Kuenzler Hedgehog Cactus

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Kuenzler Hedgehog Cactus

Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri

ListedOctober 26, 1979
FamilyCactaceae (Cactus)
DescriptionCone-shaped, single-stemmed or branched cactus, with magenta flowers.
HabitatLimestone outcrops among pinyon-juniper woodlands.
RangeNew Mexico


The dark green stems of the Kuenzler hedgehog cactus, Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri, are short and conically shaped, about 10 in (25 cm) long and about 4 in (10 cm) in diameter. The plant may be single-stemmed or branched; when branched, less than four stems are typically clumped. Stems display up to 12 flabby ribs with prominent tubercles (nodules) from which spine clusters protrude. Straw-colored radial spines, five to seven in number are recurved (bent back towards the stem) and vary in length up to about 1 in (2.5 cm). Central spines are generally lacking.

Bright magenta flowers appear in late May, and the bright red fruit ripens in July. Flowers are about 4 in (10 cm) long. Fruits are spiny and egg-shaped, slightly more than 2 in (5 cm) long; the seeds are black.

This cactus has also been known as E. kuenzleri, andE. hempelli.


Kuenzler hedgehog cactus is primarily found on the lower fringes of pinyon-juniper woodland. The dominant overstory of this habitat is one-seeded juniper (Juniperus monosperma ). The cactus prefers a southern exposure and grows in cracks on sloping limestone outcrops or in shallow soils on hillsides at elevations from 5,800-6,400 ft (1,770-1,950 m). When in bloom, it is easily seen from a distance.


The Kuenzler hedgehog cactus is endemic to the open, semi-arid woodlands of south-central New Mexico. It is found in northeastern Otero County and adjacent Lincoln and Chaves counties, New Mexico. The total population is less than 500 plants in two small populations in the Rio Hondo and Rio Penasco drainages. Most plants occur on private land, although one small area falls within the Lincoln National Forest. A few scattered plants are also found on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation.


Although its habitat appears to have suffered no human-made modifications, this cactus has been brought to the verge of extinction by collectors. It is not known how many plants have been removed from the wild, but the species was already rare when discovered in 1961. It is habitually taken by collectors despite legal prohibitions.

Conservation and Recovery

This cactus cannot be recovered without reducing collection. Stricter enforcement of regulations may deter casual collectors but may not reduce black market trade. One recovery strategy might be to provide propagated Kuenzler cacti to the commercial market. It is estimated that a domesticated production of 10,000 plants a year over a period of five years would diminish the novelty of owning a Kuenzler cactus to the point that collecting in the wild would cease to be a problem.

Since there are so few wild plants left, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given a high priority to establishing a large-scale propagation program. However, research efforts have been hindered by the reduced size of the populations. In 1983, The Nature Conservancy leased a parcel of private land, containing the largest remaining population, to serve as a research site. New Mexico state law requires an application to sell collected wild plants and affords limited protection to plants within 1,200 ft (366 m) of any highway, growing on either state or private land.


Regional Office of Endangered Species
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 1306
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103


Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Castetter, E. F., P. Pierce, and K. H. Schwerin. 1976."A New Cactus Species and Two New Varieties from New Mexico." Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 48:76-82.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1985. "Kuenzler Hedgehog Cactus Recovery Plan." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque.