Some populations of diploid claret-cup cacti in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico have recently been named Echinocereus arizonicus subsp. nigrihorridispinus W. Blum & Rutow, including numerous eastern populations previously misidentified as other taxa. Subspecies arizonicus, of conservation concern, remains known only from central Arizona. Infraspecific taxa within E. arizonicus are not treated formally here because their taxonomic boundaries remain controversial.
Echinocereus arizonicus superficially resembles the dioecious tetraploid E. coccineus var. rosei of the Chihuahuan Desert, and several of its populations were mapped by L. D. Benson (1969, 1982) as part of E. triglochidatus var. neomexicanus (Standley) Standley ex W. T. Marshall. Echinocereus arizonicus subsp. nigrihorridispinus superficially resembles the partially sympatric, synoecious tetraploid recently named E. santaritensis W. Blum & Rutow (a hermaphroditic geographic race of E. coccineus), which has much longer hairs on the flowers, a narrower flower tube, and relatively slender spines. Irrespective of the misleading vegetative similarities between diploid E. arizonicus and its polyploid relatives, E. arizonicus differs strongly from both varieties of the diploid E. triglochidiatus.