Types of Cactus in
the Desert Southwest
Including all native Cacti Species in the United States,
from the Southwest, the Midwest, Puerto Rico and Florida.
Updated April 17, 2022
What represents the diversity of the American Southwest better than the cacti? Explore my illustrations and descriptions of every cactus species in the United States. While the vast majority of native cacti are found in the desert southwest, I include all 194 species native to the United States. My simple illustrations are designed to highlight the field identifications of each cactus, helping you learn and enjoy them in the wild. This is the world's only complete guide to every cactus in the desert southwest and the United States. Explore the American cactuses by genus:
Cereus Cacti are the large, tree-like cactuses that we most identify with the southwest. While most species occur in Latin America, three in the American Southwest are iconic to the region.
Organ Pipe Cactus
The Organ Pipe Cactus, which can grow as high as twenty-five feet, is named after its resemblance to pipe organs. It grows in primarily in Baja California and Sonora, where it is often the primary element in desert landscapes. It also grows in a corner of southwest Arizona, where it is protected at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
This gigantic cactus symbolizes the Sonoran Desert, the state of Arizona, northern Mexican cultures, and even the United States around the world. They are remarkable organisms, living for over one-hundred and fifty years and acting as hotels for myriad animals.
This medium-sized cactus is native to the Southern California and Baja California coast. This cactus features a lemon yellow flower and a unique golden color from its large, yellow spines.
One of the most recognizeable cacti of the Sonoran desert in Mexico, this large species is known only in and near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. It's large pinkish flowers are pollinated only by a single creature; the Senita Moth. This is an example of mutualism in nature; both species' survival depends on the other.
The endangered, and federally protected Key-Tree Cactus of the Florida Keys, Bahamas and Cuba grows in the porous limestone habitats of this subtropical region. These cactus trees can grow thirty-three feet tall, and often have beautiful shapes.
Greater Antillean Tree Cactus
This tree cactus, which ranges from the Greater Antilles - Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico - as well as the Bahamas and Florida, can grow to 30 feet in length. Its blooms are white, green and brownish in color.
Royen's Tree Cactus
This tree cactus is known from Puerto Rico, and throughout the Caribbean as well as southeastern Mexico. It features white-ish or cream-colored flowers and grows upwards of twenty-six feet.
This cactus of the Sonoran desert is known primarily from Desert Mexico, but appears in Arizona as well. It is hard to spot, as it often grows subtly between other desert species.
This cactus from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as northern Mexican states, is known for its short-lived flowers which bloom after sunset. These blooms have a vanilla-like smell, and and an elegant white and green-yellow palette.
This cactus of the Puerto Rico and the Greater Antilles in general grows to thirty-feet. Its blooms are a lovely orange color.
The Coryphantha cactuses are small to medium-sized 'beehive' cactuses, often recognizable as a pint-size potted plants. This genus of roundish, barrel-like cactuses with bright flowers is found mostly in the American Southwest and Desert Mexico.
This black-tip spined cactus from Southern California's Mojave desert mountains is medium-sized, and known for its spectacular pink and yellow blooms.
Sea Urchin Cactus
The fragile yellow flowers on this small cactus from the far western deserts of Texas and the Chihuahan desert in Mexico last only a few hours each year. This species grows in desert scrub and degraded grasslands, and rarely grows in clumps.
Nipple Beehive Cactus
This small cactus of the Chihuahan Desert is common in Texas and New Mexico, as well as much of the desert regions of Mexico. It grows in a wide variety of soils, and its purplish-magenta flowers bloom in late summer.
This rare and threatened species from the border between Texas and Mexico is small and spherical, growing in areas where few other plants grow. It features a stunning pinkish-magenta bloom and long spines.
Often called Pima Pineapple or Pineapple Cactus, this small specimen known from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico, grows in sandy and gravel soils.
Nickels's Pincushion Cactus
This rare cactus of the eastern Chihuahuan desert, in both Texas and northern Mexico, features yellowish-white flowers. It flowers late in the summer and is often found in thorn scrub or limestone outcrops.
Santa Cruz Beehive Cactus
This cactus, which grows in clusters of tightly packed individuals, has a very limited distribution along the Arizona-Mexico border.
This cactus of Texas and, to a lesser degree, northern Mexico, features a bright Indian Yellow flower. Like many other rare cacti, Coryphanta sulcata may be a subspecies of another species. In this case, possibly Coryphantha nickelsiae.
The Cylindropuntia are often known as the chollas, and they are many people's favorite cactus to despise, for their frightening ability to attach their spines to your body. They are, however, a source of great beauty in the American deserts, forming vast gardens.
