“Hedghog Cactus” by James Dick
The Hedhog Cactus is endandgered although there are many different kinds Arizona is home to quiet a few. Echinocereus have some of the most brilliant flowers of the cactus family.
Echinocereus is a genus that is much loved by cactus growers world-wide and here are several characteristics that collectively account for their popularity. The stems of this genus are more often than not under a foot in height and perhaps 2 or 3 inches in diameter. Some are slightly bigger, some smaller. In the wild, some species may form large mounds of many hundreds of stems, but this takes many years and these same species are still quite manageable in cultivation. There is a wide variety of spination that includes some of the most fierce and dramatic spines covering the plant stem so that it is not even visible. Most have moderately sized spines evenly distributed, some have very colorful spines even in alternating patterns. Some have pectinate (comb-like) spines and some are nearly spineless. The spines are arranged on ribs.
They range in color from electric-pink to deep scarlet to translucent browns and greens and even bright yellow. Many species feature two-toned flowers with one color toward the center and another color on the outer parts of the flower. The flowers can be 3 inches or more in diameter and feature spiny floral tubes. Close examination reveals that the flowers actually break through the epidermis of the stem as do any new offsetting stems.
In the wild, Echinocereus range from as far north as South Dakota, USA and south through most of Mexico. They inhabit a wide range of habitats growing under Ponderosa forests to coastal plains; from low elevation deserts to mountainsides of 8000 feet or more. There can be a tremendous amount of variation within species and this can make identification especially tricky in some instances.
Although my focus is on the flowers in this series, what struck me as a necessary depiction in this modern impression was the spines, hence the description “hedghog,” adding to the cute but prickly plant as they point in all directions.