|Pincushion Cactus is a generic name given
to a variety of small, attractive and diverse cacti. There are more than
175 species of Pincushion worldwide and 10 in Arizona. These cacti are
barrel shaped and less than 6" in height. The have short, dense, grey
spines which surround a longer, dark red, hooked central spine.
The flowers of the Pincushion
Cactus can be used as a rain gauge of the previous summers monsoon
season. Flower buds are produced during the summer growing season,
then remain dormant throughout the winter.
In Arizona, the plants grow below 4500 feet in
elevation in dry, gravelly areas (usually under bushes or ledges which
protect them from the full strength of the sun). Pincushions bloom in
early summer with pink to lavender flowers which form a crown at the top
of the plant that lasts several days. The flowers are pollinated by
bees, while the edible fruits are consumed by birds and rodents.