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Green Pitaya Echinocereus viridiflorus


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Green Pitaya
credit: Jim Pisarowicz, National Park Service

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Alternate name: Nylon Hedgehog Cactus

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description A small cactus with one cylindrical stem or several in a clump and yellowish-green or magenta flowers.
Habit: succulent native perennial shrub; 1-12 stems per plant (rarely more).
Height: 3-18 in (8-35 cm)
Stem: erect, spherical to cylindrical, 10-20 ribs; 1-4 in (3-10 cm) diameter.
Leaf: spine, red-and-white, red-and-yellow, yellow-and-white, whitish, yellowish, or purplish, tips often darker; radial spines 12-45 per areole, 0.2-0.75 in (4-18 mm) long, central spines absent, or 1-17 per areole, 0.2-1.6 in (5-40 mm) long; spines often held close against the stems (appressed).
Flower: green to yellow-green to reddish-brown, rarely magenta, sometimes streaked with purple, 0.75-1.75 in (2-3.5 cm) wide; growing from side of stem.
Fruit: yellow-green to dark green, rarely dark purple or red-green berry, 0.25-0.67 in (6-17 mm) long; abundant but deciduous spines.

Flower April to August.

Habitat Chihuahuan Desert, desert scrub, semidesert grasslands, short-grass prairies, oak woodlands, dry plains and hills; on igneous or novaculite substrates, gravelly or silty alluvium, rarely on limestone; 2300-9000 ft (700-2700 m); also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Southeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota south to eastern New Mexico and western Texas.

Discussion Also known as nylon hedgehog cactus, small-flowered hedgehog cactus, brown-spine hedgehog cactus, hen-and-chickens. The taxonomy of the species is uncertain, with some authors recognizing up to five varieties which are by other authors as separate species. One variety, var. davisii (sometimes called Echinocereus davisii), Davis' green pitaya, is federally listed as an endangered speciesFive varieties are proposed.

Pitaya (pronounced pee-tah-yah) is the phonetic spelling of the original Spanish name Pitahaya, a name given to species of Echinocereus but more broadly applied to a number of cacti that produce sweet, edible fruit.