Buckhorn Cholla, a large tree-like cholla which grows upwards of 13 feet, is common in both the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. It is most often found on sandy, well-drained soils and gravelly slopes.
Teddy Bear Cholla
This fuzzy, soft looking cactus may look cute, but it is an evil menace! That fuzz means razor-thin spines that will detach from the plant in clusters. It is common to see these spine clusters detached and laying on the ground near these chollas. Teddy-bear Cholla are also a beautiful component of the deserts of Arizona, California, Nevada and northwestern Mexico and form thick desert forests.
This large cholla, known to the coastal regions of far Southern California and Mexico's Baja peninsula, can grow to lengths of nine feet. It features small yellowish flowers. Because it is not as densely-packed with spines as the other chollas, its greenish skin is visible.
This large and common cholla has a broad range in California and the Baja peninsula. It can grow to nearly seven feet in height; forming large, foreboding thickets. Its flowers are most often yellowish-green.
Hoffmann's Teddybear Cholla
This species is limited to the deserts of Southeastern California, mostly in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is sometimes referred to as the Pink Teddy-bear Cholla, for its pink-tinged spines.
This treelike cactus, sometimes called the Hanging Chain Cholla, because of the way its branches hang, is a cactus of the Sonoran desert on both sides of the border. Like the Teddy-bear Cholla, Jumping Cholla stems detach easily, almost as if they 'jump' onto your when you brush past one.
Gander's Buckhorn Cholla
This common cholla is widespread in the Sonoran desert, on both sides of the border. It features acid yellow flowers, and untidy plants that can grow as tall as 10 feet.
Cane Cholla, distributed across the southwest and desert mexico, is abundant, and more cold tolerant than other cactuses. It is seen in places like Oklahoma and in the colder parts of New Mexico. It can grow into 15 foot tall clumping trees, and features magenta flowers.
Sometimes referred to as the Christmas Cactus, this unique cholla of the Southwestern United States and desert Mexico features narrow, pencil-like stems. In December, the pencil cactus grows red berries, which explains its alternate common name.
The Coastal Cholla is a grayish-greenish cactus of Baja California, Southern California and the Channel Islands. It is common on the hillsides, cliffs and bluffs of the Pacific Ocean, particularly on the Channel Islands, where it grows alongside the native chapparal and scrub.
The Diamond Cholla, widely distributed in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of the United States and Mexico, is a tree-like cactus with small brown or light-orange flowers, and mostly spineless branches. Its golden spines are few and far between, but they are long and sharp. This cactus gets its name from the diamond-shaped patterns that adorn its stems.
A beautiful cactus, the Hudson Pear features white pines and brilliant pink-magenta flowers. In some parts of the world, including Australia, Hudson Pear has become an invasive.
Also known as the Walkingstick Cactus, this cholla features thin, snake-like stems and beautiful violet-magenta blooms. It is known mostly from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. In the United States, it is seen only in Arizona and New Mexico.
The Sheathed Cholla is one massive arms cache of a cactus. It is just packed with spines! This species lives primarily in the Chihuahan desert of Mexico, and can be seen in Texas' Chihuahan desert as well.
This grassland cholla of the Chihuahuan Desert dwells in higher elevation grasslands and deserts. Its spineless fruits were traditionally harvested for flour.
The Wolf's Cholla is found almost entirely in the Colorado Desert portion of the Sonoran Desert, in places such as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It has long, woolly branches and orange or magenta colored flower.
Peach Springs Canyon Cholla
This cactus is known only from Peach Springs Canyon in northern Arizona's Hualapi Reservation, and less so in nearby parts of the Grand Canyon. It features greenish-white flowers.
Arizona Pencil Cholla
This cholla shrub of Arizona and Sonora features thin, pencil-like stems and tiny red-orange flowers. This species is sometimes referred to as the Bush Cholla or Branched Pencil Cholla.
This shrub-like cholla of the oak-juniper-mesquite woodlands of eastern New Mexico and west Texas. Like the Teddy-bear Cholla, the large spines of this species break off easily, causing untold anguish for animals and humans.
Klein's Pencil Cactus
This cactus of the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico features magenta-colored flowers and grows in creosote and mesquite flatlands.
This cholla, which resembles a tree in its growth and size, grows upwards of nine feet. It is known only from the far Southeastern edge of California, near the border with Mexico, and south in the eastern edges of Baja California Norte.
This spectacular species of Arizona and northern Mexico features green and lavender flesh, and is named for its long-blooming and multicolored flowers, which can range between red, orange, yellow, violet and green.
The Echinocereus genus is composed of ribbed cylindrical cactuses. Many are referred to as 'hedgehog cacti'; referring to the ancient Greek genus name, which means, Hedgehog Candle. Some of the most brilliant blooms in U.S. cactuses are produced in the Echinocereus genus.
