Echinocereus triglochidiatus ssp. mojavensis

Being asked to pick an appealing Echinocereus to merit being plant of the month was helpfully narrowed down by having to appeal to beginners and cognoscenti alike and being easy to grow. I have increased the filter by also ensuring the plant is cold hardy and extremely variable. The name is such a mouthful that I will abbreviate to ‘mojavensis‘ from this point on. In the US it is known as a ‘claret cup’ as the scarlet flowers are reminiscent of this object in shape, however this common name is confusingly applied to all US red-flowering Echinocerei in the subgenus Triglochidiati.

Mojavensis‘ is largely restricted to the Mojave Desert and distributed over several US States (see map). It was once believed to grow down into Baja California but it is now thought these were another species, Echinocereus pacificus. When I started to look for this plant in habitat, I was told it grew on rocks up in the mountains up to 2,800 metres so it came as a surprise this year when I found plants growing completely exposed on the desert floor in Joshua Tree National Park, California at 1,500 metres.

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Fig. 1 Distribution map

Any plant that can survive at altitude has evolved to cope with cold. This is one of the plants that grows in cold frames in my garden and snow has blown in over the top of them in winter. These plants have survived –17˚C. Indeed a good cold winter seems to encourage flowering which takes place in May and early June.

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Fig. 2 Fine twisting spines Mt Charleston

Mojavensis‘ is a great introduction to the genus. The seed is easy to germinate but you need a little patience before the plants are flowering size. After as little as two years, they will start to form small clumps and each head grows until the plant becomes a small mound. ‘Mojavensis’ has several forms so you may find you collect more than one. Its finest glory produces twisted, curling, stout spines.

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Fig. 3 Forma ‘inermis’ flowering

At the other extreme is the form called ‘inermis‘ which may have no spines at all and this year I found a plant in habitat with thin wispy spines which I have never seen before.

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Fig. 4 Wispy spines Mt Charleston

Peter Berresford

Copyright 2014 No part of this article or the accompanying pictures may be reproduced without permission

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