Across the American southwest, they’re known as the teddy bear cacti, with puppet-like arms coated with a seemingly soft fuzz. Although they look cute, these plants, formally called cholla, are actually covered in prickers, as many a rueful hiker has learned. And they’ve endured some tough times of late.
Despite the teddy bear plants’ fearsome armor, prolonged drought and rising temperatures killed off more than half of one huge population in 2004 and 2005, according to biologists with Cal State Pomona and Whittier College. Paved roads, gravel mining for the roads and garbage dumping have all left their mark on the landscape they call home.