Cactus flowers are often more spectacular than desert wildflowers. Unlike wildflowers, however, cacti bloom faithfully every year, not depending much on winter rains to produce flowers.
In this second installment of my “What’s Blooming Now” series, I begin exploring the many bright colors of cactus flowers, starting with the hedgehog cactus.
Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus
Among the first cactus to bloom in the Sonoran desert each spring is the strawberry hedgehog cactus. This small, low-growing cactus features clusters of green cylindrical stems covered with long spines ranging in color from cream to reddish to black.
The flowers grow from the top of the cactus and appear in vivid shades of magenta. Three inches wide, they’re impossible to miss among the desert vegetation. They bloom for several days and then produce a small, red, edible fruit.
The claret cup cactus is similar in appearance but produces a smaller, red-orange flower. Although it does not normally grow at Wickenburg’s elevation, I’ve seen several specimens in landscaped gardens around town.