Blooming Hedgehog Cactus Plants During a Visit to Santa Fe, NM

Red flowers on hedgehog Claret Cup cactus plant.

Each season I look forward to capturing photos of my favorite flowering cactus plants. With different names such as hedgehog cactus, barrel cactus, claret cups etc, their bright red or coral colored flowers are magnificent! It’s no wonder I look forward to their arrival.

However, the thefts of all the White Sands Claret Cup plants left a void in my spirits. Combine that with the hatchet job done to the remaining barrel cactus plants by nefarious criminals. Despite multiple attempts at outreach to the City of Lakewood to do something to stop this horrendous activity, the plants stood little chance.

The damage has been done and the carnage has been devastating. Most are now mere stumps of their previous grandeur. As a flower photographer, this has been heart-breaking.

Too Early for Blooming on the Trails

Each May into June, I look forward to capturing images of these gorgeous blooming cactus plants. However, this season it’s been cactus plant photography interrupts. And that’s NOT a good thing! Visits to my favorite local gardens had become depressing.

So in May I took a trip south to my other favorite destination, New Mexico. There my goal was to find these beautiful Claret Cup hedgehog cactus plants blooming and untouched from the intrusive hands of man. My visit did not disappoint! 

Hedgehog cactus plant with red flowers and buds.
Hedgehog cactus plant with red blooms and buds.

I knew from previous experience living in Santa Fe that it was still too early for the Claret Cups to be blooming out on the trails I’d frequent. I had previously scouted multiple locations where to find them. But being I was visiting earlier in May and they tended to be blooming closer to Memorial day, I knew I’d have to look elsewhere.

So off I went to hit the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens. As a member of the Denver Botanic Gardens, they are part of the Reciprocal Admissions Program and my entry to the SF gardens would be FREE!

My goal was not only capture some blooming cactus photos, but being I would already be at Museum Hill, but to also pay a visit the The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

The Museum is a favorite of mine and being that this was still off-season, would be worth it to see their latest exhibit. Having walked the two miles from my hotel to get there, I’d be killing two birds with one stone.

The Hedgehog Claret Cups were Blooming!!

The day turned out to be sunny/cloudy off and on so lighting was inconsistent for photos. But the Claret Cups did not disappoint. I found several blooming in the Xeric Garden cactus area and was thrilled! This is exactly what I was hoping for!

These spiny cactus plants looked happy and healthy. My spirits were truly lifted! Some still covered in stubby red buds yet to bloom and others in their full red flower regalia. After a tour of people went through, I had them all to myself. So I plunked down on the ground and began clicking away with my camera. I had my little tarp and the temps were perfect..

These are a bit of a different variety of hedgehog Clare Cups than we have here in Colorado. And the details inside these flowers was unlike anything I had seen previously. Perhaps I had never had that view of their interior before? Either way, I was mesmerized. So I continued to sit and click away – moving from one little plant to another.

There is much to be said for having the opportunity to get this close to these cactus flowers. Photographing these vibrant, red blooms brings me more joy than I can possibly put into words. But one must still be mindful of their long white spines. Such a contrast to the flowers beauty!

Cactus Flower Faith Restored

Close-up detail of claret cup flower interior.
Close-up of Claret Cup cactus flower with its stunning details.

As noted above, my spirits had taken quite a beating after all the carnage being done to the barrel cactus plants at my local gardens. So this was a much needed Nature infusion. A chance to spend time with my favorite red cactus flowers knowing these plants were unharmed.

Given the opportunity Nature can be resilient so long as man keeps his hands to himself!

But in the mean time, I may need to continue to venture to other destinations to photograph these blooming beauties. Then again, anytime spent in New Mexico – especially Santa Fe is time well spent! Perhaps the next trip will be timed perfectly to meet up with those Claret Cups blooming out on the trails 🙂

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