Friday, March 21, 2014

The other state cactus...

Pediocactus simpsonii 'Snowball'
Recently, a bill in the Colorado Legislature was introduced and subsequently passed nominating Echinocereus triglochidiatus as Colorado's state cactus. Now, I have to say that no one is more fond of claret cups than I am: I probably have a few dozen planted around my house. I have sought them out in every state where they grow, and when they bloom, I hover as expectantly as a hummingbird over them, although perhaps with less efficacy. But claret cups are even more abundant in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and California than in our state where they are concentrated along the Western plateaux west of the Continental Divide at modest elevations, with a second population hugging the foothills of the Eastern slope.

Pediocactus simpsonii occurs in other states too, I aver. But I am quite sure if you gathered all the simpsonii in the other states where they occur and weighed them, they'd be a fraction of what occurs in our state. Colorado is the epicenter, the Omphalos, the heartland, the bees knees and cat's meow of mountain ball cacti, and don't you forget it! And the snowball, once abundant along the western fringe of Denver (mostly supplanted by suburb) is the loveliest of all in my book.

Pediocactus simpsonii ex New Mexico
Though who can fault it in any of its color phases--it pretty much covers the purple-red, yellow and cream--all the delicate pastels. And it has a powerful fragrance to boot.

Pediocactus simpsonii (more snowballs)
These are snowballs I'ave had in this trough for years--if you look carefully, you'll see lots of little seedlings...wooo hooo!

Closeup of Pediocactus simpsonii 'Snowball'

Pediocactus simpsonii ex Aquarius plateau, UT
A very strange collection from the Aquarius: it must be 20 years old and hasn't done much more than this...Utah simpsonii is often strange.

Pediocactus simpsonii ex Idaho
Here's one of several Idaho collections that have even been put in a different species by a well known German splitter...

Pediocactus simpsonii ex Irish Canyon, nw Colorado
This is the giant of the genus in my experience--I grew this clump for almost 20 years--I love the pale yellow coloration. This is typical of what you often find around the Uinta Basin.

Closeup, Pediocactus simpsonii ex Irish Canyon
Closeup of the Uinta Basin form.

Pediocactus simpsonii ex Monarch Pass, Colorado
An enchanting form from very high on Monarch pass where this is abundant on southern slopes to almost 10,000'!

Closeup of Monarch Pass Pediocactus simpsonii
Closeup of the same...

Another yellow flowered form, this one from near Mt. Borah in Idaho

Snowball blooming on Green Mt., Lakewood, Colorado
Here is the snowball in the wild--blooming in late March a few years ago. This year, I suspect it will be April before we find it in the wild, but they are budded up all around my yard as I type...

Pediocactus robustior ex Nevada
ediocactus robustior ex Washington State 
 The two above represent a heavily spined, coarse form from the Columbia plateau which makes enormous clumps and has other subtle distinctions--it has sometimes been classed as a species, and other times as a species in its own right. It is distinctive to my eyes, and very beautiful.

Pediocactus simpsoniii in seed, on Flattop Mts., Garfield Co, CO (9000'!)
 Even our southerly forms can clump up pretty well--this massive clump from the Flattops produced a wealth of seed that year.
Pediocactus simpsonii in seed on Green Mt.: yum yum!
And finally, the snowball in seed. Almost as fetching as it is in bloom. Prettier if you're a little piggy like some people who read this!

A week from now the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society is holding the annual Show and Sale. There are always a few of these in the show--and since they're usually in bloom--they can take a prize or two. But in my book, they're our ultimate cactus--and one of the most precious wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains!


  1. You're right - Colorado is the epicentre. I saw it growing with Echinocereus triglochidiatus at 8500 feet in Chaffee County. Above that elevation; only the Pedios.

    They do well in my rock garden at 3000 feet ASL at 50°N, Southwestern Canada. I would never be without them - my favourite cactus!

  2. I planted a P. simpsonii in a pot at the old Abq house in the foothills - light shade from 10 am to 4 pm, 5700' elevation. Still burned up! Your pics are amazing, from one where Echinocereus, Opuntia, etc. grow just looking at the ground.

  3. This post made me think of the P. simpsonii seed that you shared with me. It was labeled as being from Wyoming. Since each of your photos are from a different state than Wyoming, I am left wondering how these P. simpsonii seed will look when grown?


  4. Simpsonii in Wyoming is usually a pale pink--although I suspect there is variability throughout that state (I only know it from a few counties--and it must grow in most of them). All P.simpsonii are precious and worth growing!

    1. I look forward to when I can report back, with pictures, after the P. simpsonii seed has fully grown. Thank you for giving me the chance to grow them. I must admit that after seeing your photos I also want the deep pink one, and the white one, and definitely the yellow one too. Hopefully success with the seed from Wyoming will compel me to seek out other varieties.


  5. I visit the USA this summer and i wont to see this cactis in nature.
    Can anybody tell me how can i find them ?

    For save the Habitat of this plants maybe telling me per email ?

    Greetings from Germany


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