Echinocereus engelmannii var. purpureus
Echinocereus engelmannii var. purpureus is native to Utah where it was first described in 1969.
Echinocereus engelmannii var. purpureus is a small cactus with showy flowering belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The cactus has a clumping habit and can branch from the base. The plant can reach up to 30 cm in height and 6 cm in diameter. The stem is barrel-shaped to columnar, erect, smooth, light green in color, arranged in 11-14 rounded ribs distinct by slightly furrow. The areoles are few, large, whitish, woolly and are present in first year only. There are 10 short, appressed, pointed, whitish radial spines. The 5-6 central spines are stout, straight, 7 cm long, brownish-purple in color. The roots are thick and tuberous and grow vertically downward and are specialized to store water and withstand periods of drought. Blooming occurs from the early spring to the late summer and blossom are borne near the apex of the stem. The flowers are funnel-shaped, purple to magenta with lighter cream colored margins and with bright green central stamens. The flowers have many petals with central reddish stripes, are diurnal and last for about five days. The cactus forms small, spherical, edible, fleshy and red fruits.
The plant has a slow growth rate but it easy to cultivate. The best sun-exposure is in bright place but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The minimum temperatures that the plant can withstand are 8° C, below this temperature it begins to suffer so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice soil, clay and soil. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly in Spring and Summer: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
The name is composed by two Latin words: Echinos, that means porcupine, and Cereus, a common and beautiful specie of columnar cacti. So the echinocereus is similar to a cereus, but thornier. This cactus is commonly known as the “purple-spined hedgehog cactus” and occurs sporadically throughout Echinocereus engelmannii var. chrysocentrus population.
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