Arizona Claret-cup cactus
This lovely cactus of Arizona and New Mexico is known for its immensely colorful blooms, which show shaded of orange, yellow and brilliant red. This species grows in mounds or clumps.
Chisos Mountain hedgehog cactus
This stunning species is known for its extremely limited range within desert shrublands of Big Bend National Park, on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. It features bright magenta-pink blooms.
Texas Rainbow Cactus
This thickly-bristled cactus, appearing in arid rocky slopes and desert floors of several Southwestern states, has an unusual creamy-light green color produced by its carpet of spines. Its flowers are striking yellow or yellow-green. It's name is derived for multi-colored bands up its spine.
Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus
This commom cactus of the desert southwest and desert Mexico produces large clusters of stems, with large spines. It is known for its beautiful magenta flowers, which produce fruit which tastes like strawberry.
Robust Hedgehog Cactus
This species, growing primarily in Arizona's Sonoran desert, is a clumping cactus which features brilliant magenta flowers, often blending toward white.
Pinkflower Hedgehog Cactus
This species, found in dry soils of Arizona, New Mexico and Southwestern Colorado is also known as Fendler's Hedgehog Cactus, named after a naturalist of the 1800's. It's flowers vary from pink, to white to deep purple.
Lady Finger Cactus
This species is found in northeastern Mexico, and can also be found in the Rio Grande Valley of Southeastern Texas. Its magenta and yellow flowers are among the most attractive of the North American cacti.
Dahlia Hedgehog Cactus
This unusual species is known mostly for its distribution in the Mexican state of Coahuila, but is also found in Southern Texas. It's brilliant reddish-pink blooms open in the late afternoon, and close up at night.
Lace Hedgehog Cactus
This cactus of the Chihuahuan desert features purplish-pinkish flowers. It can be found as far east as Colorado and Nebraska.
Mojave Mound Cactus
This stunning cactus, also known as the claretcup, is a close relative of the Arizona Claretcup Cactus, but is found in a more widespread range. It prefers shady areas on rocky slopes.
Nylon Hedgehog Cactus
This small cactus exists in more eastern habitats in both the United States and Mexico. It is found in habitats like dry grasslands and prairies, in eastern Texas and even as far north as South Dakota.
Boyce Thompson Hedgehog Cactus
This hedgehog cactus, only recently recognized as a separate species from Echinocereus fasciculatus, features brilliant pinkish-magenta blooms and is known only in Arizona.
Leding's Hedgehog Cactus
This high elevation Arizona cactus of sandy mountain slopes is often considered a subspecies of Echinocereus fendleri.
Berlandier's Hedgehog Cactus
This species is known only to the South Texas regions of the Nueces River and the Rio Grande river region. It's light purple flowers bloom in late spring.
Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus
This clumping cactus, broadly distributed in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, features brilliant scarlet red blooms. This species is pollinated by both hummingbirds and bees.
This clumping cactus, known from Texas, New Mexico and Northern Mexico features brilliant magenta blooms.
Nichol's Hedgehog Cactus
This rare hedgehog cactus feature s long, sharp spines, tinged with yellow. It is present in the Sonoran desert regions of Arizona and northern Mexico. Its flowers are a brilliant and pure magenta.
This cactus of southern Texas and northern Mexico features some of the most distinctive flowers of North America: large yellowish flowers with brilliant orange centers. This species grows in open mesquite prairies.
Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus
This species of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, as well as northern Mexico, grows on rocky slopes, scrub and limestone cracks.
This species, of southeastern Arizona and northern Mexico is a high-elevation species, growing in rocky slopes above 2,500 feet in elevation. It features pinkish spines and large magenta flowers.
Arizona Rainbow Cactus
This small cactus, which is common in Mexico's Sonoran and Chihuahuan regions, is also known from lower elevations in Arizona and New Mexico. It's pink-magenta blooms with white-yellow interiors make its flowers among the most beautiful of all cacti flowers.
Varied Hedgehog Cactus
This small cactus of northern Mexico and Texas features a thick mat of interlocking spines. Its blooms have a dark reddish-brown hue.
Straw-color Hedgehog Cactus
This species, known from Texas and New Mexico, as well as the Chihuahuan desert of Mexico, is known for producing many stems, clumping together.
The ferrocactus cacti are the barrel-shaped species of the American southwest and northwestern mexico. They are known for their shallow roots and ability to withstand extreme aridity and heat.
Desert Barrel Cactus
This large barrel cactus of the Mojave desert often has a cylindrical, 'barrel' shape. It can reach lengths of nearly seven feet. It features yellow or maroon-colored flowers, and a yellow-colored fruit. It is one of the most recognizeable and attractive cactus species of Southern California.
