and are known to be especially painful to remove. When a piece of this cholla sticks to an unsuspecting person, a good method to remove the cactus is with a hair comb. The spines have microscopic barbs and hold on tightly. Often small "stands" of these chollas form, most of which are largely clones of the same individual.

Like its cousin the jumping cholla, the stems detach easily and the ground around a mature plant is often littered with scattered cholla balls and small plants starting where these balls have rooted.

Desert pack rats such as the desert woodrat gather these balls around their burrows, creating a defense against most predators like kit fox and coyote, however several species of snake feed on the rat keeping its population balanced.

The cactus wren can be found perched on the cholla and other cacti. They also use a variety of cacti for nesting purposes.

Cylindropuntia bigelovii grows in desert regions at elevations to about 3,000 ft (900 m) in the "Low Desert" or Colorado Desert of Southern California and in other Sonoran Desert regions of the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

In the Lower Colorado River Valley, the most dense Cylindropuntia bigelovii stands are at higher elevations, in the rockiest sites. There are fewer Sonoran Desert or Colorado Desert plant association species, but two are common though reduced in size: ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) and saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea).


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