Echinocereus fendleri a

Texas desert. Blooms pink-purple. May-June.

Size: 6 to 18 inches high.

Growing in open clumps with stems resembling spine-covered cucumbers standing on end, the hedgehog is the first cactus to blossom in the spring. Flowers vary considerably in color ranging from lavender through purple to a rich red.

Fruits (called "pitayas" in Texas) are dark mahogany red, juicy, rich in sugar, and may be eaten like strawberries, hence the name strawberry cactus. They form an important item in the diet of birds and rodents. Pima Indians consider them a delicacy.

A closely related cactus, the rainbow (Echinocereus rigidissimus) (b) is restricted in its distribution to elevations between 4,000 to 6,000 feet. It is called "rainbow cactus" because of alternating bands of red and white spines encircling the stem and marking growth of different seasons and years. Its blossoms are pinkish (yellow in western Texas) and are large and showy in comparison with the small size of the single-stemmed plant.

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