Staghorn Cholla In Bloom
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Cactus blooming season is now in full swing and the local desert is dotted with plants putting out flowers in an array of brilliant — sometimes garish — colors. Prominent among the blooming cacti are Staghorn Chollas. These cacti grow to a height of about five or six feet and have many branches extending from a central stem. The branches sort of resemble deer antlers, hence the name “Staghorn.” There is a closely related species called “Buckhorn” Cholla but, apparently, they either don’t grow in our local desert or are greatly outnumbered by the Staghorn Chollas. Which is good in a sense, because I really can’t tell the two species apart, due to the fact that they are almost identical in appearance.
At any rate, the Staghorns are blooming profusely right now. They put out flowers in a variety of colors, ranging from several hues of yellow, to orange, to pink, and to brick red.
The flowers are intense and, as with nearly all cactus flowers, last only a day before withering.
No one seems to be able to explain why these plants put out flowers of different colors. It’s a mystery.
It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with location. It’s common to see a Staghorn covered with flowers of one color standing a foot away from one with flowers of a totally different color.
Sometimes one even can find one of these cacti putting out flowers of more than one color. There certainly doesn’t appear to be an evolutionary advantage that favors any particular colored flower. If, for example, yellow flowers attracted the most pollinators, it would stand to reason that over time the cacti that predominate would all be producing yellow flowers. But, that’s not the case, at least not locally. There seems to be no preferred flower color. Go figure.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160, f13 @ 1/160.