Plant Profile #1 – Simpson Hedgehog Cactus
Pediocactus simpsonii is an early blooming member of the cactus family (Cactacae), usually showing flowers from early May to June. Its flowers range in color from white to a very dark pink, and add a splash of color on rocky soils and exposed ridges where most plants have a tough time establishing.
Commonly called Simpson hedgehog cactus, it is also referred to as mountain ball cactus as it can be found at elevations all the way up to 11,500 feet, and usually forms a perfect circle about 6-7 inches in diameter.
An interesting fact about these small cacti is their adaptation to very cold, high elevation environments. In the fall, they pull water out of the body of the plant back into the roots and the soil, dramatically reducing their size. This helps protect the plants from freezing during the winter, and it is actually necessary to produce full blooms the following spring.
For more on these cacti, the NRCS Plants Database has a lot of additional information on distribution and classification, as well as photographs and links to other websites.