Beautiful blooming Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus in the south quadrant this morning.
These make beautiful flowers, right down on the ground. The stems get 3 inches tall, but can make wide colonies of up to 100 stems.
As you can see, this group has 5 stems. This a fairly common cactus found throughout the Southest, and the stems and fruit are edible.
I have only seen these on the south side of my property, and may have more than the 4 little patches I have seen. I have mostly worked the north side of my property, and have stripped a lot of rocks and added wildflower seed on that side. I have also removed a lot of deadwood and buried it. I am now collecting rocks on the south side and have a few trees to plant this week in the rain.
I might taste one fruit, but am sure it is good, I learned to eat several types of cactus fruit while living in Mexico and found them all delicious. Restraint is more about allowing an increase in population than not wanting to eat them. To propagate, cut a stem, let it callous over, and plant in sandy soil. Too much moisture will rot them, but desert conditions keep them from blooming and setting fruit.
The second colony I found had a lot of rotting, and I carefully moved them to a drier spot. I’ll go back uphill to see if I rescued them and this fall I will take a stem from one and transplant to my garden.
This tiny cactus is a natural part of my food forest, and provides large amounts of sugar to hummingbirds. Bees also love the flowers. I read that hungry rabbits will eat Scarlet Hedgehog cactus in winter, but don’t see obvious signs of it. I do get chunks bitten from Prickly Pear, not sure who got that mouthful of spines.
I classify Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus as survival food valuable because the evergreen stems are a source of fresh vegetables in winter. It is very cold hardy, well below zero for short time periods. When I have more, I will reclassify as exotic fruits.