The short (less than 5 inches), stout, cylindrical stems of teddy bear cholla
are completely covered by thick, gold-colored spines that obscure the green skin and give a fuzzy appearance, becoming dark brown or even black with age. Both spines and stem segments are easily detached, adhering to anything that moves, and can be difficult to removing owing to tiny reverse barbs; this characteristic is the main method by which the plant is propagated, when fallen branches take root. Mature cacti are around 5 feet tall, usually surrounded by a ring of discarded spines, pads and flowers.
Cylindropuntia bigelovii is a plant of the Sonoran Desert, growing in exposed areas with full sun. It most resembles silver cholla
(which has a similar range), the main difference being that the spines of the teddy bear cholla are of equal length (between 1 and 0.5 inches), whereas the other species has spines of varying lengths.