Alternate name: Spinystar
Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family
Description Small, nearly spherical to barrel-shaped stems, sometimes single but often many in a mound, with pink, red, lavender, or yellow-green flowers near top.
Habit: native perennial shrub; succulent, spherical or barrel-shaped stem, to 6 in (15 cm) tall, to 4 in (10 cm ) diameter; single, or in pile of multiple stems.
Height: to 30 cm high, to 60 cm diameter.
Leaf: straight spine, pale or dirt-colored, tipped with pink to orange to brown; 0.25-1 in (6-25 mm) long; in star-like clusters, 11-55 per areole.
Flower: large, conical, 1-2 in (25-50 mm) wide; many pointed petals, magenta to pale pink to yellow, around broad yellow and white center; at top of ball.
Fruit: oval berry, green maturing to dull red-brown, oval, 0.5-1 in (12-25 mm) long, 0.3-0.8 in (7-20 mm) wide.
Flower May to June.
Habitat Desert scrub to conifer forest, mostly low hills or mountaintops, in diverse soils: desert slopes, rocky pastures, limestone outcroppings, piŅon, juniper, oaks, and ponderosa pine woodlands; 650-9000 ft (200-2700 m).
Range Northern and central North America, from Alberta southwest to southeastern Oregon, south to southeastern California, east to the Great Plains from Sasktachewan and Minnesota to western Texas; also in northern Mexico.
Discussion Also known as spinystar, ball cactus, pincushion cactus, viviparous foxtail cactus. Nine varieties are recognized. Flowers may open for for as little as one hour of a single day.
Nipple Cactus (E. missouriensis) is very similar, differing in having a single central spine in each cluster, greenish-white flowers, and reddish fruit with black seeds; it occurs mostly east of the Rocky Mountains but grows westward to central Idaho, western Colorado, southern Utah, and northern Arizona.