This isn’t my best photograph of Cylindropuntia bigelovii or teddybear cholla, but it is one of the better ones I have from this particular location: the Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park. This small area has the densest concentration of teddybear chollas within this massive park. While enjoying this tiny natural wonder, a thought did creep into my head: “Why build a road (and then highway) right through it?” I’m sure the decision was made before I was born, but I wonder if any thought has been given to rerouting the highway around this small patch, and then reclaiming the decommissioned road for the cholla.
Despite the common name of teddybear cholla, you do not want to hug this plant. Its needles have barbed ends that pierce and lodge. Tweezers or a comb are recommended to pick the needles out if they become embedded in your skin; attempting to pluck them out with your fingers will merely sink them into your fingertips (as I experienced).