PLANT OF THE MONTH
Claret Cup Cactus (Echinocereus Coccineus)
Like tiny scarlet goblets scattered across the sand, the waxy flowers of claret cup cacti dot landscapes from desert hills to 10,000-foot mountain ridges. Clusters of two-inch-wide flowers crown cylindrical, spiny-ribbed stems. Unlike cacti with fragile yellow or purple flowers designed to attract insect pollinators, the cup-like crimson blooms of this flamboyant species are hummingbird magnets. The rigid, rounded petals make perfect landing pads when the birds plunge their bills into the nectar chambers at the base of the reddish, sticklike anthers poking up among the petals. The red fruits are edible, and Navajos used the plant as a heart stimulant. By George Miller, president of the Albuquerque chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico (npsnm.org).