Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

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

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Echinocereus coccineus, Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus

Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus is a beautiful compact hedgehog type cactus with red, crimson, scarlet, orange-red or rose-pink flowers. Echinocereus coccineus Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus blooms from March to June. This is a native perennial cactus that grows up to 16 inches or so. Echinocereus coccineus Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus has leaves that are modified into spines with 5 to 16 spines emerging from areoles. The spines vary from white to yellow to reddish-brown or black and often dark tipped. Echinocereus coccineus Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus is a compact cactus that has 20 to 100 stems. This species is found in elevations from 4,000 to 9,000 feet. Preferred habitats include bajadas, rocky slope and cliffs. Echinocereus coccineus

Scientific Name: Echinocereus coccineus
Common Name: Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus
Also Called: Claret-cup Cactus, Kingcup Cactus, Gurney's Hedgehog Cactus, Arizona Hedgehog Cactus
Family:Cactaceae, Cactus Family
Synonyms: (Echinocereus aggregatus, Echinocereus coccineus subsp. paucispinus, Echinocereus phoeniceus var. inermis, Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. melanacanthus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. octacanthus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. paucispinus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. polyacanthus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. toroweapensis)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 16 inches or so.
Growth Form: Shrub; hedgehog type cactus; several small cylindric erect stems in clumps or mounds up to 3 feet wide, 20 to 100 stems.
Leaves: Leaves modified into spines 5 to 16 emerging from areoles, spines white to yellow, reddish-brown or black, often dark tipped; lacking glochids.
Flower Color: Red, crimson, scarlet rarely orange-red or rose-pink, anthers pink or purple or rarely yellow, stigma lobes green; plants dioecious; flowers bisexual; fruits juicy and spiny, brownish or reddish or green, pulp white; fruiting 2 to 3 months after flowering.
Flowering Season: March to June.
Elevation: 4,000 to 9,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Bajadas, rocky slopes, and cliffs, desert scrub, desert grasslands, pinyon-juniper and oak woodlands, Great Plains grasslands; montane forests, Chihuahuan desert species.

Recorded Range: In the United States Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus is found in AZ, CA, CO, NV, OK, NM, TX. Also found in northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora). In Arizona Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus is found throughout most of the state with few or no records for the southwestern part of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Echinocereus coccineus.

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

Threatened/Endangered Information: Arizona: Echinocereus coccineus 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.

There are 4 varieties in Echinocereus coccineus:
Echinocereus coccineus var. arizonicus, Arizona Hedgehog Cactus (AZ);
Echinocereus coccineus var. coccineus, Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus (see above);
Echinocereus coccineus var. gurneyi, Gurney's Hedgehog Cactus (NM, TX) and
Echinocereus coccineus var. paucispinus, Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus (TX).

Comments: Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus is often used as an ornamental species in rock gardens or container gardens.

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

Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus has been used for food, medicinal and other purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.

  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Fruit; Raw fruit used for food.
  • Keres, Western Other, Unspecified; Taxon known and named but no use was specified.
  • Navajo Drug, Heart Medicine; Plant used as a heart stimulant.
  • Navajo Drug, Poison; Plant considered poisonous.
  • Navajo, Ramah Food, Fruit; Fruit used for food.

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

    References: Completed; 06/05/2015, rev. 07/21/2015 ,updated 07/27/2017, 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 triglochidiatus var. melanacanthus.
    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; 14. Echinocereus coccineus Engelmann in F. A. Wislizenus, Mem. Tour N. Mexico. 93. 1848 ; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
    Chris A. Martin, Professor, Arizona State University on-line
    SEINet for synonyms, scientific names and recorded geographic locations,; (accessed 07/27/2017).