Engelmann. 1857. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3: 306.
Herbarium specimen (lectotype); Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen; Herbarium specimen (C. ×kelvinensis); Herbarium specimen (C. ×kelvinensis); Herbarium specimen (C.×kelvinensis); Drawing (Britton and Rose, v1, 1919)
Cylindropuntia fulgida grows at lower elevations (<1100 m) in the Sonoran Desert of central Arizona and Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico. It is a tree with a spreading crown growing to 3 m tall. The joints are easily detached and 6 to 23 cm long by 2 to 3.5 cm wide with 0 to 18 yellow or pale pink spines which age brown. The sheaths are white or yellow and baggy. The flowers are pink to magenta with pale pink to magenta filaments. The style is also pink. The fruits are fleshy and become spineless with time. A distinctive feature of this species is that the fruits form long chains, leading to the common name “chain fruit cholla”.
The Flora of North America accepts two varieties of C. fulgida: C. fulgida var. fulgida and C. fulgida var. mammillata. The typical variety has long, dense spines which interlace and obscure the stems. C. fulgida var. mammillata has short, thin spines with tight sheaths. The spines do not obscure the stems, and the plants of this variety can look nearly spineless from a distance. C. fulgida can be diploid (2n = 22) or triploid (2n = 33). C. kelvinensis is a widespread species of hybrid origin between C. fulgida and C. spinosior. C. fulgida also hybridizes with C. leptocaulis. A single hybrid individual of C. fulgida × C. ramosissima resulting from a cross between a naturally-occurring C. ramosissima and a cultivated C. fulgida var. mammillata was found in Joshua Tree, California many years ago and has been propagated by a small number of people.