The anticipation of the Cholla Cactus blooms are something I’ve come to look forward to since I started this photography journey. With my introduction to them many moons ago hiking in the foothills of Albuquerque NM, they still amaze me.
If you’ve never seen them before, they have bizarre looking, long spiny branches that give way to glorious magenta flowers. However, as my travels have taken me to some different botanic gardens this season, I learned they bloom in other colors as well.
Already familiar with the bight yellow flowers of the Leopard Cholla, I discovered other Cholla blooming in softer shades of pinks and if memory serves, white too.
Regardless of the flower’s colors, I find it magical that such a strange looking plant gives way to such beauty. Then again, I believe that is a constant with many of the blooming cactus plants that bless the southwest landscapes.
Cholla Cactus in Their Budding State…
West of Denver and closer to the foothills, Cholla buds begin making their appearance around mid June. The plants show the clusters of bulging, pointy, pink buds surrounded by long white spines.
Each visit to the gardens reflects their evolution. The buds will be soon to open to their full flowering state. You cannot miss the bright magenta blooms that are about to unfold!
Patience and timing are key in one’s efforts to photograph them. Nature does progress at its own pace.
The Pre-Opening Flower Phase
While the magenta cholla cactus flowers are beautiful, it’s the phase right before the flowers bloom that I find the most interesting to photograph. With their thick wavy petals tinted with green, it’s almost like they are in a semi-liquid state like wax. It’s hard to put into words – or perhaps it’s just how my mind perceives them.
Some of the buds in this phase are round and fat while others are more oblong. Just like other flowering cactus plants, they are coaxed to open from the heat of the summer sun. And burst open they do! But also like may cactus bloom, the flowers are short lived which is always sad – especially for someone who loves to photograph cactus flowers!!
Bees in a Cholla Cactus Flower Frenzy
Bees love these flowers! Just like I look forward to photographing Cholla, no doubt they too anxiously await these flowers to open. They are on a pollen gathering mission for sure! Spending time in the early mornings, you can witness the bees behaviors around the yet to open buds. Some bees hover patiently while others will try to force their way in to the still closed buds.
There’s a quiet battle between bud and bee. But they do play nice in the end as the flowers ultimately open to welcome them. It’s amazing to watch this postering between flora and fauna.
With the warming morning more Cholla flowers open and a bee frenzy ensues. At that point I thank both Cholla and bees for allowing me to briefly be part of their world with my camera 🙂