Needle-spined Pineapple Cactus
This is one of our most striking and interesting cacti. The BLM lists it as a "Sensitive Species" for our area, probably in part because -- in a manner somewhat similar to "Rainbow Cacti" -- it is regarded as "collectible", though in fact it does not transplant at all well. It is not common on our lands, but is found in at least two quite geographically separated (and limited) S-J ridge locations, suggesting a great age of occupation here in our area.
Echinomastus stems are usually solitary, but occasionally polycephalous -- see below. Stems range in shape from globular to cylindric, and are characterized by Kearney and Peebles as "tuberculate-ribbed", which seems appropriate since the tubercules are somewhat separated but the whole plant has a "spiraling-ribbed" appearance. The spines -- which all but obscure the surface of the stem -- are straight, the (usually single and long) central spine is dark-tipped (reddish on its upper half, often straw-colored at the base) and pointed erect, while the 10 to 15 (or more) smaller radial spines per areole splay out like a flattened star and are more straw-colored. At the top, the cactus gives a distinctly reddish appearance. This shows most strongly in late afternoon light (below left) but can also be seen in the smaller cactus (middle). Flowers arise from the nascent areoles (see below right), in a manner similar to other Barrel cacti, and are either pink in color or white.
An image of a polycephalous form appears below. For an enlarged photograph of another plant from our hills, click here.
At the end of March 2003, many of our Echinomastus burst into bloom. Below are images of two of them. Click on the image below right to enlarge.
From the enlarged image (as well as the one on the right), you can see that the pistil is red in color. The paleness of this flower (on the right) was quite unusual. Apologies for the shadowing -- but this was indeed a much paler version, quite whitish below the pink tips. The others we saw were strong pink, like the two on the left, but white-blooming varieties are found elsewhere. Visit Mineral Arts for an array of remarkable photographs of the white-blooming variety from southeast of Tucson, including sharp close-ups of spines and tubercules.
Below we see a flowering from the same general Pool Wash Ridge Road location on April 08, 2004. Click on the image for a close-up of a flower.