The Devil’s Pincushion Cactus ‘Echinocactus Texensis’

The Horse Crippler Cactus ‘Echinocactus Texensis’

Picture an upside-down pineapple on steroids, meticulously hidden from view by surrounding branches, leaves, and vines. This oval – oblong-shaped succulent grows mainly in the ground, with about a third of it popping out of the soil. It looks harmless until you come close and notice the numerous sharp spines poised to attack. It is a silent but dangerous predator around livestock and has been known to cause a few fatalities. This is the tale of the Devil’s Pincushion!

echinocactus texensis
Echinocactus Texensis – Devil’s Pincushion @thorns_land

An Intimidating Name For a Menacing Succulent

Labeling a hefty succulent that hides away from everything may sound a little insensitive. However, the Devil’s Pincushion lives up to its name. A great cousin to the Barrel Cactus, the Devil’s Pincushion is known by the genus Echinocactus. It has acquired a notorious reputation that led to naming tags such as Horse Crippler, Devil’s Head, Devil’s Pincushion, Candy Cactus, Manacaballo, Manco Caballo, Viznaga and my personal favorite, Chisos Hedgehog.

The Devil’s Pincushion grows naturally in desert and scrubland environs and areas with sandy limestone soil. This cactus has its origins in the provinces of Coahuila, Southern Nuevo, Durango and Tamaulipas in North-Eastern Mexico. It is also native to Oklahoma, west, central, and south Texas; and derives its species name Texensis from its widespread prevalence in Texas.

Check out another succulent with a similar name to this succulent. Check out the “Mammillaria— The Pin Cushion Cactus“.

potted devils pincushion
Potted Devil’s Pincushion @hiatarijusi

Hidden Treasures in the Shrubs

This low growing succulent has a rounded, dark green surface area with wide prominent ribs, covered in clusters of areoles, each with seven to ten spines sticking out of them. The spines could be white, red, or grey and between one and three inches long. The cactus has narrow lateral indentations and can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. At the top of the head of the cacti, there is a cotton-like, furry textured growth. It hides the areoles and sharp thorns from unsuspecting bystanders. 

During the months between March and August, the Devil’s Pincushion blooms beautiful fragrant flowers. The flowers have a feather-like quality on the petals and tend to have white, pink, or silver tones. At the base of the flower is a well-defined red circle with a sunny yellow stigma to top off the colorful masterpiece.

Once a year, the Devil’s Pincushion produces bright red fruits the size of a plum at the top of the head. The fruits resemble the ‘tunas’ fruit of the Prickly Pear and appear at the crown of the plant. The fruit is what gives this succulent the name Candy Cactus because they look like candy on the leaves. (Speculation still exists on whether these fruits are used to make actual candy.) These fleshy fruits are currently on experimental menu’s at barbecue pits, ice cream parlors, and Mexican Taco stands.

The fruits are about 2 inches (5 cm) long, and 1.6 inches (4 cm) in diameter and are filled with black seeds. These seeds can either be roasted and ground into flour or made into a porridge.

Make sure you also go check out “5 Most Popular Succulents From Mexico” to see what other known succulents come out of this area.

large devils pincushion
Devil’s Pincushion @getinthenode

Caring For This Creature

This evergreen perennial can tolerate frost and is very hardy during drought periods. It, however, does not do too well in areas with high humidity levels or prolonged periods of rain. It is highly susceptible to root rot, and pests such as aphids, scale, and mealybugs. As a sun worshiper, the Devil’s Pincushion thrives on the southwest, wind-swept balconies with plenty of hot, direct sunlight. A cactus soil mix will give your Devil’s Pincushion all the nutrients it needs. If you have soil, it is a good idea to mix it with sand to encourage drainage. These plants do not like to sit in water.


echinocactus texenis with long spines in dust
Echinocactus Texenis with long spines @lizardskinn

So next time you want your indoor display or dish garden to make a statement, why not try the Devil’s Pincushion? It undeniably has a good story behind it.

Thank you for reading! Let us know in the comments below how your succulent garden is looking. Check out “How Big Do Air Plants Grow?” or “Large VS Small Succulents: Which Ones are For You?” for more ideas for succulents in your garden.

Enjoyed learning about the devil’s pincushion? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook about “Rare Succulents You Wish You Knew About“. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

Happy Planting!


Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

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2 thoughts on “The Devil’s Pincushion Cactus ‘Echinocactus Texensis’

  1. Sorry to say this, but the only Echinocactus texensis I see here is your header picture. The rest with bright yellow spines over a dark green body are classic Echinocactus grusonii, the Golden Barrel Cactus. There is one other that I don’t recognize, but still isn’t a Horse Crippler.

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