Cholla Flowers with Their Magenta Pink, Waxy Petals

Blooming cholla cactus plant with pink flowers

The Claret Cups have now completed their stunning bloom cycle. The prickly pear cactus flowers are winding down. So next on deck are the flowering Cholla cactus plants. With their magenta pink, waxy flowers, they are enjoyed by viewers, photographers and bees a like.

Having initially been introduced to Cholla cactus while living in New Mexico, I’m so grateful that they are here locally in Colorado too. Like the other blooming cactus, I look forward to these flowers each year. Thankfully no one has criminally hacked away at these plants like they’ve done to the barrel cactus!!

I’ve written about these plants multiple times, but never tire of sharing the photo moments I’ve had the opportunity to capture. People appear to enjoy these posts and the accompanying Cholla flowers photos. They are such alien looking things that despite their spiny weaponry bring forth gorgeous flowers. One of Nature’s many wonderful contradictions!

Cholla Cactus Plants Begin Budding Around Mid-June

Pink cholla flower with pointy buds.
Pink Cholla flower about to open with pointy buds.

Cholla cactus plants generally begin to start showing their buds around mid-June.

After our cold, snowy winter and VERY wet start to summer, these plants took quite a beating. It was some cold temps for sure. and a lot of moisture for sure.

In early spring several of these big plants were looking a bit beaten up – so you wondered if they’d make it? Many of their long, spiky stems were drooped over – almost looking defeated. But low and behold being resilient cactus, they came out relatively unscathed.

Around mid-June you begin to see the pointy pink and or green buds at the end of their lanky, spiny stems make an appearance. It’s interesting in that one minute it looks like the plant want be budding this season and then a few days later voilà, buds are everywhere on the plants. Whatever signals they get that now is a go, they go for it!!

Pink cholla flower with buds.
Freshly opened pink Cholla cactus flower surrounded by pointy buds.

Magenta Pink Cholla Flowers

Timing can be of the essence if you want to catch them going from buds to opening flowers. And when things are in motion, it can happen quite quickly. Admittedly, my timing has be off at times to capture the photos I’m looking to take. And this year, with a trip up to the mountains for a few days to escape the summer heat, I did miss some primo photo opportunities.

All in all, I was still able to get some decent shots. The flowers themselves are relatively short-lived and many had already withered up. They slowly open throughout the day with a vibrant pink explosion. When you see dozens of them on some of these big plants, it’s quite impressive.

Big blooming cholla cactus plant
Big flowering Cholla cactus plant covered with magenta pink blooms.

I do enjoy the more intimate moments in getting close-up to photograph these flowers. However, there are often several things working against me to do so for any length of time…
1) Their long spines – a reminder not to get too close!
2) The heat of the quickly warming mornings.
3) And this is the biggie – MOSQUITOES!!

Given the time of day I’m out photographing these flowers, it’s also primo feeding time for these pesky, biting bugs. Despite multiple applications of bug spray, they always seem to find the spots I’ve missed. Given my O-positive blood (apparently their preferred type), I turn into an all you can eat buffet – bummer!

Thankfully, before I’ve been driven away by multiple factors – mainly mosquitos, I usually come home with some decent photos.

Magenta pink choola cactus flower.
Close-up of magenta pink Cholla cactus flower.

Bees Descend on Cholla Flowers in Droves

Always wanting to give props to the bees, blooming Cholla flowers are by all observations an eagerly anticipated event for them. Then again, I eagerly anticipate this event too with the opportunity to photograph them in action.

This season I’ve paid more attention to the different types of bees on different cactus flowers. I’ve yet to see any bees take interest in the Claret Cup flowers. Not once in all the photos I’ve taken. Prickly pears, for sure – but they are a different variety bees. 

Bees hovering over pink cholla cactus flower
Two honey bees vying for position as they hover over an opening Cholla flower.

The Cholla flowers, on the other hand attract honey bees – in droves! And they are not very patient in waiting for the flowers to open. They will literally try to wedge themselves into the barley opened flowers. With their little bee-butts sticking out, it’s a favorite of mine to watch – AND photograph too!

Other than the yellow Chamisa flowers, I can honestly say, I’ve never seen so many bees around any other flowers than around Cholla flowers. Perhaps they are on a mission knowing these flowers have such a limited life-span and they go for it. They will painstakingly hover looking for just the right flower and point of entry. Whatever it may be, for me it’s time with both the Cholla and the bees which is time happily well spent.

Now If I could just do something about those dang mosquitoes!! 🙁

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