Barrel Cactus Blooms with their Waxy Red Flowers

Vibrant red claret cup cactus blooms with yellow wildflowers in background.

If you enjoy photographing or just observing flowering cactus plants, then barrel cactus blooms -are for you!! Also known as Claret Cups, I for one look forward to this time of year as it is so fleeting. With their scarlet red, waxy flowers and long white spines, they are hard to miss! These plants come equipped with some serious weaponry!

Nature can be both beautiful and fierce. It’s a juxtaposition – “the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.” Contrast is an understatement!

Nubby Red Beginnings

Barrel cactus covered in little red buds.
Barrel cactus covered with little red, nubby looking buds.

Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the blooming red Claret Cup flowers, the plants begin with little red buds.

Depending on the seasonal weather conditions, it varies how many buds will manifest. So I’m always excited when I see a plant covered in lots of red nubs. It’s a sign of what’s to come and it’s gonna be a good bloom cycle.

I love these plants and welcome whatever Nature will offer. Watching their evolution from little red buds to bright blooms is magical!

Thankfully, these plants did not suffer the fate of being stolen like the White Sands Claret Cups were earlier in May. 

Getting Up Close

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, taking close-ups of blooming cactus plants can be a prickly affair. But it’s these closer shots that I love to capture. The detail of these red, waxy flowers is incredible. The centers are their own universe with other colors of green and yellow. I could sit and photograph one flowering plant for hours!

Bright red claret cups flower blooms.
Bright red barrel cactus blooms with their waxy, red flowers and bright green centers.

Sometimes there is a wondrous cluster of barrel cactus blooms open at the same time like in the photo above. It would take repeated trips to the gardens, patience and timing to get this photo. It was so worth it!

Single red cactus flower
A solitary red barrel cactus flower about to open.

Other times it may just be an isolated flower or two like in the photo to the right.

It can be tricky to get close enough to capture a photo. You have to be a bit of a contortionist to get into the right positions. Let’s just say I’m VERY thankful for my thick, cushy garden pad!

As you can see its long white spines are nothing to mess around with. There have been a few close calls when I’ve almost fallen directly on the cactus given the angles I’m in pursuit of.

But the plant will let me know with a sudden poke of one of its spines that I’m too close.

Am I giving the plant a personality? You bet!! With those long spines, it owns its space!

Close-up of two red claret cup flowers.
Close-up of two cactus flowers with their green and yellow centers.

Sharing the Space with Purple Wildflowers

There is one prolific blooming barrel cactus in the gardens that shares its space surrounded by delicate Blue Flax wildflowers. It’s a stunning contest of colors and textures. The dark green cactus plant with its white spikes and red flowers firmly in place. While the dainty purple flowers blow around in the morning breeze.

Red barrel cactus blooms with wildflowers in background.
Red barrel cactus blooms with blue flax wildflowers in background.

This wonderful setting offers up what I like to call a “user-friendly rock”. It’s an opportunity to just sit and observe the nature scene going on in front of you. The backdrop even provides the soon to bloom Dark Knight Prickly Pear cactus and Leopard Cholla covered in buds. Cactus blooms of bright pink and lemon yellow are soon to follow 🙂

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