Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri
|Kuenzler Hedgehog Cactus, Kuenzler's Cactus|
|(Castetter, Pierce & Schwerin) L. Benson|
|Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins|
The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
The conservation of Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri is fully sponsored.
Sheila Murray and Kristin Haskins contributed to this Plant Profile.
Echinocereus fendleri var. kuenzleri was first collected in 1961 by Mr. Horst Kuenzler for whom the cactus was named. The variety kuenzleri is geographically isolated from two other varieties by 31 kilometers, and has slight differences in the central spines. It has large magenta flowers and bright red fruits. Although now known to be more widespread and abundant than previously thought, Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus remains an uncommon plant within this limited geographic range. Populations are generally small and scattered and some habitat that appears suitable is presently unoccupied.
Distribution & Occurrence
- New Mexico
Lower fringes of the pinyon-juniper woodland, on gentle slopes in cracks of limestone outcrops or in the shallow soils on the flat steps of hillsides, 1770 to 1950 meters in elevation.
|Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus is more abundant and its range is more widespread than when it was listed as endangered in 1979. There are 11 population centers; two in the Guadalupe Mountains and eight in the Sacramento Mountains. The total number of Kuenzlers cactus is impossible to obtain because they are difficult to detect when not flowering, many habitats are inaccessible, and populations may fluctuate over time. However, it is reasonable to estimate several thousand cacti exist within the known range. Researchers have actually observed approximately 3,300 individual cacti. Most field botanists indicate that this number should be at least doubled (to 6,600) because many cacti are missed during surveys. Then, because only about half the suitable habitat has been searched, that number could reasonably be doubled again to an estimated 13,200 individuals (USFWS, 2005).|
Conservation, Ecology & Research
Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus habitat is predominantly arid grassland and pinyon-juniper woodland. These cacti usually occur in grass-covered areas and are susceptible to fire. Prescribed fire has become a frequently used land management tool on federal lands throughout the range of this cactus. Sivinski (1999) studied the effects of a 1993 natural wildfire that burned within a Kuenzlers hedgehog population in the Guadalupe Mountains in Lincoln National Forest. Fire mortality was apparently severe and regeneration of the burned population segment was slow. Given that this species reproduces only from seed, depletion of the seed bank from burning may require several reproductive seasons to replenish the seed bank and recolonize the area (Sivinski 1999). Once germination has occurred, it takes 4-5 years for a plant to reach the reproductive stage (USDI-BLM, CFO 2003). Therefore, frequent prescribed fires could have significant impacts on this cactus, and other cactus species (USFWS, 2005).
Local populations, especially near the type locality, may continue to be impacted by o
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology which provides mapping layers for geology, soils, vegetation, and elevation, has been useful for identifying focus areas of potential habitats for field surveys (Chauvin et al. 2001). This has led to the identification of additional populations, and provided a basis for gross estimates of populations in unsurveyed areas (USFWS, 2005).
Studies conducted by the Natural Heritage Program at the University of New Mexico have found greenhouse grown E. f. var. kuenzleri seed to produce E. f. var. kuenzleri plants (Tonne, conversation, September 2004). This suggests that traits are stable and heritable from a unique genotype, yet it does not rule out the plants ability to express a variation of phenotypes on the periphery of its range (USFWS, 2005).
A two-year study (1984-1985) by The Nature Conservancy found that during a year of cattle grazing with 65% forage utilization, cactus mortality outside a fenced exclosure was 12.4% while there was zero mortality inside the exclosure where no grazing had occurred (Bates 1985). Intensive livestock grazing can cause some mortality by trampling individual cacti. However, the indirect impacts of livestock grazing may be more significant for increased erosion and removal of insulating cover that may affect the success of seedling establishment (USFWS, 2005).
Commercial growers have significantly contributed to the conservation of Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus by offering greenhouse-grown plants and seeds to hobbyists who might otherwise obtain their plants or seeds from natural populations (USFWS, 2005).
Research on the impacts of fire has been initiated by USDI-BLM to determine which fire variables (e.g. intensity and seasonality) has the least effect on Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus. Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus individuals involved in the study are located in Lincoln and Eddy counties, and are associated with the Fort Stanton and South Texas Hill populations, respectively (USDIBLM, CFO 2003). The results of this study are not yet available (USFWS, 2005).
In an effort to better circumscribe the infraspecific taxa of Echinocereus fendleri, Baker (2007) undertook a study using multivariate statistics to compare the degree of morphological variation within and between populations. He concluded that Echinocereus fendleri consists of three morphologically and geographically distinct races that when recognized at the varietal level should be named E. fendleri var. fendleri, E. fendleri var. kuenzleri, and E. fendleri var. rectispinus (Baker, 2007).
Large areas of state and private lands and Mescalero Apache reservation may contain potential suitable habitat that has not been, and may never be, surveyed for the presence of this cactus. It is reasonable to estimate that only about half of the potential habitat has been surveyed for the presence of this cactus, based on a comparison of areas surveyed versus areas not surveyed but containing similar elevations and habitats where the cactus could be found (USFWS, 2005).
Lincoln National Forest and the USDI-BLM Roswell District have conducted numerous field surveys for Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus within their jurisdictions. These surveys have resulted in the discovery of many new locations of this cactus. The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) and the State Land Office have also conducted surveys on rights-of-way and state trust lands, both of which have located new populations (USFWS, 2005).
Known habitat of Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus on the Lincoln National Forest and USDI-BLM lands has been managed to avoid serious impacts to these cacti. Livestock grazing regimes have been reduced on the BLM Fort Stanton allotment and prescribed fire activities on USDA-Forest Service lands in the Guadalupe Mountains have avoided known populations of this cactus. Cacti found in State Highway rights-of-way have been avoided by earth-moving activities or cacti have been transplanted to safer locations (USFWS, 2005).
If the species is reclassified as threatened, the next future action should be modification of the Kuenzlers hedgehog cactus Recovery Plan. The revised plan should focus upon the impacts of livestock grazing and the land management activities, such as prescribed fire, associated with this land use. Recovery criteria should be updated to reflect the current status and threats, and establish population targets for delisting (USFWS, 2005).
Genetic research to determine the variation within E. fendleri
A definitive assessment of population numbers and trends
An assessment of the effects of fire and livestock grazing
Anderson, E.F. 2001. The Cactus Family. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford, California. Stanford University Press.
Britton, N.L.; Rose, J.N. 1920. The Cactaceae, 4 Vols. Washington. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Publ. 248p.
Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Second Edition, 2 Volumes. Portland, OR. Timber Press.
Weniger, D. 1984. Cacti of Texas and neighboring states: a field guide. Austin, TX. Univ. of Texas Press. 356p.