When you think of the Pacific Northwest, you usually think of lush coniferous forests, snow-capped mountains all throughout the year and never-ending rain. But did you know that as close as a one hour drive to the Canadian border, there are wild and endemic native cacti species found in remote locations? Just last week I went on a trip in search of one specific species after a Facebook friend posted some images she took near Vantage, Washington. I set out with my camera gear a couple of weeks later and after parking and hiking out to the top of some rocky hills in the sagebrush desert I started to see them all over the place, often in association with the equally beautiful bitterroot flower.
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Snowball Cactus (Pediocactus nigrispinus)
The snowball cactus – also known as the mountains ball cactus or Simpson’s hedgehog cactus – is very similar to many of the hedgehog cacti of the American Southwest, except this species is found natively only in the arid sagebrush deserts of Oregon and Washington. Sometimes found growing singly or in pairs, they can sometimes form massive clumps of plants and are unfortunately becoming rare in their native habitat due to plant poaching by collectors, which is unfortunate as they don’t take to replanting well. These were found just to the west of Vantage, WA in the rural hills near Whiskey Dick Mountain.
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