Snow Leopard Cholla with Its Lemon Yellow Flowers

Long white spines on this Leopard cholla cactus plant.

As the blooming cactus continue, photographing Cholla are another favorite. And little by little I’ve been learning about the different varieties of Cholla cactus and their gorgeous blooms. At the local Xeric gardens, I’m blessed with the opportunity to capture images of several varieties. While awaiting the magenta pink flowers of the more well known Cholla, it’s the bright yellow flowers of the Snow Leopard Cholla which are quite lookers.

Yellow cactus flower about to open close-up.
Notice the dense, white cactus spines.

Based on my observations, one of their most distinguishing qualities is their white densely clustered spines. And we are talking snowy white!! Before the plant blooms it almost looks like it is snow covered with all of the spines. Very unusual and unique.

In my past travels to capture blooming cactus in New Mexico AND this year in Arizona, I’ve yet to encounter this particular variety anywhere else.

The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens in Grand Junction has a rather extensive cactus garden. But I cannot recall if they had a Snow Leopard Cholla?

So I feel pretty lucky to have access to several large plants so close by. And they are quite prolific in their flower blooms!

Photographing Snow Leopard Cholla Comes at a Price

Yellow snow leopard cholla flowers and buds.
Lemon yellow Snow Leopard cholla cactus flowers.

A bit smaller than their magenta brethren, these cup-shaped, lemon yellow flowers are lovely. Cholla flowers can actually vary in color depending on the species. This can include flowers that can appear in shades of yellow, white, pale pink, magenta and even green.

Lovely as they are, photographing them up close comes at a price. Let’s just say I wore way too many spines these season! I’ve been told that Cholla spines tend to “jump”. But in my case I think it’s just operator error in getting so close to them. My bad! At least I did not unintentionally lean back onto one of these plants. Doing so before landed me with a low back full of cactus needles. Acupuncture this is not!

Yellow cactus flowers with long white spines.
You can see why accidentally leaning into one of these plants is not ideal!
Bright yellow leopard cholla cactus flowers.

Like many other cactus flowers these Snow Leopard blooms are short lived so it’s a short window for photo ops. It seems like one day all you see is the buds and then boom flowers! And it’s a bright yellow burst!

This season I came across a plant which I believe is a Leopard cholla with some rather unusual buds. In fact they look more like a Venus Fly Trap which you can see by the photo. I had hoped to capture the flower open as I was curious to its shape but my timing was off by about a day.

Unusual shaped cactus flower buds.
These unusual looking buds look more like a Venus Fly Trap!

Sometimes it can get a little tricky with photo ops as the Prickly Pears are often blooming at about the same time. There are mornings where I’ll do many laps through the gardens as a few minutes later can yield other opportunities. Patience is definitely a virtue so long as I can keep the mosquitos at bay!

Bees Drop In on These Yellow Flowers

Like the magenta colored cholla flowers, bees go crazy for these yellow ones too. But as I noted in a previous post, the bees that visit Snow Leopard cholla flowers are more akin to those that visit Prickly Pear flowers.

In the side by side photos, you can see where this bee more or less photo-bombed. One minute I had a clean shot to the flower and the next a bee shows up. No complaints though. I’m grateful when a bee drops in.

Yellow Snow Leopard cactus flower.
Bee inside yellow Snow Leopard cholla cactus flower.
As you can see by these side by side photos, a bee literally dropped in and photo-bombed the moment!

All in all I believe this season I was able to get some decent shots of these brightly colored flowers. Nature delivered for sure and I’m glad to have been in there in the moment. With its silvery-white, dense spines and bright yellow flowers, the Snow Leopard cholla cactus is another unusual beauty to behold and photograph 🙂

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