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     For many decades, Echinocereus triglochidiatus was separated into a dozen or more varieties found throughout the Southwest.  There have been numerous revisions of the genus attempting to sort the many varieties into distinct species on the basis of flower structure, spine structure, chromosome number, etc. 

Although there is not now complete consensus (is there ever in botany?), it is now widely agreed that Echinocereus triglochidiatus is a species of Arizona and New Mexico and that the species found in Utah and Colorado is E. mojavensis, what previously had been called E. triglochidiatus variety mojavensis.

The following two descriptions of E. triglochidiatus, the first from the United States Forest Service and the second from the Flora of North America, give some idea of the variability of the plant:

"Kingcup hedgehog cactus is a native stem succulent with stems occurring singly or in dense clusters or mounds with up to 500 stems. Mounds may reach 12 inches (30 cm) in height and 12 to 48 inches (30-120 cm) in diameter. Individual cylindrical stems have one joint, are 2 to 12 inches (5-30 cm) tall and 1 to 6 inches (2.5-15 cm) in diameter.

Kingcup hedgehog cactus has eight to twelve spines per areole, with central spines being difficult to distinguish from radial spines. Plants may vary from densely spiny to no spines at all. Spines less than 1 year old are generally puberulent. The scarlet flowers are diurnal, remaining open for 2 or 3 days. The fruit is red and juicy at maturity and has deciduous spines". 

The Flora of North America also describes the species' great variability:

"Plants unbranched or 1-12(-76)-branched, forming large mounds of branches to 300. Stems usually erect or nearly so, cylindric (spheric), (2-)5-70 × (3-)5-13 cm; ribs 5-8 or 8-12.  Spines (0-)3-11 per areole, straight to curved or contorted, appressed (radial spines) or spreading to projecting outward (some radials and central spines when present), white to yellow, gray, or black; radial spines (0-)1-10 per areole, (0-)15-90 mm; central spines 0-1(-4) per areole, angular, (0-)50-120 mm."

Echinocereus expert Marc Baker wrote the treatment for Echinocereus in the 2012 Intermountain Flora volume 2A. In an email to me, he sums up his view of this genus:

"It is a tough group with many opinions".

Marc indicates that only three species, E. engelmannii, E. coccineus, and E. mojavensis occur from the Sierras to the Rockies, and that E. triglochidiatus occurs in Arizona and New Mexico and differs from the very widely distributed E. mojavensis that dominates much of the West "by having fewer (2-8) sharply angular spines that are not papillose-setulose", i.e., not having small bumps with fine bristles In an email to me, Marc indicates, "Populations of E. triglochidiatus occur primarily in NW New Mexico, as far SE as the Sacramento Mountains. There are good populations in extreme NE AZ and some populations that are intermediate to E. mojavensis".

For more details about Echinocereus see:

Sego Lily

CactiGuide.com

Circumscription of Echinocereus arizonicus subsp. arizonicus

Flora of North America

 

Click to read about the Claret Cup Cactus being made the official Cactus of Colorado in 2017.

 

Click for more photograph of Echinocereus mojavensis.

 

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus mojavensis. Synonym: Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 12, 2005.

This is one of Betty's favorite flowers.

There are a number of different species of Echinocereus cactus in the Southwest. The very common and quite conspicuous species, Echinocereus mojavensis, is wide-spread throughout the Southwest in a wide range of habitats and elevations.  Echinocereus mojavensis has many pleated light green massed, cylindrical stems.  Typical plants are six to fourteen inches tall and twelve to twenty inches long and wide.

The long, tubular and flaring, brilliant scarlet flowers make this a favorite of desert plant lovers. The beautiful plant pictured at left is about a foot tall and wide.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus mojavensis. Synonym: Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 13, 2005.

From the late 1830s to the 1880s, the eminent St. Louis botanist and physician, George Engelmann, named and described most Cacti found in the United States.  In 1856 he described this species and named it Cereus mojavensis. The species has endured many name changes, and the presently accepted Echinocereus mojavensis was given by Rumpler in 1885 returning the species to the genus that Engelmann named in 1837.

"Echinos" is Greek for "Hedgehog" (a critter similar to a Porcupine) and "cereus" is Latin for "candle" or "waxy".  "Mojavensis" was given for the type location along the Mojave Creek, San Bernardino, California where J. M. Bigelow collected it in 1854. "Triglochidiatus" is Greek for "three spined"  --  although there are more than three spines arising from each spine growth point (areole).

Echinocereus triglochidiatus

Echinocereus triglochidiatus

Echinocereus mojavensis. Synonym: Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Corona Arch Trail, Utah, April 13, 2005 and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 17, 2012.

Masses of twisted filaments support light pink anthers and pollen that surround the green sticky stigma.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus mojavensis. Synonym: Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Zuni-Acoma Trail, El Malpais National Monument, April 12, 2007.

This long-spined Claret Cup growing in lava has numerous flower buds promising a beautiful May blooming.

Although I have labeled this E. mojavensis, it obviously differs somewhat from the plants shown in my other photographs. It may be E. coccineus or E. triglochidiatus.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus mojavensis. Synonym: Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 22, 2007.

The spine arrangement has its own beauty.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus mojavensis. Synonym: Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus, Kingcup Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Butler Canyon, Utah, May 3, 2007.

New spines are soft and yellow, red, and black. The number of radial spines varies from 5-9(-12) per areole and central spines vary from 0-2(-3). Length of spines also varies.

 

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Echinocereus mojavensis