Claret Cup – Echinocereus triglochidiatus

Claret Cup Cactus

Its many names – Claret Cup, Strawberry Cactus, or King’s Crown Cactus – indicate a large and diverse family of plants of which eight different varieties have been recognized. It is a beautiful plant with long-lasting, waxy, scarlet flowers, which make it a favorite among gardeners. Echinocerens is from the Greek echinos, meaning “a hedgehog,” and cereus meaning “a wax taper.” These names refer to the plant’s spiny resemblance to a hedgehog (or so the early Europeans thought) and the plant’s shape, respectively. Triglochidialus means “three barbed bristles” and refers to the straight spines arranged in clusters of three.

Cacti can store water in the pulp of the plant’s fleshy stems; it is an old tale that one can get water from a cactus. After a rain, cacti can swell like an accordion with the extra moisture. Some Native American groups collected the claret cup’s stems, burned off the spines and mashed the stems. Sugar was then added to the mix and baked to form sweet cakes.

When my husband first saw this cactus…. he came home as swiftly as he could to get me. I had not seen this variety of cactus before…but the color of the flowers is my favorite color, sooooo…he had to get me. We went straight back up Mt. Blanca to the spot he found it, after I ooooo’d and ahhhh’d, took pictures, and stood up, I turned to look back at the valley I had only seen from ground level. It was gorgeous!

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