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Claret-cup Cactus Echinocereus triglochidiatus


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Claret-cup Cactus in flower
credit: Stan Shebs/CCSA

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Alternate name: King-cup Cactus

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description Among the most beautiful cacti; large plants with many stems in full flower make breathtaking mounds of scarlet. It is highly variable, often with two strikingly different forms growing in the same area.
Habit: native perennial succulent; single stem, or up to 300 stems in dense, woolly mound; each stem cylindrical or spherical, 2-12 in (5-30 cm) tall or more, 1-6 in (2.5-15 cm) diameter, with 5-12 ribs.
Height: 6-12 in (15-30 cm); diameter to 48 in (120 cm).
Leaf: spine, straight or curved, white, to 1.5 in long; central spine to 2.5 in long; in cluster of 3-12 per areole; spines rarely absent.
Flower: scarlet to orange-red, yellow at center, vase-shaped, 1.25-2.5 in (32-64 mm) wide; remains open day and night for 2-3 days.
Fruit: red oval berry, 0.5-1.5 in (12-38 mm), with deciduous spines.

Flower April to June, depending on location and variety.

Habitat Arid shaded sites: upper edge of Mojave Desert, coniferous forests, igneous and calcareous rock outcrops, cliffs, sandy hills, rocky hillsides, dry mountain woodland, mountain chapparal, canyons, grasslands with igneous soil; 500-10,000 ft (150-3000 m); also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Southeast California, east to southern Utah, central Colorado, and west Texas, and into Mexico.

Discussion Also known as kingcup cactus, kingcup hedgehog cactus, red-flowered hedgehog cactus, crimson hedgehog cactus, strawberry cactus, mound cactus, Mojave mound, spinemound. The flowers of this cactus are pollinated by hummingbirds.

The taxonomy of this plant is confused, but some authorities recognize 7 varieties. One variety, Arizona hedgehog cactus (E. t. var. arizonicus) is listed as a U.S. endangered species. It is found only near the borders of Arizona and New Mexico with Mexico.