A desert story about the teddy bear cholla (warning: it’s not cute at all…)

What an irresistible idea and name – a teddy bear cactus! There’s quite a patch of these just off the road in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park. If I remember accurately, it is signposted as the Cholla Garden, and lovely word though cholla is, it’s not as catchy as teddy bear. Imagine! A garden of cacti that resemble teddy bears. Wouldn’t that be cute?

Look at these - aren't they irresistible?
Look at these – aren’t they irresistible?

I’m back to school soon, so maybe I could tell the younger students a story, one with a teddy bear cholla cactus? Yes, a story as told by Mr. OldPlaidCamper…Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Not really teddy bears...
Not really teddy bears…

Don’t believe it, kids. Look at this picture of a cholla cactus. Now look at this teddy bear. Do they look anything alike? No. That’s silly. They don’t look like teddy bears. You can’t hug them. Well, you can, but it’ll hurt. Advertising and branding is mainly about peddling a lie, or stretching the truth to breaking point. Why are you crying? Please stop. I’ll be back next week with another story. Please stop crying.

If I’m unlucky, and the principal finds out, maybe I’ll be reprimanded for crushing the imaginations and dreams of young’uns, but – silver lining – I’ll never be asked to teach kindergarten. (To be serious for a moment, I do believe that kindergarten teachers are amazing, and have one of the toughest – and most rewarding – teaching assignments. I would not be able to do it).

A storm is coming!
A storm is coming!

Back to the cacti. We did visit the Cholla Garden one evening a couple of weeks ago. The day had been incredibly hot – even by desert standards – and darkness was falling as we drove through the park. We could see clouds massing, huge and dark; a storm was building. We jumped out of the car to look at the field(?) of cholla cacti. Quite beautiful. Irritatingly, the only mosquito for miles around honed in on me almost immediately. I dealt with it calmly, by leaping about slapping my head and neck, which seemed to work. I think it fell to the floor, weak with laughter. I snapped a few quick pictures, the ones on this post, and jumped back in the car before the storm was upon us. (Alright, before the mosquito recovered).

A field of teddy bears (use your imagination!)
A field of teddy bears (use your imagination!)

The teddy bear cactus really is a beautiful plant; not cute, but beautiful, and to see whole stands of them in the failing desert light was rather wonderful. An almost otherworldly experience. (Just don’t hug them. Those furry little spines are awfully difficult and painful to remove. You’d be like a bear with a sore head. Or arm).


Have you ever wanted to hug a teddy bear cholla? Of course not. That’s silly. Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.

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I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

19 thoughts on “A desert story about the teddy bear cholla (warning: it’s not cute at all…)”

  1. Hi Mr. Oldplaidcamper, First of all Thank you for visiting my blog, I am so glad to meet you and with your blog. Photographs are so beautiful. This is where I haven’t known or been… Also I haven’t any idea about this teddy bear cactus. At first I thought that it was your creation in your story 🙂 But yes, a little search I understood what a reality in the nature. By the way there is a long name too (according to wikipedia) it says “Cylindropuntia bigelovii”… but teddy bear is much better… But why they call like that!!!! As you mentioned there is anything to remind us teddy bear… as I read it is called teddy-bear, because from a distance teddy bear cholla, looks like a fuzzy, soft plant with many short, fuzzy branches looking like teddy bear arms, growing from the top. Believe me I haven’t known it before, and it is really so interesting for me now. Thank you for sharing with us. With my love, nia


    1. Happy you enjoyed reading it! I liked your sunset photos.
      These cactii are strange – and their Latin name is too much, so teddy bear cholla will do for me!
      Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Since the Old Plaid Camper has invited stories, I have one about the Cholla cactii of Joshua. Many moons ago I was a passenger in a early 1970s Dodge Colt. I had hitched a ride out west with a friend of a friend who was headed out west. The third passenger was a Dalmation puppy who’s curiosity got the better of it and resulted in a close encounter with one of those Teddy Bears. We had to pull a snout full of spines out of that poor canine with a pair of pliers! Yelp upon yelp gave way to the longest sleep that pup had the whole trip. Keep ’em leashed if your amid the teddy Bears!


  3. This made me laugh so thank you for that. I’m also happy to see that I am not the only one who deals with those devilish little creatures (mosquitoes) in that manner. That always seems to be my go to method 😉


  4. I have issues not touching things. Especially if you’re not supposed to. That’s why I have paint on my jacket from today. But I’ve learned my lesson with the cacti. Although the first time I saw the saguaros I was told afterwards that I screamed until I was let out of the car, my friends saying “Let’s just let her go hug the cactus so we afterwards we can search for the hospital and get it over with.” I didn’t hug them, but they were not that spiky. Hiking in Colorado I remove cacti spikes from my calves about once a week. I’m clumsy.


    1. Ah, you get to go hiking amongst the cacti when you want – wonderful. And you’re not hugging them – wise!
      Thanks for reading and commenting, always appreciated.
      Enjoy your weekend!


  5. I guess if we got overheated and dehydrated enough, those cacti could become real teddy bears and really kick the crap out of us. But in cooler weather or with the safety of distance, they are wonderful creatures in their own faunal capacities, and I thank you for the introduction!


  6. I sure enjoyed this post, pc. I was all settled in for the story and then had a good laugh. Also got a good laugh at the image of you and the mosquito. Oh, I love Joshua Tree Park, I’ve been there twice and it never seems to be enough. Your photos captured the storm and the cacti beautifully, how wonderful to watch this storm coming in. And the cactus, their ironic name, and so many of them. Great post, and thank you for the fun…. 😀


    1. So happy you enjoyed this one! It really is a wonderful place; I suspect we’ll be returning soon enough. Maybe I’ll be better prepared for that mosquito…
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I tend to be an entertainer. Magic tricks. Guitar songs. Reading Poe after dark during camping trips. Even story–telling. That being said, I’ll probably skip the teddy bear cactus story. Then again, maybe the younger campers in our party would find it scarier than Poe!

    As always, great post, my friend!


    1. Thanks for that! Good for you having that entertainment repertoire – if I started to sing, I believe people would rather run headlong through the teddy bear cholla just to escape. I wouldn’t blame them…


      1. Hahaha. I didn’t say that I sang well or that people hung around to listen. I just said that I sing. Lol Even so, I have a lot of fun doing it!

        I’m not a natural entertainer though. I decided to develop my skills when I realized that a father/hopeful teacher/writer/every other role of my life has entertainment aspects.


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