Colorado Hookless Cactus

Posted by Andrea West - February 10, 2009 - Plants - No Comments

Colorado hookless cactus

Colorado cactus was only recently discovered to be a separate species.

A Desert Native At Risk
Only recently did biologists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledge that the Colorado hookless cactus was a separate species and warrants protection in its own right. Oil and gas drilling in western Colorado is the primary threat to this rare species, as is illegal collecting. Because of its rarity and the beauty of its flower, this cactus is highly prized by both amateur gardeners and plant dealers.

Natural History
This small, barrel-shaped cactus has straight spines (hence the name hookless) and flashy pinkish-purple flowers. Colorado hookless cactus is found in gravelly soils on south-facing hills and mesas along the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers near Grand Junction, CO.

Conservation Status
Colorado hookless cactus has been formally recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as its own species, separate from two other cacti that used to be lumped together under the “Uinta Basin hookless cactus group.”  Now, all three (Uinta Basin hookless cactus, Colorado hookless cactus, and Pariette cactus) are given distinct protection as individual Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Action Taken
We protested an oil and gas drilling proposal in Colorado’s South Shale Ridge, key Colorado hookless cactus habitat. A judge upheld our protest, ruling that the BLM must first consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before allowing drilling in habitat for the cactus. The BLM still has not done so, and drilling will remain suspended until they do.  We actively monitor projects within this species’ range to ensure that its population will not further decline.