Nylon Hedgehog Cactus - Echinocereus viridiflorus - Origin of Common Name

O.K. This is an odd question, related to the common name of this cactus. In a recent presentation (a virtual wildflower hike), I was asked the origin of the name NYLON Hedgehog Cactus, and I have searched and searched and I can’t find why NYLON is in the common name. Does anyone know? The only thought I had is that the first commercial use of Nylon was for a toothbrush in 1938. The body of the plant is ridged and lined with many areoles bearing spines and that may have reminded someone at sometime of a toothbrush, but I’m totally guessing here. If you know, please tell me! I hate it when a presentation participant asks me a question and I can’t find them an answer despite considerable searching! Thanks!


Considering that the earliest Google books reference I could find was from 1984, and considering Lyman Benson’s “The Cacti of the United States and Canada” was published in 1982, I wonder if he gave it that common name, or at least knew who named it. Unfortunately, the man is no longer alive to ask about it. Neither is that reference available in ebook form to check. I suppose if you could find the book, you might check it to see if he recorded the name origin.

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I’ve wondered about that name also, given the name I was previously using was Green-flowered Pitaya (for E. viridiflorus) which is also an interesting name.

Well, a friend pointed me to a site that seems to support my theory about the Nylon comb inspiring the common name Nylon Hedgehog Cactus. See the SW Field Guide page in the SEINet description of Echinocereus viridiflorus at https://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/taxa/index.php?tid=18162#
This is what it says:
“Notes: This small hedgehog cactus is distinguished by its small (2 cm high), highly fragrant, yellowish-greenish flowers which sometimes have red-brown stripes on the petals; the bands of different-colored spines running horizontally on the stems; and the spines, which often have a pectinate arrangement (like teeth on a comb).”

I still don’t know who noticed the resemblance and gave the plant its common name, but at least I’m not the only person who came up with this idea. If anyone finds further information, please do let me know, but for the moment, I’m happy with this explanation!

Thanks! E.T.

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