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Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri
(Kuenzler's hedgehog cactus)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Cactaceae

Scientific Name: Echinocereus fendleri (Engelmann) Engelmann ex Rmper var. kuenzleri (Castetter, Pierce, & Schwerin) L. Benson

Synonyms: Echinocereus kuenzleri Castetter, Pierce, & Schwerin

Vernacular Name: Kuenzler's hedgehog cactus

R-E-D Code: 1-2-3

Description: Stems solitary or few in a cluster, more or less conical, 10-15 cm tall, 7-10 cm wide; ribs 7-12, tubercled; spines usually 3-7 per areole, thick, to over 1 mm near swollen base, often angular in cross section, usually white to pale gray, sometimes brownish, often with a brown to purplish or black longitudinal line, one spine occasionally central and porrect to 2.5 or exceptionally 5 cm long, others spreading radially and usually not over 2.5 cm long; flowers 6-12 cm in diameter; tepals magenta, usually with bands of green and darker color near center, usually pointed; ovary spiny, spines deciduous with ripening of fruit, perianth persistent; mature fruit 3-5 cm long, broadly spindle-shaped, red with white somewhat juicy pulp, usually dehiscing by one to three longitudinal slits; seeds about 1.5 mm long, black, tubercled, hilum basal. Flowers in May to early June.

Similar Species: Echinocereus fendleri var. fendleri has a greater number of longer and more slender spines, typically less tubercled stems, and narrower fruits. Echinocereus triglochidiatus is usually clustering and larger, no dark line on spines, fewer ribs (5-7), and red flowers. Echinocererus coccineus var. gurneyi also has red flowers. Its stems are densely clustered; spines mostly terete. Juvenile plants of var. fendleri and var. rectispinus often look much like var. kuenzleri, but become typical of their respective varieties as they mature.


Distribution: New Mexico, Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, and Otero counties; southern side of the Capitan Mountains, eastern and northwestern lower sides of the Sacramento Mountains, and northern end of the Guadalupe Mountains.

Habitat: Primarily on gentle, gravelly to rocky slopes and benches on limestone or limy sandstone, in Great Plains grassland, oak woodland, or piņon-juniper woodland. Elevation 1,600-2,000 m (5,200-6,600 ft).

Remarks: In Flora of North America, Volume 4 (2003), Echinocereus fendleri is treated as a highly variable species without recognition of subspecific taxa. The NMRPTC notes the subjectivity involved in taxonomic decisions within this species and will continue to consider E. fendleri var. kuenzleri to be a distinct entity. In discussions at the 2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council Meeting, Council members concluded that E. fendleri var. kuenzleri represents a population of plants that is geographically defined and sufficiently distinct from other closely related populations that it deserves taxonomic recognition.

Plants similar to var. kuenzleri occur among populations of Echinocereus hempleii in northwestern and central Chihuahua. The complex is in need of further study.

Conservation Considerations: This plant had been collected commercially in the past. Plants can be trampled where livestock congregate. In the short term fire diminishes populations of this species; the long-term population dynamics of this taxon in a fire-adapted ecosystem need to be studied.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Benson, L. 1982. The cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

*Castetter, E.F., P. Pierce and K.H. Schwerin. 1976. A new cactus species and two new varieties from New Mexico. Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 48(2):77-78.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2003. Flora of North America, volume 4. Oxford University Press, New York.

*New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984. A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

U.S. Fish and Wildlfie Service. 1979. Determination that Echinocereus kuenzleri is an endangered species. Federal Register 44(209):61924-61927.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1985. Kuenzler hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri) recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southwestern Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 44 pp.

*Weniger, D. 1991. Cacti of Texas and neighboring states. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

Information Compiled By: David J. Ferguson, Charlie McDonald, 1998; last updated 2006

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleriEEEE.S2G4G5T1T2Q


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council