Echinocereus (2006)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (October 2006)

The old dirt road curves along its dusty way in an almost forgotten part of southwestern New Mexico. The barbed-wire fence goes on for miles, guarding nothing. Near a rotting wooden fence post grows a small echinocereus cactus. It is 2 inches tall and covered with hard comblike, pinkish-white spines.

Overhead, a tangled mound of tumbleweeds, trapped by the fence, has blocked the sunlight for weeks. In this unnatural darkness, red spider mites appear. Seeming to sense the cactus’s weakness, they swarm over its small body.

Echinocereus rigidissimus are found in New Mexico, Arizona and the northern Sonora in Mexico. The more commonly known variety, E. rigidissimus v. rubispinus, grows in Mexico in the western Chihuahua and the Sierra Oscura.

These cacti are grown for their colorful spines and large pink flowers with white throats. The rubispinus variety, known as the Rainbow Cactus, has spines with a very deep pink coloring. Echinocereus produce green seed pods after their spring flowering.

Echninocereus prefer sunny locations with good air movement in summer. In the winter months, keep them dry and cool in a bright area. They need a long, dry winter rest to promote good flower bud formation.

Dr. George Englemann – doctor, scientist and mentor of Henry Shaw – described several echinocereus or “hedgehog cacti” in the 1800s.