Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!


Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Enter a Plant Name:
Or you can choose a plant family:
Echinocactus texensis (Horse crippler)
Trout, Keeper

Echinocactus texensis

Echinocactus texensis Hopffer

Horse Crippler, Horse Crippler Cactus, Devil's Head, Chisos Hedgehog Cactus, Chisos Hedgehog

Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Synonym(s): Homalocephala texensis


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The Horse crippler cactus is broader than it is long. Normally it is 1-2 inches above the ground and up to 12 inches across. It is difficult to see, and many horses have been crippled from stepping on it. It usually has only 1 stem, occasionally 2 or 3. If injured at the tip, it may produce a cluster of small heads on top of the old one. The surface of the plant is dark green. It has about 14 spines at each areole, with a central spine that is longer and stronger than the others, 2- 3 inches long and straight to slightly-curved downward. The inverted bell-shaped flowers are 1- 2 3/4 inches across and about as tall. The outer petals are salmon-red, the inner ones salmon-pink with streaks of red. The edge of the petals has a feathery appearance. Anthers are pinkish to red, and the pistil is yellow to pink. The flower is somewhat fragrant.


From the Image Gallery

50 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 6 inches above ground level, often shorter.
Flower: Pink or violet, with feathery edges, red centers and yellow stigma. Flowers 2-2 1/2 inches long and across.
Fruit: Bright red.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Pink , Violet
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: Diurnal flowering.


Native Distribution: Southeast New Mexico, west, central and south Texas. Now uncommon from North-central to South and West Texas into Mexico due to eradication by ranchers.
Native Habitat: Desert flats, grassland, scrubland. In sandy and limestone soils.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Drought Tolerance: High
Conditions Comments: Very low-growing cactus with stout spines that may injure livestock. Lovely in flower.


Use Ornamental: Attractive, Blooms ornamental, Desert landscape
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: High

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Fredericksburg Nature Center - Fredericksburg, TX
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-1023 Collected 2007-05-23 in Cameron County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 1140 - Cacti (1991) Clive Innes and Charles Glass
Bibref 1141 - Cactuses of Big Bend National Park (1998) Evans, Douglas B.
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Webref 15 - The American Southwest (1994) John Crossley

Additional resources

USDA: Find Echinocactus texensis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Echinocactus texensis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Echinocactus texensis


Record Modified: 2023-02-07
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back