Mojave Fishhook Cactus

James Cornett of the Gannett Company was looking for cactus near Palm Springs.

I had heard the Mojave fishhook cactus was rare. I did not, however, expect that it would take me an entire day to find one in what was considered prime habitat or that it would take me another four years to finally discover one in bloom. In the end it was worth it. With the discovery of this species in bloom (known to botanists as Sclerocactus polyancistrus) my list was complete. I had found and photographed all 25 species of cactus known to exist in the deserts of California while they were in bloom….

The other factor making it difficult find a Mojave fishhook is that each specimen looks very much like a browsed clump of bunch grass. The spines (some of which are hooked) are drab in color and appear as wispy as grass blades. Since bunch grass mounds are usually common in the Mojave Desert, distinguishing the grass clumps from the cactus is not easy even at short distances. I had to walk within a few feet of the two specimens I eventually located on my first full day of searching.

No closeup of the bloom? Maybe he’s saving them up for a book.

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September 2023

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