CPC Plant Profile: Nichol's Turk's-head Cactus
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Plant Profile

Nichol's Turk's-head Cactus (Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii)

The Nichol turk's head cactus is a relatively small (up to 20 cm wide and 30 cm high) globular cactus, that is blue-green in color, with strong red spines. Photo Credit: Lynda Pritchett-Kozak
Description
  • Global Rank: T2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • State: AZ, SI
  • Nature Serve ID: 131944
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/10/1987

Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii is a small, long lived cactus found in southeastern Arizona. This bluish-green cactus produces intense pink flowers. Developing flowers are shaded by whitish-yellow wool that is nestled between radial spines. When fruits open, the rough black seeds (2 mm in diameter) lie on the wool eventually rolling down between ribs to the ground (Correll and Johnson 1970, Benson 1982). Although a single stemmed cactus, small seedlings around the base give plants the appearance of being multi-stemmed.

Participating Institutions
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Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/18/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted the Desert Botanical Garden to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 09/09/2020
  • Reproductive Research

There are currently more than 160 E. horizonthalonius nicholii specimens and over 700 seeds in the Desert Botanic Garden collection. The plants were salvaged from two sites and were collected in 1991 and 1993 from the Waterman Mountains. Almost 500 seeds were produced in cultivation, and additional seeds have been collected, but not accessioned, because they were from open-pollinated plants. Collected plants were initially heeled in a temporary sand bed until suitable planting sites were found. Many of the plants were potted into a sandy native soil and placed in the propagation area of the Garden. Seeds were processed and stored according to CPC guidelines. The plants would be used to produce seeds in a carefully controlled pollination attempt, to avoid any contamination with pollen from other taxa. One such attempt, accomplished by enclosing a group of flowering plants with a fine nylon netting, produced 462 seeds. Additional attempts will be made in an effort to build a seedbank of the species sufficiently large to use for reintroduction, if necessary. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

  • 09/09/2020
  • Living Collection

There are currently more than 160 E. horizonthalonius nicholii specimens and over 700 seeds in the Desert Botanic Garden collection. The plants were salvaged from two sites and were collected in 1991 and 1993 from the Waterman Mountains. Almost 500 seeds were produced in cultivation, and additional seeds have been collected, but not accessioned, because they were from open-pollinated plants. Collected plants were initially heeled in a temporary sand bed until suitable planting sites were found. Many of the plants were potted into a sandy native soil and placed in the propagation area of the Garden. Seeds were processed and stored according to CPC guidelines. The plants would be used to produce seeds in a carefully controlled pollination attempt, to avoid any contamination with pollen from other taxa. One such attempt, accomplished by enclosing a group of flowering plants with a fine nylon netting, produced 462 seeds. Additional attempts will be made in an effort to build a seedbank of the species sufficiently large to use for reintroduction, if necessary. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

  • 09/09/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

There are currently more than 160 E. horizonthalonius nicholii specimens and over 700 seeds in the Desert Botanic Garden collection. The plants were salvaged from two sites and were collected in 1991 and 1993 from the Waterman Mountains. Almost 500 seeds were produced in cultivation, and additional seeds have been collected, but not accessioned, because they were from open-pollinated plants. Collected plants were initially heeled in a temporary sand bed until suitable planting sites were found. Many of the plants were potted into a sandy native soil and placed in the propagation area of the Garden. Seeds were processed and stored according to CPC guidelines. The plants would be used to produce seeds in a carefully controlled pollination attempt, to avoid any contamination with pollen from other taxa. One such attempt, accomplished by enclosing a group of flowering plants with a fine nylon netting, produced 462 seeds. Additional attempts will be made in an effort to build a seedbank of the species sufficiently large to use for reintroduction, if necessary. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

  • 09/09/2020
  • Seed Collection

There are currently more than 160 E. horizonthalonius nicholii specimens and over 700 seeds in the Desert Botanic Garden collection. The plants were salvaged from two sites and were collected in 1991 and 1993 from the Waterman Mountains. Almost 500 seeds were produced in cultivation, and additional seeds have been collected, but not accessioned, because they were from open-pollinated plants. Collected plants were initially heeled in a temporary sand bed until suitable planting sites were found. Many of the plants were potted into a sandy native soil and placed in the propagation area of the Garden. Seeds were processed and stored according to CPC guidelines. The plants would be used to produce seeds in a carefully controlled pollination attempt, to avoid any contamination with pollen from other taxa. One such attempt, accomplished by enclosing a group of flowering plants with a fine nylon netting, produced 462 seeds. Additional attempts will be made in an effort to build a seedbank of the species sufficiently large to use for reintroduction, if necessary. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000) Threats

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

This extremely slow-growing cactus (which takes about 10 years to reach a height of 5 cm) is known from a particular micro-habitat type in 2 adjacent counties in Arizona, and immediately adjacent Sonora, Mexico. Collecting by hobbyists is a major threat, as are loss of habitat to urbanization, off-road vehicles, and copper mining.

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

In 1979, when E. horizonthalonius nicholii was first listed as endangered, threats included copper mining, urban development, off-road vehicle use and over-collection (Phillips et al. 1979, USFWS 1980). No evidence of grazing could be found on the BLM-ad

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

There are two primary populations, located in southwestern Pinal and north-central Pima counties (USFWS 1980, 1985, 1986). Land ownership is Tohono O'odam nation, BLM, and privately owned.

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

There are currently more than 160 E. horizonthalonius nicholii specimens and over 700 seeds in the Desert Botanic Garden collection. The plants were salvaged from two sites and were collected in 1991 and 1993 from the Waterman Mountains. Almost 500 seeds were produced in cultivation, and additional seeds have been collected, but not accessioned, because they were from open-pollinated plants. Collected plants were initially heeled in a temporary sand bed until suitable planting sites were found. Many of the plants were potted into a sandy native soil and placed in the propagation area of the Garden. Seeds were processed and stored according to CPC guidelines. The plants would be used to produce seeds in a carefully controlled pollination attempt, to avoid any contamination with pollen from other taxa. One such attempt, accomplished by enclosing a group of flowering plants with a fine nylon netting, produced 462 seeds. Additional attempts will be made in an effort to build a seedbank of the species sufficiently large to use for reintroduction, if necessary. (Desert Botanical Garden 2000)

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

No formal management plan has been implemented.

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

Aspects of this species reproductive biology and ecology, demographic patterns and habitat requirements would aid in conservation efforts.

Kathleen C. Rice
  • 01/01/2010

Detailed germination studies are needed.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii
Authority L. Benson
Family Cactaceae
CPC Number 1545
ITIS 195385
USDA ECHON
Common Names Nichol's Turk's-head cactus | Nichol's echinocactus
Associated Scientific Names Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii | Echinocactus horizonthalonius ssp. nicholii | Echinocactus horizonthalonius | Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. horizonthalonius | Meyerocactus horizonthalonius subsp. nicholii
Distribution Some plants can be found growing on bedrock terraces and saddles on the mountain. Plants growing on alluvial fans form dendritic patterns (USFWS 1986).
State Rank
State State Rank
Arizona S2
Sonora S1T1
Habitat

The habitat of E. horizonthalonius v. nicholii is primarily on alluvial fans composed of limestone-derived soils in the Waterman and Vekol Mountains (USFWS 1976). On both bedrock and alluvial fans, trees and shrubs are scarce, providing open, sunny habit for these cacti (USFWS 1986). Those located beneath shrubs and trees had lower survival rates than those in the open (USFWS 1986).

Ecological Relationships

Ecological relationships are largely unknown.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Butterflies & Moths
Butterflies Confirmed Pollinator Link
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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