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Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus Echinocereus engelmannii


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Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus
credit: Stan Shebs/CCSA

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Alternate name: Saints Cactus, Strawberry Cactus

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description The purple to magenta flowers and usually four well-armed central spines help to identify this common desert cactus. A single specimen may consist of up to 60 spiny cylindrical stems in a clump up to 3 ft (1 m) wide.
Habit: succulent native perennial shrub.
Height: to 28 in (70 cm).
Stem: succulent, erect, columnar, ribbed, to 18 in (45 cm) tall or more, 1.2-3.5 in (3-9 cm) diameter; with areoles 0.25-0.6 in (6-15 mm) apart.
Leaf: spine, usually straight (may be curved in mountain habitats), multi-colored, white to tan to red-brown to black; in clusters of 6-14 radial spines, 0.3-0.8 in (8-20 mm) long or more, usually 4 central spines, to 2.75 in (70 mm) long.
Flower: large, showy, magenta to rose-pink to lavender or purple, 2-3.5 in (5-9 cm) wide; diurnal (opening in morning, closing at night).
Fruit: oval to cylindrical berry, red or red-orange, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide, 0.75-1.75 in (18-45 mm) diameter, with abundant but deciduous spines.

Warning This cactus has very sharp spines.

Flower March to August.

Flower March - June

Habitat Sonoran and Mojave deserts, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodlands, flats, rocky hillsides; 650-8000 ft (200-2400 m); also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Native to desert southwest, from California east to Utah and Arizona, into Mexico.

Discussion Also known as saint's cactus, hedgehog cactus, strawberry cactus, strawberry hedgehog cactus, purple torch. Protected in Arizona and Nevada. Englemann's is one of the most common hedgehog cacti found in the southwestern deserts. The edible fruit is said to taste like strawberries, lending it one of its common names. Up to nine varieties are recognized, based on stem size, central spine characteristics, and flower size. One of the most conspicuous and exceptional varieties is var. nichollii, which has golden yellow spines and tall slender stems.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution S. Utah to s. California, s. to Arizona and n. Mexico

Site Preference Rocky & brushy plains, canyons, outwash fans & hillsides

Soil Preference Sandy, rocky or gravelly soils.

Wildlife Value Provides abundant nectar for bees and beetles.