Christmas Cactus

Tucson doesn't have the traditional Christmas setting of snow-covered evergreens and bright holly berries, but we do have our very own native Christmas plant all decked out in red and green at this time of year, the Christmas Cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, formerly Opuntia leptocaulis).

Christmas Cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis) fruit

Christmas Cactus fruits are brightly colored, but be wary of touching them because they are dotted with bunches of cinnamon-colored glochids (micro-spines) that are very difficult to remove if embedded in the skin. These cacti are fairly common here, but they are easily overlooked unless they are covered in bright scarlet-red fruit.

Christmas cacti bloom in May and June, and the 1 inch (2.54 cm) wide flowers are a shiny yellow-green color.

Christmas Cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis) flowers

The flowers are followed by the red ripe fruits which will remain on the plants throughout the winter and are a welcome wintertime splash of color.