Opuntia ramosissima is a shrubby cactus reaching up to four feet high. It forms a woody, multibranched trunk and the stems are quite slender, enough so that it has acquired the name “pencil cholla.” It is also called “diamond cholla” due to a diamond shaped pattern on the stem. The flowers are not very showy, ranging from pinkish to brownish and up to two inches across. It is common in the Mojave desert and grows into Nevada, Arizona, and northern Mexico.
This cactus was first put into the garden in 2005 as a rooted cutting donated by former member James Parker. When I told him of my difficulty in getting segments of this cacti to root, he replied that cuttings should be taken from the softer, new growth, before it hardens. I have since tried this with great success. It is a sun loving, heat tolerant and cold tolerant plant, easily handling winter temperatures into the mid-20's out at the garden.