This small, globe-shaped barrel cactus grows as a single unit. It is known mostly in the state of Sonora and on the baja peninsula, but is also found in Arizona.
This common cactus of the Chihuahuan desert, is also present in New Mexico and Texas. It forms one single globe, which, at later stages becomes more of a columnar shape, and features an often yellow, but sometimes variable-colored flower.
This rare barrel cactus, sometimes known as the San Diego Barrel Cactus or Coast Barrel Cactus exists mostly along the coast of Southern California and Baja California. It has a globe or cylindrical shape, and grows in cooler climates than other barrel cacti. It is threatened due to habitat loss, agriculture and coastal development.
Arizona Barrel Cactus
This species, often also referred to as the Fishhook Barrel Cactus, can grow up to ten feet tall. It is most often found in Arizona and northwestern Mexico, but it can also be found in New Mexico and Texas.
This genera has extraordinary diversity, with over 200 species known to science throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In the American southwest, there are only five species. These species are united by their typical globe shapes and tubercles or 'nipples' throughout. They are often densely covered with flat spines.
This species is unique to the western part of the Colorado desert, mostly in the western Southern Californian deserts and in Baja California. It features attractive orange-yellow-cream colored flowers.
Graham's Nipple Cactus
A common fishhook cactus of the southwest, this species features bright pink flowers, which are often decoratively arranged around the crown of the cactus.
Lacespine Nipple Cactus
This common cactus of Mexico can also be found in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. It is among the many cacti that are often smuggled by collectors. It is threatened with extinction.
Common Fishhook Cactus
The Common Fishhook Cactus is widespread throughout the southwest and northern Mexico. It features a small lavender-pink bloom.
Thornber's nipple cactus
This cactus, which often forms multiple clumping stems, features tiny flowers. It grows in Southern Arizona and the Mexican Sonoran desert.
Greenflower Nipple Cactus
This small cactus, known mostly from the mountains of Northern Mexico, features small white or pink flowers. It has a small range in Arizona.
Longmamma Nipple Cactus
This small cactus of southeastern Texas and northern Mexico features beautiful yellow and orange blooms.
Little Nipple Cactus
This small, globe-shaped cactus of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas barely breaks the surface of rocky soils. It features cream, yellowish or salmon-colored flowers.
Counterclockwise Nipple Cactus
This Sonoran desert species is named for the orientation of its spines, which tend to all orient in one-direction. It is mainly known from Sonoran Arizona and northern Mexico, and features attractive pink and magenta midstripe blooms.
Woolly Nipple Cactus
This small cactus of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, forms attractive clumping shapes. With its distinctive woolly look and brilliant yellow flowers, it is a truly beautiful and unique cactus. It is also threatened due to island development.
Rat-tail Nipple Cactus
This species, widespread in Mexico, occurs only in Texas in the United States. It features a unique look with matted white spines, and small brownish-red flowers.
Texas Nipple Cactus
This small clumping cactus features hair-like spines, cream-colored flowers and brilliant red fruits.
Wright's Nipple Cactus
This pint-sized mini-cactus of New Mexico and northern Mexico yields beautiful lavender-magenta blooms with striking yellow centers.
The Opuntia cacti are recognized for their beaver-tail like pads. They are often referred to as the Prickly pears. These are among the classic cactus shapes, and they have played a key role in the cuisine of many native North American groups, particularly in Mexico, where Prickly pears of many species are consumed as a vegetable.
old man's whiskers
This cactus, also called Cowboy's Red Whiskers or Chenille Pricklypear, is native to the Chihuahuan desert of Northern Mexico and Southern Texas. This species is sometimes used as a vegetable. Its fruits are edible and the pads can be cooked.
This Florida Prickly pear cactus, which grows to six feet, forms a single trunk and features yellowish flowers.
The classic southwestern Prickly pear cactus, the Beavertail is common in the Mojave, Sonoran and Colorado deserts. This plant, which can forms hundreds of pads, was a key part of the diet of many pre-Columbian southwestern tribes.
A common prickly pear cactus, the Pancake Pricklypear can be found throughout most of the southwest and the deserts of northern Mexico.
Lake Mead Pricklypear
The Lake Mead pricklypear has a limited range. It exists only within the vicinity of Lake Mead. It features large, bright yellow flowers.
This is a common pricklypear of the eastern portions of the southwest, appearing often in Texas, Louisiana and even Missouri. But it is also common in the true southwest, and desert Mexico.
Sometimes called the Grizzlybear Pricklypear, for its furry spines, this cactus forms low, but large clumps. It is often found in higher elevation deserts.
