The Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California
© Bryan Jolley/Tandem Stills + Motio
A garden of prickly delights
To celebrate the last day of National Park Week we're at the gorgeous Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California, about a three-hour drive from Los Angeles. This 1,235-square-mile (3,199-square-kilometre) stretch of land where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts converge was declared a national monument in 1936, then was redesignated a park in 1994. The status protects a wide variety of plant and animal life, including the titular Joshua tree, which can be found growing mostly in the hills on the Mojave side of the park.
The Cholla Cactus Garden you see here lies near the centre of the park in what is called the Pinto Basin. Visitors can safely navigate this prickly section via a nature trail that allows a close-up view of a large collection of cholla cactus, which is spread out over 10 acres. These plants may look cuddly and are sometimes even sardonically referred to as the teddy bear cholla, but you don't want to snuggle with one - or even touch it at all. The cholla cactus is recognisable by its dense yellow new-growth spines, which grow on top of dark lower trunks. Stem joints from cholla cactus fall off easily and the spines have tiny barbs which can latch onto your skin and can be painful to remove. We'll just admire them from a distance, thank you very much.