Cacti & Desert Succulents

All park resources, including cactus and other succulents, are protected. It is illegal to pick flowers and seeds, or remove plants from the park.

Green tubular cactus with dark red flowers on it, in front of a black boulder, with red cliffs and blue sky in the background.
The claret cup cactus is known for its deep red flowers.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

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.

Two photos: bright pink flowers on prickly pear cactus, and bright yellow flowers on another prickly pear cactus.
Prickly pear cactus blossoms are some of the most colorful.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Plains Prickly Pear

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 prickly pear 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.

small cactus with large curved spines, with two pale yellow flowers on top.
While small in stature, the fishhook cactus has large, colorful flowers.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Small-Flower 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: This 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.

Green plant with narrow dagger-shaped leaves at base, with tall stalk covered in downward pointed pale cream colored flowers, with a background of blue sky and a strike valley.
Harriman's Yucca can be found throughout Capitol Reef.

NPS/ Shauna Cotrell

Harriman's Yucca

Scientific Name: Yucca harrimaniae
Size (height & diameter): Plant up to 20 in (51 cm), flower stalk up to 30 in (76 cm), doubling height of plant
Habitat: Found throughout the park in mixed desert shrub, grasslands, sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper communities.
Flowering Season: May to August
Range: Utah, and the Southwest
Description: Harriman’s Yucca is endemic (native) to the Colorado Plateau, and has many wide, bell-shaped flowers that hang down from the tall flowering stock. The flowers are cream, with a tinge of purple and green. The leaf fiber can be used to make baskets, mats, and sandals, and it is an important plant to many native tribes.

Last updated: April 15, 2020

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