This is a common cactus of the western portions of North America, and is common even in northern latitudes of British Columbia. Its a tiny clumping cactus. It features small yellowish flowers.
This beautiful cactus, with its often brilliant purple pads, is known only to Pima County in Arizona, as well as several states in northern Mexico. The species features bright lemon yellow flowers.
This cactus, sometimes called the Indian Fig, occurs in the eastern states. A distribution map would show it completely absent west of the rockies, and distributed in every state around the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard. This cold tolerant and sun-loving species' fruits are sometimes consumed.
This pricklypear is known from the chapparal environments of the Southern California and Baja coast. It is known as a spreader, forming clumps. Its fruit is edible and known to have been consumed in prehistory.
Long-spined Purplish Pricklypear
This pricklypear forms deep purple coloration on its pads, bright yellow flowers and edible fruit. It is found in northwestern Mexico, as well as diverse desert environments in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico.
The twistspine pricklypear, sometimes referred to as the Plains Pricklypear, is a common cactus of the midwest, known to thrive in my home state of Minnesota. It features bright yellow flowers, and edible fruits.
A prickly pear of the chapparal regions of southern California and Baja, this species can grow to six feet in height, and features yellowish-orangish flowers.
A common cactus of the desert southwest and great plains, this species is known to form dense thickets. It is sometimes referred to as the Plateau Pricklypear.
This pricklypear, common in many regions of North America, from Chihuahua to western Canada, is sometimes known as the Starvation Pricklypear, for its ability to aid those in need of emergency hydration.
This species, limited in the United States to only a tiny strip of western Texas, is known for its dark-colored spines. It is known for producing many blooms, which are large with a soft yellow and sometimes pinkish interior.
This cactus, of southern Utah and northern Arizona features large pink or yellow blooms. This species is known for producing few, if any, spines among many individuals.
Rio Grande Pricklypear
This pricklypear of limestone hills of the Rio Grande area grows to heights of five feet. Its yellow flowers have bright orange centers.
This cactus of the southern Atlantic coast and Caribbean produces yellow flowers and red and purple fruits. It is known as an invasive in other parts of the world, including Australia, where it is a common invasive.
This small pricklypear from Florida features a sweet fruit which is often grilled or made into jams and syrups.
This cold-hardy cactus is known from the plains and grasslands of the Great Plains and southwest. It features large yellow flowers, and can be found anywhere from Mexico to Minnesota.
This pricklypear from Mexico and southeastern Arizona has almost no spines, giving it an unusual bare look. Its flowers are often a striking golden yellow.
This pricklypear is found in Arizona only in the Hualapai mountains. It features long spines and yellow flowers.
Bulrush Canyon Pricklypear
This pricklypear is restricted to northern Arizona and southern Utah. While this species indeed has brilliant pinkish-magenta flowers, its scientific name is coincidental. It is named after Opuntia specialist Dr. Donald Pinkava.
This pricklypear of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands has a propagation strategy similar to the Jumping Cholla. Its spines attach to mammal fur, pulling the segment and allowing it to take root elsewhere. It features warm yellow flowers.
This species of northern Mexico and southwestern Texas features reddish glochids rather than spines. It can form large bushes and features medium-sized yellow flowers.
Santa Rita Pricklypear
This species features brilliant bluish-purplish pads in winter. Its brilliant yellow flowers form a beautiful contrast to those unusual cactus hues. It is known from southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico.
This large and widespread tropical cactus, native to the gulf states and Texas, and broadly distributed in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands, is considered a pest elsewhere in the world, where it has been introduced. Its large flowers are yellow to yellow-orange.
Keys Joe Jumper
This tropical species, known from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean, has stems that uniquely lay flat, and creep along reef limestone. Its flowers are yellow.
This small-sized pricklypear, known from the sand-dune coastlines of Florida and Georgia. It features brilliant yellow flowers.
This genus is often referred to as the pincushion cactuses, and like two other genera, the hedgehog cactuses. These cacti are generally small and unbranched.
Marble Canyon Cactus
This cactus, sometimes called Brady's Pincushion Cactus, is one of the rarest species in the United States. It is an endangered species restricted to Marble Canyon, the attractive section of the Colorado River near the Grand Canyon. It is a tiny cactus, and is admired by collectors, who threaten its existence.
San Rafael Cactus
This small cactus, with lovely orange flowers, is extremely rare, and exists only in the San Rafael swell, a long geological depression in southeastern Utah. Only about 6,000 individual plants remain.
Knowlton's Miniature Cactus
This small cactus is known only to a single county in New Mexico - San Juan County in the northwestern corner of the state. It features yellow and lavenderish flowers. Only about 6,000 plants remain.
