Spring at Valley of Fire State Park is a wonderful time to visit! The wildflowers are in bloom and so are the beavertail cactus.
There is an abundance of plant species in Valley of Fire State Park, including a variety of cactus species including; barrels, prickly pears, hedgehogs, and chollas. You will not have to look very hard to find all of the cacti below in Valley of Fire.
All members of the barrel cactus family have prominent ribs and are densely aremd with heavy spines. In many barrel species, one or more central spines is recurved like a fishhook and in the past Indians have used them for fishing. Barrel cactus flowers are always found at the top of the plant, very close to the growing point. The flowers and fruits bear no spines, only a few scales. The fruits become fleshy at maturity, but most of them are not considered edible. The photo below is a young California barrel cactus. In maturity it will grow to be 4-8 feet tall and it will elongate.
The beavertail is one variety of prickly pears and is very easy to recognize. The shape of its pads is like a beaver’s tail. The beavertail does not have spines and it is a blue-grey color. It branches from the lower parts of the older pads and remains low to the ground. One unusual feature of this cactus is that the surface of the pads is covered with fine hairs you can pass your finger over the cactus and feel the velvety texture. The flowers are a deep rose color and the fruits are dry at maturity.
Hedgehog cacti include a large number of highly variable species in the genus Echinoccereus. Some hedgehogs are long-spined, but many are not; they are relatively short-stemmed and always ribbed. The showy flowers of the hedgehog cacti makes this species especially attractive. The flowers are usually burned in the upper parts of the stems but in some species they also occur lower down. Fruits are all edible, and some are delicious.
Chollas are many-branched, each branch arising from another as in a tree. The branches or “joints” of chollas are more or less cylindrical, and in most species covered with elongated protuberances called tubercles.