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Origin and Habitat: Cylindropuntia molesta is endemic to Mexico from the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur and Tortuga Island.
Type locality: San Ignacio, Lower California.
Habitat and Ecology: This species grows in desert and coastal sage scrub communities, among tall grasses, it occurs in volcanic soils, in sandy and gravelly alluvium in valleys and slopes of hills in dry scrubland together with Agave shawii ssp. goldmaniana, Agave cerulata ssp. nelsonii, Cylindropuntia alcahes, Hesperoyucca peninsularis, Idria columnaris and Fouquieria splendens. Cylindropuntia molesta is widespread, reasonably common, but is not abundant and has no major threats. It is well-adapted for vegetative dispersal since the spines are barbed and the stem segments easily detach. The population is scattered and forms clonal stands in places.
- Cylindropuntia molesta (Brandegee) F.M.Knuth
Cylindropuntia molesta (Brandegee) F.M.Knuth
Kaktus-ABC [Backeb. & Knuth] 126. 1936 [12 Feb 1936]
- Cylindropuntia molesta (Brandegee) F.M.Knuth
Cylindropuntia molesta subs. clavellina (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) U.Guzmán
Cactaceae Syst. Init. 16: 17 (11 Oct. 2003). Remarks: first published in U.Guzmán et al., Catálogo Cact. Mex.: 53 (May 2003), without basionym reference
- Cylindropuntia molesta subs. clavellina (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) U.Guzmán
ENGLISH: Lavelina cactus, cane cactus, choya, opuntia, cholla, prickly pear, Molesting-spined cactus
SPANISH (Español): Cholla, Clavellina, Clavellina cholla, Agujilla cholla
Description: Cylindropuntia molesta (the molesting-spined cactus), is an openly branched and fiercely spined shrub with distinct trunk, and sometimes basal branching, 1 to 2 meters high (occasionally over 2.4 metres tall, or in cultivation only 60 cm high), with few, long, spreading branches that detach from the plant and reattach to your skin. However joints do not detach so readily as those of Cylindropuntia cholla. Its spines are about 5 cm long and incredibly sharp. Of all the chollas of the Central Desert, none looks more vicious than Opuntia molesta. And no other Opuntia was ever better named. In actual fact it is probably no more hazardous than some of the other chollas, Cylindropuntia fulgida and Cylindropuntia bigelovii, for example; it just seems that way because the spines are longer. Two varietis are recognized on the Baja California Peninsula, Opuntia molesta var. clavellina and the more common var. molesta.
Stem segments: Joints clavate to subcylindrical, firmly attached, 7-12(-40) cm long, and 1-3 cm wide, sometimes as much as 4 cm in diameter at the top, pale green to grey-green (sometimes glaucous) , with low, broad tubercles, these elongated and often 4 cm. long or more.
Leaves: Linear, 10 mm long or less.
Areoles: Widely elliptical, with yellowish brown wool and yellowish brown glochids, 1-2.5 mm long. In the areoles are also present small, cupshaped extrafloral nectaries, the sites at which ants appear to fill their stomach with nectar and the location of nectar buildup when ants were excluded from the plants.
Spines: Few, (4-)6-10(-11), unequal, with loose, papery sheaths. The 1-5 longest ones 2.5 to 5 cm long, with orange-brown bases and orange to straw-colored or pale yellow tips, becoming purplish or almost black with age. Secondary spines 2-7, finer, 0.5-1.2 cm long.
Flowers: Purple bronze but also yellow, greenish-bronze or dark maroon, showy,19-26 mm long and 3-5 cm in diameter. Cylindropuntia molesta is one of the few known gynodioecious cacti, that is to say it has female flowers on one plant and hermaphrodite flowers on another plant.
Blooming season: Spring (April to June).
Fruits: Ovoid, green, yellow at maturity, the fleshy fruits are 2-4 cm long and deeply excavated at the apex, distinctly tuberculate,spineless or with scattered spines.
Seeds: 6 mm in diameter, irregular in shape.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Cylindropuntia molesta group
- Cylindropuntia molesta (Brandegee) F.M.Knuth: tends to be treelike to 2.5 m high and usually has 3-5 projecting central spines with bronze sheaths. Distribution: Baja California, Baja California Sur and Tortuga Island.
- Cylindropuntia molesta subs. clavellina (Engelm. ex J.M.Coult.) U.Guzmán: is shrubby to 1.5 m tall and usually has only one erect central spine. Distribution: Northern Baja California Sur and in Baja California.
Cultivation and Propagation: Cylindropuntia molesta is a a much decorative hardy cactus occasionally grown for horticultural purposes. It is a summer grower species that offers no cultivation difficulties. Its cylindrical densely spiny joints provide a striking accent for an otherwise dormant cactus garden.
Soil: Use a very a particularly draining substratum, as it is sensitive to rottenness when in presence of humidity and low temperatures and let the soil dry out between waterings, since it's natural habitat is in sandy or gravelly, well draining soils.
Repotting: Repot in the spring, when their roots become cramped. Generally, they should be repotted every other year in order to provide fresh soil. After repotting, do not water for a week or more.
Water: In summer, during the vegetative period, it must be regularly watered, but allowing the substratum to completely dry up before irrigating again (but do not overwater); in winter, it’s to be kept dry. Preferable not to water on overcast days, humid days or cold winter days.
Hardiness: It is a not very frost resistant cactus, hardy to -2° C (or less if very dry). However in cultivation it is better not to expose it to temperatures lower than -0° C, even if in an aerated and protected location, in order to avoid the formation of anti-aesthetic spots on the epidermis. In presence of high atmospheric humidity avoid any frost as it is particularly sensitive to root rot. It can handle extremely high temperatures in summer.
Exposure: Outside full sun or afternoon shade, inside needs bright light, and some direct sun.
Use: It is suitable for “desert” gardens, in association with other xerophytes. Where the open air cultivation is not possible due to the climate, it is to be cultivated in pot in order to shelter it in winter.
Warning: It is armed with treacherous spines that are extremely sharp (This is one of the most dangerous of all cactus). Handle it with extreme caution, and keep it away from gangways and areas frequented by children and animals. Spines must be meticulously removed with tweezers.
Propagation: Propagation: scarified seeds, stem division. The stem segments root easily and grow rapidly when placed in loose, well-draining soil.
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