Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Echinocereus rigidissimus, Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus

Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus has rather large showy flowers ranging in color from rose-pink to lavender or magenta. Echinocereus rigidissimus Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus flowers appear to be over-sized for the small stems they emerge from. Flowers bloom from May to August. Echinocereus Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus is a cactus native to Arizona and southwest New Mexico. It is also called Arizona Rainbow Cactus. Spanish name is Cabeza de Viejo (old mans head). Echinocereus rigidissimus Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus is so called because the stems are banded in red and white. Plants grow in elevations from 4,000 to 6,000 feet. Echinocereus rigidissimus

Scientific Name: Echinocereus rigidissimus
Common Name: Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus
Also Called: Arizona Rainbow Cactus, Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus (Spanish: Cabeza de Viejo)
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Synonyms: (Cereus pectinatus var. rigidissimus, Echinocereus pectinatus var. rigidissimus)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 1½ feet tall.
Growth Form: Shrub; and unbranched Hedgehog with mostly solitary stems banded in red and white
Leaves: Leaves modified into spines emerging from areoles; lacking glochids; central spines absent and usually straight or slightly curved toward stem, spines bright pink to pink and white in alternating bands of color around the stem.
Flower Color: Rose-pink, lavender or magenta, flowers look over-sized on the squatty stems; conspicuously white banded below, over 1 inch long and 1.5 inches wide; anthers yellow; fruit juicy, greenish or dark purplish brown.
Flowering Season: May to August.
Elevation: 4,000 to 6,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Gravelly hills, rocky or sandy soils, steep canyon sides, grasslands, prefers limestone soils.

Recorded Range: In the United States Echinocereus rigidissimus is relatively rare where it is found in only in Arizona and New Mexico. It is also native to Mexico (Chihuahua, Sonora). In Arizona it is found in the central south and southeast parts of the state and in New Mexico it is found in the extreme southwest part of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Echinocereus rigidissimus.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.
Wetland Indicator: No information available.

Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Echinocereus engelmannii is salvage restricted.

Genus Information: In North America there are 28 species for Echinocereus. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 64 accepted species names and a further 353 scientific names of infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 14 species of genus, California, Nevada and Utah each have 3 species, New Mexico has 12 species and Texas has 15 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

Comments: Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus, absent a central spine, was originally thought to be a variety of Echinocereus pectinatus var. rigidissimus, also with the common name of Rainbow Hedgehog. However typical E. pectinatus has central spines, flowers indistinguishable from Rainbow Hedgehog and is chiefly a Mexican species collected in Arizona in the Perilla Mountains, Cochise County (Harlan 1939).

In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Pinkflower Hedgehog, Echinocereus bonkerae, Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus coccineus, Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus engelmannii and Pinkflower Hedgehog Cactus, Echinocereus fasciculatus.

Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus has been used for food by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.

  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Fruit; Raw fruit used for food.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    References: Posted 06/05/2015, rev. 07/21/2015, updated, 09/14/2015, updated 07/28/2017, updated format 10/11/2017
    Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California as Echinocereus pectinatus var. rigidissimus.
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search (accessed 07/26/2017).
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 07/24/2017).
    Allan D. Zimmerman & Bruce D. ParfittFNA FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 4 | Cactaceae | Echinocereus; 8. Echinocereus fasciculatus (Engelmann ex S. Watson) L. D. Benson, Cacti Arizona ed. 3. 21. 1969.; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Lyman David Benson “The Cacti of the United States and Canada” Stanford University Press, 1982
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN (2013). Published on the Internet [accessed: 07/28/2017]. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations,