Arizona Hedgehog Cactus
Arizona Hedgehog Cactus
Echinocereus triglochidiatus var.arizonicus
|Listed||October 25, 1979|
|Description||Hedgehog cactus with dense clusters of cylindrical stems and bright red flowers.|
|Habitat||Granite boulder outcrops within woodlands.|
|Threats||Low numbers, collectors, mining.|
From a thickened root, Arizona hedgehog cactus branches into dense clumps of cylindrical to egg-shaped stems, 8.8-16 in (22-40 cm) high. One to three central spines, 0.06 in (1.5 mm) long, and five to 11 shorter radial spines are dark gray, tinged with pink. Flowers, appearing in late April to mid-May, are bright red with greenish midribs. This variety is the most robust of all the red-flowered hedgehog cacti.
This species has also been classified as Echinocereus arizonicus.
Arizona hedgehog cactus is restricted to granite boulder outcrops in mountain woodlands at 3,800-5,200 ft (1,160-1,585 m) elevation. It prefers open slopes or an open canopy rather than dense shrub overstory typical of chaparral. The hedgehog cactus plants are scattered across open slopes and tend to grow from narrow cracks between boulders, which it requires for stability, in the understory of shrubs. Its plant associates are live oak and manzanita.
This species is endemic to the wooded highlands of central Arizona, generally east of Phoenix and north of Tucson.
Once more widespread, this species now occurs at a few locations in the rugged country north of the Gila River near the boundary of Gila and Pinal counties. The density of the populations observed ranged from one to 155 plants per 1,196 sq yd (1,000 sq m); population estimates range from 1,500-14,000 individuals. Without adverse impact from humans, the Arizona hedgehog cactus population appears to be stable. Plants are easy to grow and require only shade and temperatures below 110 degrees F (43.3 degrees C), and so their recovery potential is favorable.
Collectors are the principal threat to this cactus, and its bright red flowers make it an easy target. Private collectors and commercial dealers are familiar with the location of plants and collect them on a regular basis, even removing plants that have been fenced off for research purposes. Because of the low numbers and extremely restricted range, collectors can deplete a population in a short time.
Populations are also threatened by active copper mining in the vicinity and activities associated with mineral exploration. Roads cut for mining activities also provide access to collectors. Open pit mining is the most destructive to the plants, and if mining activity continues at its present rate, this hedgehog cactus will be placed under greater stress.
Conservation and Recovery
All members of the family Cactaceae are protected under Arizona law, which prohibits their collection from the wild without a permit. Arizona hedgehog cactus is listed as a species of concern by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates export of rare plant species.
The Recovery Plan for the Arizona hedgehog cactus calls for studies of the ecology and population biology; comparisons with similar varieties of hedgehog cacti; mapping populations and size; and development of propagation techniques to provide nursery stocks for reintroduction and commercial sale (to reduce collecting).
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "Endangered and Threatened Species of Arizona and New Mexico (with 1988 Addendum)." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque.