Common Cacti of the Southwest

Common Cacti of the SouthwestIt’s that time of year when the cacti start bloomin’ – a lot of them probably have already! As an avid cacti/succulent lover myself (how original) I thought I’d put together a quick guide of the ones I saw (and loved!) when I was living in Arizona during this time 2 years ago (ahhhh why does time go by so fast…).

This is the best time of year to visit the desert, in my opinion, because it’s not toooo hot yet and of course, CACTUS BLOOMS! (Also I am not perfect and don’t know everything specifically, but I’m doing my best :))


Saguaros in Saguaro National Park in Arizona; Common Cacti of the SouthwestOh, hello there you cool cactus you. Saguaros (pronounced “Sa-war-o”; yeah, I’m one of those snobby people) are the poster children of the cacti world, I feel like. They’re the tall, almost person-like looking cacti.

Saguaro Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestAnd, they’re so badass, they even have a whole national park named after them (Saguaro National Park in Arizona!). They can grow up to 60 FEET TALL (and that’s SIXTY) and weigh up to 4800 POUNDS when fully hydrated. LIKE ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME. I’ve never actually seen one fall, but one person I knew heard an arm break off, and apparently it sounded like a really loud gunshot. WHAT.

They can also outlive us at 150-200 years old. I can go so much more into Saguaros – they really are fascinating!! And just totally otherworldly – pretty alien-like, in my opinion.


Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus in ArizonaI’m ridiculously obsessed with their perfect red flowers. I so wish I could cuddle with them but that would be probably the worst idea I’ve ever had (and trust me, I’ve had some bad ones).


Engelmann's Hedgehog Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestLook at this little guy! I think Hedgehog Cacti are some of my faves. There multiple different kinds, and I admit that I’m not sure exactly which one this is (there are like 5 different ones that have pink flowers lolol), so if you know, let me know! You know?

Hedgehog Cactus; Cacti of the Southwest

Hedgehog Cactus; Cacti of the Southwest


Ocotillo in ArizonaLike bruh. Check out those fire blossoms. And that lighting though. And also this technically isn’t a cactus – but I’m listing it here anyways because it looks like one to me.


Teddy Bear Cholla Cacti in Joshua Tree National Park in California; Common Cacti of the Southwest
[Chillin’ with Teddy Bear Cholla (aka Jumping Cholla) in Joshua Tree National Park]
They’re so cute! At least I think so. I think that’s kinda why they got the name “Teddy Bear Cholla”? But also. Here’s what’s not so cute:Teddy Bear Cholla in Joshua Tree National Park; Common Cacti of the SouthwestYep. It got stuck to my freaking shoe. Don’t worry (I know you’re probably so concerned about me) – I wasn’t hurt. It just took forever to get it off my shoe.


Cholla Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestI’m pretty sure these are all either Buckhorn or Staghorn Cholla, but I don’t know enough to make a final determination. Their flowers are soooo pretty, though!

Cholla Cactus; Cacti of the Southwest

Cholla Cactus; Cacti of the Southwest


Beavertail Cactus in Joshua Tree National Park in CaliforniaWhy do you think it’s called beavertail? Because it looks like a beaver’s tail 🙂 #science
But also, aren’t the pink blooms soooo pretty? I love the color. I saw this little guy in Joshua Tree National Park!

Beavertail Cactus; Cacti of the Southwest


Fishhook Barrel Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestTheir fruit kinda reminds me of little pineapples. Although I think they taste far from that. They get their name due to their spines curving down like a fishhook, and they also are in the shape of a barrel. So, there ya go. (There is another cactus, the Barrel Cactus, that looks similar, but is more circular in shape with straight spines).


Prickly Pear Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestYay prickly pear! I feel like this is another cactus posterchild, like the Saguaro. I’ve also had their fruit before from the supermarket (without the spines of course) and it was pretty bomb. I’ve seen two different colors of flowers from this cacti (although I’m sure there are many different varieties!!): yellow and pink.

Prickly Pear Cactus; Cacti of the Soutwest

Prickly Pear Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestOkay, I have a secret: my friends and I were playing odds, and I lost and had to eat part of one of the yellow prickly pear flowers. It’s edible, and really didn’t taste like much.


Purple Prickly Pear Cactus; Cacti of the SouthwestOh yes, it gets better, because there is a such thing as a PURPLE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS. Like how pretty is that??? I love love love.

There are, of course, a ton more cacti varieties, but these are the ones I commonly saw while I was in the southwest. And I became totally obsessed with them, and still am! My grandma has a huge cacti/succulent garden that I love. And, like the typical millennial hipster that I am (does anyone even use the word ‘hipster’ anymore? I’m getting too old to know what all the yunguns are saying these days), of course have tried to raise my own cacti/succulent babies. And mostly failed.

Prickly Pear Cacti Bloom; Cacti of the Southwest
[Yellow Prickly Pear flower]
But anyways, I hope you enjoyed learning about cacti! It was fun for me to write, since I got to relive my cacti obsession. 🙂

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