Many cactus species don’t bloom until late spring or summer — but eye-catching, magenta-pink flowers of the hedgehog cactus are showing up this week in some desert areas around Tucson.

“Locally, the hedgehogs are the early ones. They are the first cacti to bloom,” said John Wiens, nursery horticulturist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson. “They seem to be right on track this year.”

Hedgehog blooms are among the favorites of many desert flower fanciers — but the show lasts only a short time for each plant.

“An individual flower will open for a couple of days,” Wiens said. “The plant itself may have enough flowers at different levels that it may be blooming for a week or so — and then it’s done for the year.”

Mark Dimmitt, a cactus expert and retired director of natural history at the Desert Museum, said many hedgehogs bloom during the first half of April.

“I would expect them to bloom more heavily than usual this year because of the ample rains,” Dimmitt said. “One odd thing about these plants: Instead of emerging from the areoles, the flower buds rupture through the stems. And the fruits are quite tasty, if you can beat the birds to them.”

Cacti such as the hedgehog manage to bloom brilliantly even in years with limited rain.

“The succulents (including cacti) have their own water supply, so they are not so rain dependent,” Wiens said.

If you miss the desert bloom, you might catch some hedgehog color in nearby mountains.

“There are some types that will be blooming in a couple of weeks because they are in higher elevations in the Catalina and Rincon mountains and other high ranges,” Wiens said. “They start around 4,000 feet, and I’ve seen them above 7,000 feet.”


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Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz