Common Names: Central Pricklypear
Scientific Name: Opuntia polyacantha
Size (height): 4-12 in (10-30.5 cm) tall; clumps may spread 8-10 ft (2.5-3 m) wide
Habitat: Widespread throughout the park in mixed desert shrub, sagebrush, pinyon-juniper, and mixed conifer communities.
Flowering Season: May - June
Range: Utah, Nevada to Oklahoma and north to Canada
Description: Central pricklypear is a mat forming cactus with jointed stems and moderately flattened oval to circular pads that are up to 5 in (13 cm) long and equally wide. The specific name polyacantha means "many spines" which describes the surface of the pads. The flowers are 1.5-3.5 in (3.8 -8.9 cm) wide and yellow, orange, pink, or violet.
Common Names: Whipple's Fishhook Cactus
Scientific Name: Sclerocactus whipplei
Size (height & diameter): 2-12 in (5-30.5 cm) tall, 2-6 in (5-15 cm) diameter
Habitat: Found throughout the park in desert grasslands, mixed desert shrub, and pinyon juniper woodland communities.
Flowering Season: April - July
Range: Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada
Description: Whipple's fishhook cactus was named for the 0.5-3 in (1.3-7.6 cm) long spines that are hooked at the tip like a fishhook. The flowers are up to 2 in (5 cm) wide and typically pink, white, or yellow.
Common Names: Claret Cup
Scientific Name: Echinocereus triglochidiatus
Size (height & diameter): Stems are 1.8-27.6 in (3-70 cm) tall, 2-5.1 in (5-13 cm) in diameter
Habitat: Found throughout the park in mixed desert shrub and pinyon-juniper communities.
Flowering Season: April - June
Range: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico
Description: Claret cup typically forms a rounded clump with several tubular stems each about 3-6 in (7.6-15.2 cm) tall and 1.5-2.5 in (3.8-6.4 cm) wide with vertical ribs. It has very showy scarlet red flowers that grow from the top of each stem, usually in a small cluster. Fruits are small and bright red at maturity. Flowers are primarily pollinated by hummingbirds.
Did You Know?
Desert bighorn sheep, once common in the Capitol Reef area, were reintroduced in 1996 and 1997, and have since thrived here. Visitors have reported seeing them in Capitol Gorge, Grand Wash, and along the Fremont River corridor.