Plains Prickly Pear
The “plains prickly pear” has approximately seven subspecies. These subspecies often form hybrids between one another and at least two are found in southeastern Utah so I will not attempt to differentiate which subspecies this is here. (If you’re interested in more information about Opuntia polyacantha subspecies, this is a great resource.) http://opuntiads.com/O/opuntia-n-z/opuntia-p-r/opuntia-polyacantha/
We’ve left Arizona and the Sonoran Desert but Cactus of the Week continues with cacti found on the Colorado Plateau!
While hiking in the foothills of the La Sal Mountains, we spotted this example of Whipple cholla. This is considered the “prostrate” form of the species; the whipple cholla can also grow to be 12-24″ tall more like the buckhorn cholla of the Sonoran Desert. The whipple cholla is found at high elevations (3,000-8,000′).
Nightblooming cereus is also known as “Arizona queen of the night” and “Reina de la noche.”
I’ve only seen this cactus once but apparently this cactus likes to grow underneath ironwood, creosote, and other bushes making it’s few, thin, stems hard to spot.
Nightblooming cereus is most famous for its white, cream, or pinkish strongly scented flowers. The flowers bloom after dark sometime in June or July and wither by morning.
The Many-headded Barrel cactus grows in mounds of closely packed stems, these mounds can grow to reach 3′ across! Mostly this cactus grows in the Northwestern part of Arizona but it is also found in a small area near Yuma (which is where I found this along El Camino Del Diablo).
Corkyseed Fishhook Pincushion
These little cacti are adorable. They’ve got short white spines that make them look almost fuzzy with larger black spines in the middle of each areole. They can exist as a single stem or in groups of about 3-10 stems. Their flowers are pink and their fruits are bright red (and almost look like a chile).
See how tiny they are? (Look in the lower left corner for the Corkyseed.)
I hadn’t seen a Senita in the wild until we got to Mexico. While driving through the desert, I kept wondering what was up with the “hairy Organ Pipes,” once I got out and took a look, I realized they were a totally different species.
The Senita is another tall cactus (like the Saguaro and the Organ Pipe), measuring between 10′-20′ tall. They grow in large clusters, up to 100 stems. Their stems are hexagonal and waxy looking with a heavier concentration of spines at the tops of the stems that give them that hairy or shaggy appearance. The spines at the top of the stems are also longer than those at the bottom.
The Engelmann Hedgehog has cylindrical stems that grow in bunches of 3-60 stems. Most of the ones I’ve seen look like the above with 5-10 stems. They have wavy ribs and varied colors to their spines making them look “shaggy.”
The saguaro is a tall tree height cactus found throughout southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. The saguaro can grow to 70′ tall but on average, a mature saguaro will reach 30′.
Saguaros flower in April through June and produce ruby colored fruits. Saguaros eventually grow arms (those without arms are called spears) and can be as old as 150 years old!
Finally, not a cholla! (I love chollas. Sorry.) The organ pipe is one of the grand daddies of all the cacti—it even has its own National Monument!
The organ pipe is very distinctive: it has a handful of narrow stems that grow from a single base. The “pipes” are about 6″ in diameter and grow to about 16′ tall.
Buckhorn cholla is found throughout southern Nevada and Utah and throughout Arizona (its range also extends into northern Mexico). It has stem segments that are about 6″ long and grows into a tall (2′-8′) shrub like structure.
The Buckhorn Cholla blooms in early summer producing yellow flowers about 3″ wide.