Navajo Pincushion Cactus
This cactus, which grows only to about 6 centimeters in heights, is often hidden or even buried in the substrate. It features yellow flowers.
This species of the border between Utah and arizona, has a unique cylindrical-egg shape, and is known to prefer soils rich in gypsum. Mining, especially of uranium, is one of the key threats to this vulnerable species.
This small cactus, known only in two counties of Utah, is a tiny globular cactus that is often hidden in rocky environments. It is listed as a threatened species, under threat mostly by cactus poachers.
Kaibab Plains Cactus
This small globe-shaped cactus features long, soft spines that look like gray hair. This species exists only in a narrow range of the Kaibab Plateau in Utah and Arizona.
Simpson Hedgehog Cactus
This broadly distributed, high-elevation cactus is found above elevations of 4,500 feet and can be seen up to elevations of 11,500 feet. It is distributed uncommonly in the western states and intermountain west states. It is not found in California. It features bright pink-magenta flowers with a yellow center.
Sclerocactus cacti are commonly known as the fishhooks, and sometimes as the little barrel cactuses. They often feature a larger hooked spine in their spine areoles, and they range in cooler, higher and harsher climates than other genuses.
Shorthook Fishhook Cactus
This small globe of a cactus, endemic to Texas, is endangered. It features cream or green colored flowers.
This rare cactus is known only to the state of Utah, specifically, a single draw (a low ground between two ridges), in Duchesne County. It features violent-magenta flowers.
Colorado Hookless Cactus
This threatened cactus is known only only from a narrow corridor in Southwestern Colorado. It features magenta flowers and multicolored spines.
Mesa Verde Fishhook Cactus
This species from the borders of New Mexico and Colorado is extremely rare, and is an endangered species. It features yellow and white flowers, which sometimes show purple stripes.
Grama Grass Cactus
This Chihuahuan desert cactus, grows in grasslands in northern Mexico and Texas. It flourishes especially in the blue grama grasses of this region. It features white and green flowers.
Redspined Fishhook Cactus
This cactus of the Mojave desert grows in clusters, and produces highly variable reddish-violet flowers.
Silver Fishhook Cactus
This tiny cactus, rare in northern Arizona and in miniscule populations in Utah and Nevada, features small white-yellow flowers.
Uinta Basin Hookless Cactus
This rare cactus, is known only to a portion of Duchesne County in Utah. It grows on rough, rocky and gravelly mesa slopes. Its flowers are magenta and yellow.
Wright's Fishhook Cactus
This federally endangered cactus grows in sandy shrubland soils in a limited range in Utah, near Capitol Reef National Park and the San Rafael swell. It features small flowers, which may be white, yellowish or pink.
Eagle Claw Cactus
This cactus is common in Utah, and the Colorado Plateau region in general, additionally ranging in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. It features bright pink flowers.
Great Basin Eagle Claw Cactus
This species, known only from southwestern Utah, features brilliant magenta-pink flowers. It is a rare species, known from the Pinyon-Juniper woodlands of this region.
Desert Valley Fishhook Cactus
This cactus, of Mexico and Texas, grows in thick thorn scrub and grasslands. It features unusual yellow-green flowers.
Spinier's Devils-claw Cactus
This species, known only from southwestern Utah and Nevada, is a high elevation species known from pinyon-juniper woodlands and high-elevation sagebrush plains. It features a bright magenta bloom and a warm yellow center.
This species, known from northern Mexico and southern Texas, features a reddish-brown flower and long fishhook spines.
Rose Devil's Claw Cactus
This cactus of the Four Corners region, known from northern Arizona, southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah (as well as Mexico), features yellowish flowers and strong, sharp spines that often have a dark color.
Other Cactus Genuses
One of my motivations for creating this list of all the types of cacti in the United States is the many inaccurate online depictions of what cactuses are and are not. Cactus is a biological term, referring to related species. North America has a lot of other plants that look like cactuses - yuccas, joshua trees and ocotillo are some of the most commonly misinterpreted as cacti. The following species are the remaining cacti species that do not fall in the main genuses represented above.
Fairy Castle Cactus
This unusual cactus, native to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Florida, and broadly distributed in Latin America, is tall and grows in large thickets. Its flowers bloom only at night.
Dry Whiskey Cactus
This cactus is one of our most unusual, and is sometimes called the Living Rock Cactus. It is often brownish gray, or dull green in color, and can resemble a small rock. It is threatened by cactus poachers.
This unusually shaped cactus, known for its pincushion appearance and yellow and orange flowers, is found only in Texas, north of the border. It grows mostly in thorn scrub habitat. It is endangered, and threatened by poachers.
