Scientific Name: Echinocereus spp.
Common Names: Claret-cup Cactus, Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus, Crimson Hedgehog Cactus
Growth Habit: Shrub, Cactus
Arizona Native Status: Native
Habitat: Upland, Mountain
Flower Color: Red, Orange, Pink (very rare)
Flowering Season: Spring
Height: Up to 1 foot (30 cm) tall
Description: The showy flowers have red to orange tepals (petals and petal-like sepals) and green stigma lobes. The fruits are egg-shaped and contain white pulp. The stems are erect, green, spiny, ribbed, and cylindrical or rarely rounded in shape. The plants have multiple stems and are clumping or mounding.
There are several, very similar species of red-flowered Echinocereus found here in southeastern Arizona, and they can be a real challenge to identify since the ever-changing classification of these extremely variable cacti is so confused and their identification may require laboratory analysis to determine ploidy (chromosome count).
Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus (E. coccineus) is tetraploid (has 4 sets of chromosomes) and the plants are either dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants) or hermaphrodites (have bisexual flowers). The flowers on male plants lack a pistil, while those on female plants have anther filaments but no developed anthers. The flowers are crimson, scarlet, orange red (uncommon), or pink (rare). The fruits are green, yellowish, red, pinkish, or brownish. The stems have 5 to 14 ribs and there are 1 to 18 radial spines and 0 to 6 central spines per aureole. The central spines are round in cross section.
Note: Some sources consider tetraploid Echinocereus with red, bisexual flowers in southeastern Arizona to be a new species known as E. santaritensis.
Mojave Mound Cactus (E. polyacanthus, syn. E. triglochidiatus var. polyacanthus) is tetraploid and has bisexual flowers. The flowers are pinkish orange to dark red and there is distinctive white, cobwebby wool around the spines on the flowers. The fruits are green. The stems have 9 to 13 ribs and there are 6 to 14 radial spines and 1 to 7 central spines per aureole. The central spines are round in cross section.
Note: Some sources consider E. polyacanthus in Arizona to actually be hairy-flowered E. coccineus.
Kingcup Cactus (E. triglochidiatus) is diploid (has 2 sets of chromosomes) and has bisexual flowers. The flowers are orange-red to dark red. The fruits are green, yellow-green, pink, or red (rare). The stems have 5 to 12 ribs and there are 0 to 10 radial spines and 0 to 4 central spines per aureole. The central spines are angular in cross section.
Arizona Claret-cup Cactus (E. arizonicus, syn. E. triglochidiatus var. arizonicus, E. coccineus var. arizonicus) is diploid and has bisexual flowers. The flowers are bright orange-red to dark red. The fruits are green or brownish. The stems have 8 to 13 ribs and there are 7 to 14 radial spines and 1 to 4 (3 to 8 outside Arizona) central spines per aureole. The central spines are round or angled to round in cross section.
Note: Some sources still consider E. arizonicus to be a variety of E. coccineus even though one is diploid and the other is tetraploid.
Edible – The fruits are edible but shouldn't be eaten because the plants are protected.
Hummingbird Flower – The flowers contain abundant nectar and attract hummingbirds.
Legal Status – Protected Native Plant (Highly Safeguarded, Salvage Assessed, and/or Salvage Restricted)
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Cactaceae – Cactus family
Genus: Echinocereus Engelm. – hedgehog cactus