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Echinocactus (Horse Crippler Cactus)

More Information About Echinocactus

The botanic name Echinocactus means spiny cactus and this plant certainly lives up to its name. This thickly ribbed succulent barrel cactus is covered by some seriously nasty spines that grow angled outward from the plant in a star-shaped configuration for maximum impact. If you can look past the barbs, large wickedly pointy barbs, you will find a cute, pincushion-shaped, drought-tolerant cactus that needs good drainage and full sun whether you grow it in the ground or as a fantastic low-maintenance container plant. Patient gardeners will appreciate the its glacier-like growth rate.

Native to the Southwest US (west Texas through eastern Arizona) and Mexico, echinocactus is usually found as a solitary specimen on flat grassy prairies or scrubland where it nestles into the soil with its upward-facing, dangerously sharp spines awaiting unsuspecting grazing animals or nature-loving botanists. Not evil by nature, the spines protect echinocactus from foraging animals such as wild pigs, and the spines have given rise to several alarming nicknames for this unassuming plant such as horse crippler, devil's footstool and Chisos hedgehog.

Although partially hidden in its natural habitat for most of the year, echinocactus is easy to spot when it is topped by gorgeous red-centered, light salmon to clear pink, feathery daisy-like flowers in spring. The blooms are followed by plump red fruit, attractive to hungry animals who spread echinocactus seed through their droppings, enabling the plant to populate a wide area.