Redspine Butterfly Cactus
This cactus of the Mexican, Arizonan and New Mexican Sonoran desert is known to grow on limestone. It features purple and pink blooms.
This tiny cactus was so sought after by collectors, that is now an endangered species in the wild. It's hative habitat is restricted to a single county in Texas. Today, only three native populations remain. It is an attractive pygmy cactus with pink and yellow flowers.
Missouri foxtail cactus
One of the few Midwestern cacti, the Missouri Foxtail Cactus grows in prairie grass of the Great Plains. It is widespread across the Midwest, and also occurs in the Desert Southwest. The flowers are large and unique, with a pale green coloration.
This small, oblong or globe-shaped cactus is widely distributed across North America. It is found as far north as Alaska, and is known from my native state of Minnesota. It features brilliant magenta flowers.
This cactus of the Mojave and Sonora deserts grows in spreading mats, low to the ground. It features yellowish flowers, tipped in reddish-pink, and long, sometimes red spines.
This cactus of the Mojave Desert grows in salt flats, sand dunes and alkali basins. It has stunning pink and yellow flowers, large relative to the smallish size of this cactus.
The thin, long Prickly Applecactus originates from the gulf coast of Florida and features a stunning white flower.
This federally endangered cactus, like many other wild things in Florida, suffered from overdevelopment in the one county where it originates. Like many Florida cacti, this one prefers sandy scrub and coastal hammocks.
This is small, erect cactus sometimes called the Queen of the Night. It is native to the state of Florida.
Puerto Rico Applecactus
This large columnar cactus from Puerto Rico grows only on Mona Island, Monito Island and Desecheo Island. Its white blooms appear at night.
This endangered applecactus is known only from Florida. Its nocturnal blooms are whitish with a hint of green and yellow.
Cubera Island Cactus
This rare and unusual cactus limited to the island of Cubera in Puerto Rico sprawls and clumps. It features small white-green flowers. It is endangered.
A small barrel cactus from the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, the Devilshead grows mostly in limstone soils. This rare species has several colorful nicknames.One nickname, "The Horse Crippler Cactus," comes from the danger this small cactus, often hidden in the brush, could inflict on a horse.
Cotton Top Cactus
This rugged species features wooly fruits, which give it its common names. These cacti live in rugged terrain, in places where other cactus species are unusual.
This squat cactus of southwest New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico is known from grass and scrub habitats, as well as desert flats. It is so-named the way that it is difficult to see, often hidden by grasses and scrubs, or even submerged partially in soil. Stepping on this flat cactus can surprise or even trip an unsuspecting large mammal.
Bonker Hedgehog Cactus
This extremely rare cactus, known from the middle of Arizona, produces clusters of long stems, and features brilliant purple flowers.
Vine-like Moonlight Cactus
This is an elongated cactus that is native to Mexico, but may have native populations in southern Texas. It features elegant and unusual night-blooming flowers.
Florida Semaphore Cactus
This large cactus of the Florida Keys grows to about 9 feet. It is a beautiful cactus, with stunning reddish-orange flowers and brilliant green flesh. It is among the most endangered of any species in the United States. It is believed that less than 20 wild Florida Semaphores remain, and threatened by rising hurricane threats and insects. It is designated as critically imperiled, meaning it is in imminent threat of extinction.
This cactus of the Greater Antilles occurs in open dry forests in Puerto Rico. It grows extremely high for any cactus, and can reach over twenty feet in height. Its flowers are brilliant warm-hued yellow.
Road Kill Cactus
This large tree cactus of Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean grows to twenty-feet in height. It features reddish-orange blooms.
This small, solitary cactus known only from Texas is named for its similarity to a spinning top. It features brilliant magenta blooms.
White Fishhook Cactus
This crazy little pint-size cactus is known from the high elevation regions of western Texas and southeastern Arizona. Its flower comes in pastel pink and yellow hues.
Warnock's Fishhook Cactus
This small blue-green cactus, common in northern Mexico and western Texas, features buttercup yellow flowers.
Johnson's Fishhook Cactus
This small cactus features a dense thicket of reddish spines, which spiral upward around the plant. It is a rare cactus known mostly from California's Mojave desert regions.
This golf-ball sized cactus is known only from Northern Mexico and the Big Bend region of Texas. It has a white-gray appearance, and its small blooms feature white and magenta, with a yellow center.
Pingpong Ball Cactus
We are currently writing the descriptions of these recently added cacti species.
This very tiny cactus from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico if often found growing in the cracks between rocks. The cactus, often gray in appearance, camoflages as a rock, which gives it its other name, "Living Rock." It features pinkish blooms.
