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Pincushion Cactus

Natural History

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 typically 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.

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