WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE     SEARCH BY PLANT NAME     PINK/RED/ORANGE FLOWERS     CONTACT US

     For many decades, Echinocereus triglochidiatus has been 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.  As of the end of the first decade of the 21st century, there still is not consensus and I have, therefore, retained the name, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, for all the species shown below and on the two accompanying pages.  The typical(?) Echinocereus triglochidiatus seems to be that shown in the second, third, and fifth photographs on this page; the first photograph on the second page; and the photograph shown on the third page.

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 plants 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."

See the Queen and King Claret Cups (page 2)

and see the De-Na-Zin Tribal Chief Claret Cup Cactus (page 3)

and see the supreme master of all Claret Cup Cacti (page 4)

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog 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 several dozen species of Echinocereus cactus in the Southwest. The very common and quite conspicuous species, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, is wide-spread throughout the Southwest in a wide range of habitats and elevations.  Echinocereus triglochidiatus 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 triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

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

From the 1840s to the 1880s, the eminent St. Louis botanist and physician, George Engelmann, named and described most Cacti found in the United States.  In 1848 he described Echinocereus triglochidiatus after having named the genus, probably in 1837.

"Echinos" is Greek for "Hedgehog" (a critter similar to a Porcupine) and "cereus" is Latin for "candle" or "waxy".  "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 triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog 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 triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog 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. 

In recent years some botanists have re-examined this variety of Echinocereus triglochidiatus and concluded that it is Echinocereus coccineus, not E. triglochidiatus variety coccineus.  Several other varieties of Echinocereus triglochidiatus, e.g., E. triglochidiatus variety hexaedrus, E. triglochidiatus variety inermus, and E. triglochidiatus variety melanacanthus are now also considered E. coccineus.  (Click to see the Flora of North America treatment of Echinocereus.)

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Semi-desert. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 20, 2007.

The spine arrangement on this plant is typical for the Echinocereus triglochidiatus most common in the Four Corners area.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Claret Cup Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

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

New spines are soft and yellow, red, and black. Notice that the spines on this plant are shorter, less curved, and less dense than the spines on the above plant.


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 triglochidiatus

WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE     SEARCH BY PLANT NAME     PINK/RED/ORANGE FLOWERS     CONTACT US