The 4-12 in., cylindrical, ribbed stems of saints cactus or hedgehog cactus may occur singly or in small clusters. Curved spines may be red, yellow, white or gray. Large, tubular flowers, which open during the day and bloom for several consecutive days, range from bright magenta to pale pink. A fleshy, spiny, red fruit follows.
Englemanns is one of the most common hedgehog cacti found in the southwestern deserts. Its purple to magenta flowers and four well-armed central spines help to identify it. Nine varieties are recognized, based on stem size, central spine characteristics, and flower size. One of the most conspicuous and exceptional varieties is var. nichollii, which has golden yellow spines and tall slender stems. Echinocereus engelmanii blooms in April and May.
The species of this plant is named for George Engelmann (1809-1884) who was born in Germany and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, as a young man. He was a physician and botanist, describing especially North American Abies (Firs), Agaves, Cactus (for which he described more than 108 species), Cuscuta (Dodder), Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family), Juncus (Rushes), Juniperus (“Cedar”), Pinus (Pines), Vitis (Grapes), and Yuccas. When he died much of his collection went to Missouri Botanical Garden.
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