coral cactus

Cylindropuntia fulgida
Reduced / Needle

Coral cactus is a treelike succulent plant with a woody trunk and cylindrical cladodes that often grows 1-3 m in height. Its stems are light green and spiny. The terminal segments of each stem are easily detached

Common names 
Also known as: boxing glove cactus, boxing glove cholla, club cactus, coral cactus, jumping cactus, jumping cholla, Sonoran jumping cholla ,
Flowering time 
Doesn’t produce flowers or fruit
Native to south-western USA (i.e. Arizona) and northern Mexico.
State declaration 
Category 3 - Must not be distributed or disposed. This means it must not be released into the environment unless the distribution or disposal is authorised in a regulation or under a permit.
Council declaration 
As per State Declaration
Known distribution 

This species is naturalised mainly in the drier inland regions of Australia. It has been recorded mainly in the western parts of New South Wales and Queensland, but is also occasionally naturalised in Western Australia and South Australia. Possibly also naturalised in the southern parts of Northern Territory.


In the Sonoran desert, it grows in wide open areas and in the thorn scrub of the foothills (Paredes et al. 2000). The species grows in coastal scrub, creosote scrub, and desert grasslands and is found on sandy flats and rocky slopes.


It is a tree with a spreading crown growing to 3 m tall. The joints are easily detached and 6 to 23 cm long by 2 to 3.5 cm wide with 0 to 18 yellow or pale pink spines which age brown. The sheaths are white or yellow and baggy.

Impact and control methods 

Coral cactus invades natural grasslands and pastures where it competes with native species for food and space. It also prevents the movement and causes injuries to wild and domesticated animals (Walters et al., 2011). Reptiles, birds, bats and other small mammals are frequently impaled on the spines and eventually die.

Stem and leaves 

Leaves have been reduced to spines, 6 to 12 of which grow from each areole. Young branches are covered with 2 to 3 cm (1 to 1 in) silvery-yellow spines, which darken to a gray color with age. These spines form a dense layer that obscures the stems. Slower growing or older branches have sparse and/or shorter spines. As the spines fall off of older parts, the brown-black bark is revealed. It becomes rough and scaly with age.

Flowers and fruits 

Flowers are white and pink, streaked with lavender. They are about one inch wide, and are displayed at the joint tips (or old fruit tips), blooming in mid-summer. Most of the fleshy, green fruits are sterile, pear-shaped to nearly round, wrinkled with a few spines. They are typically about 4 cm (1.5 in) long, often producing flowers the following year which add new fruits to those of previous seasons. It is these hanging chains of fruit which give it the name "hanging chain cholla".

Reproduction and dispersal 

Coral cactus reproduces primarily vegetatively (being almost the only way of reproduction outside its native range): both fruits and stems are able to root once detached from the plant (Lloyd and Reeves, 2014; Walters et al., 2011). However, in its native range, although it still reproduces mainly vegetatively, a high percentage of fruits have fully developed seeds.

Similar species 

This species is often misidentified as C. imbricata, C. pallida, C. spinosior and C. tunicata. However, it is easily differentiated from these other Cylindropuntia species by its fruits: C. fulgida is the only species of the genus in which fruits proliferate in long chains