Global Range: Mojavean, Arizona, Colorado Deserts. Colorado, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Mexico.
Catalog Number: US 1814253
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): P. A. Munz & I.M. Johnston
Year Collected: 1922
Locality: Riverside, California, United States, North America
Elevation (m): 1372
- Isotype: Parish, S. B. 1926. Bull. S. Calif. Acad. Sci. 25: 48.
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Gravelly, sandy, or rocky soils of hillsides, washes, and canyons in the desert, plains, pine woods, chaparral, grass; 2000 to 5000 feet elevation (Benson, 1969). It is frequently found in desert shrub communities below about 6600 feet (Rhode, 2002).
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Comments: Over 150 EO's (Benson 1982).
Echinocereus engelmannii is commonly found growing under the canopy of Opuntia fulgida. Opuntia fulgida is thought to act in a nurse plant capacity providing refuge from predators and favorable microhabitat conditions.
Life History and Behavior
While there is a paucity of species-specific information on seed dispersal, ringtails, and gray foxes are known to eat the fruits of Echinocereus (Willson 1993).
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Widely distributed, over 150 EO's.
Comments: Most cacti subject to horticultural collecting.
The Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) is commonly found in desert areas of the southwestern United States and the adjacent areas of Mexico, including the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Baja California and Sonora. It usually grows in clusters, sometimes up to 20 and more stems. Its bright magenta flowers bloom in April in its southern extremes to late May at northern locations. The flowers are borne at the upper half to one third of the stem. They are funnelform in shape, up to 3.5 inches long with dark-green stigmas. The fruit is very spiny. At first it is green, becoming pink and drying when ripe. The ripe fruit has spines which are easily detached. The seeds are black, and around a tenth of an inch in size.
The stems are initially cylindrical and erect in young plants, but later with the stem base lying on the ground. The stems are usually 1.5 to 3.5 inches in diameter and up to 25 inches high, and obscured by heavy spines. The plants have around 10 ribs, which are somewhat flattened and tuberculate.
Spines variable in color and size. Radial spines are shorter and needlelike, up to 0.8 inch long, white and arranged in a neat rosette. Central spines number 2 to 7 and are stout, usually twisted or angular, up to 3 inches long and variable in color: bright yellow, dark brown, grey, and white.
Echinocereus engelmannii is commonly used as a landscape plant in its native areas. In pot culture it requires well aerated gritty substrate, and a hot and sunny location in the summer. In the winter the plant easily tolerates light frost and wet (if well-drained) soil. In cultivation it usually does not bloom until it develops 2-3 branches.
The history of confusion with Echinocereus nicholii has resulted in misidentification of yellow-spined individuals of E. engelmannii.
Spine color polymorphism, common within Echinocereus engelmannii, provided the original basis for varieties chrysocentrus and purpureus. The well-marked, identifiable extremes often occur in populations that include individuals easily assigned to other named varieties, or not assignable to any. L. D. Benson (1969, 1982) and subsequent authors (e.g., N. P. Taylor 1985; W. Blum et al. 1998) have attempted to recognize infraspecific taxa within E. engelmannii. However, one of those is clearly a distinct species (E. nicholii), while the remainder are either too poorly defined or too poorly known to treat fully here. At higher elevations beyond the western edge of the desert, E. engelmannii var. munzii (Parish) P. Pierce & Fosberg has been distinguished by its curving, twisting, gray spines, somewhat resembling spines of westernmost plants of E. triglochidiatus var. mojavensis. Plants of the western Sonoran Desert margin in the Mexican boundary region in California are the typical E. engelmannii var. engelmannii. Similar plants from the opposite, eastern, side of the Sonoran Desert, in Arizona, have been called E. engelmannii var. acicularis L. D. Benson. In the intervening Colorado River Valley is spinier E. engelmannii var. chrysocentrus (Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow) Rümpler. In E. engelmannii var. acicularis at the lowest altitudes, central spines are usually four, in which cases taxonomic segregation from E. engelmannii var. chrysocentrus seems arbitrary. At higher altitudes, plants of E. engelmannii var. acicularis with only one or two central spines per areole are frequent, and the abaxial central spine may be terete instead of angular and daggerlike as in E. engelmannii var. chrysocentrus. The most formidably spiny extremes of the species were segregated as E. engelmannii vars. howei and armatus; however, other individuals in the original populations (type localities) are readily assigned to E. engelmannii var. chrysocentrus. W. Blum et al. (1998) placed all of the above varieties under E. engelmannii subsp. engelmannii.
Plants smaller in all parts and with fewer central spines from north-central Arizona are Echinocereus engelmannii subsp. decumbens (Clover & Jotter) W. Blum & Mich. Lange. L. D. Benson (1969) referred those to var. variegatus (Engelmann & J. M. Bigelow) Rümpler, but the type locality of var. variegatus is in a different region. The status of E. engelmannii var. purpureus L. D. Benson remains uncertain; its similarity to unidentified diploid material found in northern Arizona suggests that it could be a separate species, but more variable than its original diagnosis allowed.