snake cactus

Cylindropuntia spinosior
Reduced / Needle

Cylindropuntia spinosior grows to between 0.4 and 1.2 metres in height and has spine-covered stems. Flowers may be rose, red purple, yellow, or white and appear from spring to early summer. These are followed by fruits that are yellow with occasional red or purple tinges.

Common names 
Also known as: cane cholla, spiny cholla , walking stick cactus,
Flowering time 
The species occurs in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora and in the US states of Arizona and New Mexico at elevations of 600 to 2,000 m
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 has a scattered distribution throughout the eastern parts of Australia. It is most common in the inland and sub-coastal regions of southern Queensland and New South Wales


This species is mostly found in semi-arid environments, but also occurs in drier sub-tropical and warmer temperate regions. It is a weed of roadsides, disturbed sites, pastures, open woodlands, rangelands and grasslands.


This open-branching shrub grows 1–2 m high. The stems are divided into hairless, dull green, cylindrical pads that vary up to 20 cm in length and are 3.5–5 cm thick.

Impact and control methods 

They are drought resistant because of their succulent nature, their lack of leaves and their thick, tough skins. These features result in plants that use the majority of their internal tissues for water storage and their outer parts to reduce water loss and damage by grazing and browsing animals. They can remain vigorous in hot, dry conditions that cause most other plants to lose vigour or die. Dense infestations compete with native vegetation, limiting the growth of small shrubs and groundcover species. The plant’s sharp spines or barbs can cause injury to stock and native animals and contaminate wool and hides, reducing or preventing grazing activities and productivity.

Stem and leaves 

It is a widely branching tree growing to over 2 m tall. The firmly attached terminal stems are 5 to 23 cm long by 1.3 to 3.5 cm wide. The areoles have 5 to 24 tan, pinkish, or red-brown spines which overlap the spines of adjacent areoles. The spine sheaths are white and fit tightly to the spines.

Flowers and fruits 

The flowers are rose to purple and sometimes yellow. The filaments are pine to purple and sometimes green. The style is white or pink and sometimes purplish at the tip. The fruits are yellow, fleshy, tuberculate, and spineless. Plants may be reddish or purplish harsh environments.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species reproduces by seed and vegetatively via stem fragments (i.e. stem segments may become dislodged and produce roots).
Stem fragments are spread by becoming attached to animals, footwear and vehicles. They may also be dispersed by flood waters and in dumped garden waste. The fruit are eaten by birds and other animals, and the seeds then spread in their droppings.

Similar species 

Rope pear (Cylindropuntia imbricata )