74. Hedgehog cactus

Echinocereus or Hedgehog cactus is a small barrel shaped cactus, comprising of about 70 different species  native to the sunny and rocky places in Southern United States and Mexico. It has several hundred stems in a compact hemispherical clump or mound.

The stems are cylindrical in shape, up to one foot long and 1 to 2 inches thick, with 9 or 10 ribs. The central spines are straight or slightly curved 1 to 2 inches long. Small radial spines arise in at a sharp angle.

The stems are green and contain chlorophyll. Hence the plant has no leaves at all! Its flowers are scarlet red in colour, cup-shaped, 1 to 2 inches long and grow on the apex of the stem.

Echinocereus is easier to cultivate than many other cacti. It needs a light soil, exposure to sun and a dry winter to flower. It prefers a soil slightly richer than that needed by the other cacti. In the wild, several of the species can tolerate temperatures as low as -23°C in dry conditions.

Humming birds are primary pollinators. Fruits become red and edible when ripe. The flowers bloom from April through June. This is the first cactus to bloom in spring.

Usually the flowers are large and the fruits are edible. The flowers last slightly longer than other those of other cacti.The flowers stay open all night and last 3 to 5 days. Native American used to make sweet cakes from the fruits of these plants.

Visalakshi Ramani


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