The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       May 2003      Number 5

Notes on Echinocereus
by L. M. Moe

The plant of the month for May is Echinocereus, a large genus which contains some of the most popular smaller North American cacti. The first Echinocereus was described by George Engelmann in 1848. He derived the name from "echinos", Greek for hedgehog or sea urchin, and "cereus", Latin for candle. The Cactus Family (2001), by E. A. Anderson, lists about 60 species from the southern U.S. and Mexico. There are two species in the Mojave Desert of California - E. engelmannii (California Hedgehog Cactus) and E. triglochidiatus (Mojave Claret Cup Cactus).

These beautiful Echinocereus cacti come in a wide range of shapes and colors. Some species form round, spiny mounds (thus the common name "Hedgehog"), while others develop thin, rambling stems. The flower buds of these succulents form inside the stems, bursting out near the stem tips in late spring and early summer. The large flowers open completely in full sun and come in an array of colors such as yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and white.

These cacti are suitable for growing in containers in a greenhouse, on a patio or as landscape plants in regions where the minimum temperature does not fall much below freezing. Though they flower best if kept at a temperature of about 50 F in the winter, some species (e.g., E. engelmannii) can survive light frost.

A good website for more information and photographs is:

Echinocereus engelmannii
photo by Stephen Cooley

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