• Natural Bridge Trail


    National Monument Arizona

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  • Visitor Center Fall Hours in Effect Beginning October 13, 2014

    Fall hours are in effect for the visitor center from October 13 - November 30, 2014 from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm. The hikers' shuttle will leave the visitor center at 9 am. For more information call 520-824-3560 x0. More »

  • Mushroom Rock Trail Closed to Horses, Hikers Use Caution

    Mushroom Rock Trail is closed to horses due to hazardous conditions caused by recent flooding. Hikers use caution. Trail is washed out in place and may be difficult to follow.

Cacti / Desert Succulents

The claret cup is one of the most widespread and variable of the hedgehog cacti.  There are several varieties, but all have bright red flowers with rounded petals - an easy way to identify this species.

claret cup hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)

NPS photo

Cacti and desert succulents are among the most common plants occurring in the deserts of the southwest. Eleven species of cacti grow in the Monument, and two species of succulent agaves are found here. Most are found in conjunction with grassland meadows, but it is not unusual to find a pincushion cactus growing under an Apache pine in the upper elevations of the Monument or a hedgehog cactus poking out from a rocky outcropping. Pincushion cactus, hedgehog cactus, prickly pear, and cane cholla are the most common cacti seen. Succulents, such as the agave, look similar to cactus in that they have fleshy leaves armed with spines or teeth, but tend to be faster growing and only flower once, after which they die.

Cacti and agaves are well adapted to life in the arid desert regions - they make efficient use of sporadic rainfall, and can retain moisture during extremely hot and dry periods. During the flowering season, bees, moths, hummingbirds, and birds feed on the nectar and pollen of the blossoms. Other animals, such as insects and javalina, feed on the flesh and fruits of certain types of cacti (usually the ones with fewer spines). Cacti are both an interesting and important part of the ecosystems in the southwest deserts. They also provide a vibrant addition to the spring and summer wildflower displays that occur when rainfall is plentiful.

Did You Know?

Chiricahua rock formation

The rock formations at Chiricahua National Monument were carved by ice and water from layers of rhyolite, which was originally ash blown out during the Turkey Creek Volcano eruption 27 million years ago.