The photographs of Cholla cactus shown here were made in the Lower Colorado Desert, an extension of the Sonoran Desert that spans from Northern Mexico into New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

There are twenty types of Cholla cactus (Opuntia genus, Cactacea family) in the North American deserts. Different species have adapted to different elevations and locales. Most require well-drained, coarse soil in rocky, dry flats or slopes. Some have adapted to mountain foothills or forests.

Most Cholla cactus have orange or green-yellow blossoms, though color variations may occur even within the same species. Cholla typically bloom between late spring and early summer, depending on local conditions. These photos are from the southern half of Joshua Tree National Park in an areas known for Cholla groves.

During my first visit to the Cholla groves I stepped back to get a better frame for a photograph, and brushed up against a two-foot Cholla. I got a free pass that day since I was wearing leather chaps. It was winter and I was traveling with my riding group on our motorcycles.