Silver Lace Cob Cactus
The dense spines on this Texas species give it a white lace appearance, thus its common name. It's small blooms are an attractive pinkish-magenta.
Cushion Foxtail Cactus
This rare cactus of the Mojave and Sonoran desert is known only from California, Arizona and Mexico. In the American southwest, it is most often found in Joshua Tree National PArk. It features pink-magenta blooms.
Dense Cory Cactus
This cactus of Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico igrows in a wide variety of habitats, including grassland and creosote habitats. Its flowers are variable, but often show warm pink hues.
Desert Beehive Cactus
A cactus of Pinyon-Juniper and Joshua Tree forests, this high elevation cactus features variable flowers, sometimes orange-ish, and sometimes brownish. Many botanists consider this a morph of Escobaria Vivipara, but others argue this is its own species.
Duncan Pincushion Cactus
The Duncan Pincushion Cactus is a tiny cactus, present in New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico. It's U.S. populations are very small. Its flowers are a striking pink and magenta.
Big Nipple Cactus
This small cactus of Mexico and the plains of the Rio Grande in Texas is known to thrive in thornscrub habitat. Its flowers are yellowish-green with notes of magenta and pink.
Guadalupe Pincushion Cactus
This tiny cactus of limited range in New Mexico and Texas grows in limestone cracks and rocky soil. There is disagreement over whether this is a species or subspecies.
Hester's Pincushion Cactus
This dwarf cactus, known only from Texas, grows to 2 inches tall and features magenta-purple flowers.
Orcutt's Foxtail Cactus
This species, from southern New Mexico and northern Mexico, features a well-groomed mat of dense spine clusters, giving it a white, snowy appearance. It grows in rocky soil and limestone cracks.
Organ Mountain Foxtail Cactus
This small, high-elevation species grows only in the state of New Mexico, and is mostly restricted to an area of the Organ Mountains. It grows on high ridgelines and features pinkish blooms.
Cochise Pincushion Cactus
We are currently writing the descriptions of these recently added cacti species.
San Andreas Pincushion Cactus
This pint-size, high-elevation cactus is native to only a handful of mountain ranges in New Mexico. It features pink-colored flowers. It grows in areas largely inaccessible to hikers, and thankfully, cactus collectors.
Carpet Foxtail Cactus
This cactus is native, but rare throughout the Chihuahan desert in Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico. It grows to about ten inches tall and features tiny flowers, which are often pink, white or greenish-white.
Cob Beehive Cactus
This small cactus of Texas and New Mexico features pale pink flowers. It grows in an elongated structure; as it ages it begins to resemble the structure of a corn cob, and thus its name.
Villard Pincushion Cactus
This tiny cactus is limited to a small range in southern New Mexico. It is known to spread liberally in its small range, where it is common. It features pale yellowish to pinkish flowers.
Graham Dog Cactus
This species produces large mats of low-lying cactus. It is known from New Mexico and Texas and produces warm yellow flowers.
This small cactus, broadly distributed in Mexico and the American southwest, branches out profusely, creating mats of sharp spines - thus the species' name. It features small yellow blooms.
This epiphytic vining cactus of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, produces large white flowers.
This epiphytic cactus of Central Americ and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, can grow to lengths of thirty feet, descending off branches. It is believed that this is the only species that may have occured naturally in other parts of the world, as it is known from Africa and Sri Lanka.
Big Bend Pricklypear
This clumping pricklypear, known only from the Big Bend region of Texas, features acid yellow flowers.
This sharp-spined spreading cactus, known only to New Mexico, features brilliant yellow flowers.
Kunze's Club Cactus
This clumping cactus, known from extremely hot regions of the Sonoran desert in both Mexico and Arizona, grows both outward and upward, forming dense, impenetrable thickets. It features cool-toned yellow flowers.
The Dog Cholla, known from the Chihuahuan desert of Texas, forms mats of grayish-green clumps. It's spines are strong and intensely sharp. The Dog Cholla's flowers are acid yellow.
Bello's Leptocereus is a threatened cactus from Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.
This small, spineless cactus from northern Mexico and southwestern Texas is known for its psychoactive properties, and its usage by indigenous populations for millenia. Its flower is white with warm-colored stripes and a yellow center.
Chihuahuan Beehive Cactus
This small cactus of the Rio Grande area of Texas is shaped like a cone, or beehive. It features magenta blooms with yellow centers.
Glory of Texas Cactus
This cactus, common to the Chihuahuan desert in Mexico and Texas, features a brilliant and large flower featuring reds, purples and whites.
Miniature Barrel Cactus
This small barrel cactus of Mexico and Southern Texas features a lemon yellow flower with a brilliant orange center.