Staghorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor, formerly Opuntia versicolor) cacti usually begin to bloom here in Tucson, Arizona and in the surrounding Sonoran Desert in April. Their flowers come in a variety of colors such as red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, pink, and bronze. A grasshopper can be seen below eating spring-blooming, yellow Staghorn Cholla flowers.
Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor), Buckhorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa), and Cane cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) all are found here in Tucson and are all rather similar in appearance. The best way to tell them apart is by their fruit, although identification can still be difficult because these chollas will hybridize, so you can find strange chollas that have intermediate characteristics.
- Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) has green to dull reddish or purplish fruits with almost no spines. The fruits start out bumpy with swollen tubercles, but swell to become smooth and rounded when mature. The anther filaments are usually yellow-green.
- Buckhorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) has usually spiny, bumpy fruits with swollen tubercles. The fruits dry out and turn brown on the plant.
- Cane cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) has yellow, mostly spineless, very bumpy fruits with swollen tubercles. The anther filaments and stamens are usually magenta.