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Bruce D. Parfitt, except as noted

Perennial herb, shrub, tree, generally fleshy. Stem: cylindric to spheric, or flat; surface smooth, tubercled, or ribbed (grooved); nodal areoles bearing flowers. Leaf: generally 0 or early-deciduous, flat to ± cylindric. Spines: areoles generally with central, radial spines, occasionally with glochids. Flower: generally 1 per areole, bisexual [unisexual], sessile, radial [bilateral]; perianth parts generally many [5], scale-like to petal-like; stamens many; ovary inferior [superior], style 1, stigma lobes generally several [many]. Fruit: dry to fleshy or juicy, indehiscent to variously dehiscent, spiny, scaly, or naked; tubercled or smooth. Seed: generally many, occasionally 0–few.
± 125 genera, ± 1800 species: America (especially deserts), Africa; many cultivated, some edible. [Parfitt & Gibson 2004 FNANM 4:92–257] Spines smaller, fewer (0) in shade forms; yellow spines blacken in age. Introduced species increasingly escape cultivation. Hybridization common in some genera. Taxa of Escobaria in TJM (1993) moved to Coryphantha. —Scientific Editors: Bruce D. Parfitt, Douglas H. Goldman, Bruce G. Baldwin, Thomas J. Rosatti.
Unabridged references: [Hunt 2006 The New Cactus Lexicon, DH Books, Milborne Port, England]

Key to Cactaceae

Erect, branched [or not], forming compact, ± 1 m diam mounds; branches 30–50(130). Stem: not segmented, [4]15–40[250] cm, [8]15–30[80] cm diam, flat-topped spheric to short-cylindric, hard, tip densely woolly [to glabrous]; ribs [7]11–25[60+], prominent, tubercles indistinct. Spines: (5)10–19 per areole, generally 2–5 mm diam near base, generally awl-shaped, generally flat, ringed with conspicuous ridges, straight to curved; central spines [1]4 per areole. Flower: at stem tip, near distal edge of spine cluster, 4–5 cm diam; perianth yellow tinged with pink; ovary densely long-woolly, spines 0, scaly, distal scales long-tapered, tips spine-like. Fruit: dehiscent via basal pore, ovoid, densely woolly, spineless, but distal scales spine-like at tip. Seed: 2.8–4.7 mm, spheric, or ± reniform to obovoid, shiny or dull, ± red-brown to black.
6 species: southwestern United States, Mexico. (Greek: spine + cactus) [Chamberland 1997 Syst Bot 22:303–313]

E. polycephalus Engelm. & J.M. Bigelow var. polycephalus
Stem: generally spheric. Spines: red to gray (straw), spreading, initially canescent; radial spines 6–14, 3–4.5 cm, spreading, ± curved. Flower: ± 5 cm, inner perianth bright yellow. Fruit: scales < dried perianth. Seed: 2.8–4.7 mm, rounded or faceted, papillate-roughened, generally dull.
2n=22. Rocky hills, silty valleys; < 1400 m. Mojave Desert, n Sonoran Desert; to Arizona, Mexico. Mar–Aug [Online Interchange]

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Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2013. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Nov 27 2015
Citation for this treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] 2013. Echinocactus, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Nov 27 2015

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Geographic subdivisions indicated for the distribution of Echinocactus polycephalus var. polycephalus Markers link to CCH specimen records. If the markers are obscured, reload the page [or change window size and reload]. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

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Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
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CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.