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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 4 | Cactaceae

34. Mammillaria Haworth, Syn. Pl. Succ. 177. 1812.
[name conserved]

Pincushion, globe cactus, chilita [Latin mamilla, nipple, in reference to shape of tubercles, which produce "milky" white latex in some species]

Allan D. Zimmerman & Bruce D. Parfitt

Chilita Orcutt; Cochemiea (K. Brandegee) Walton; Dolichothele (K. Schumann) Britton & Rose; Ebnerella Buxbaum; Leptocladodia Buxbaum; Neomammillaria Britton & Rose; Phellosperma Britton & Rose

Plants mostly erect (rarely decumbent or prostrate), branched or unbranched, deep-seated in substrate or not. Roots diffuse or taproots (adventitious from offsets in M. thornberi and M. prolifera). Stems unsegmented, green to gray-green, sometimes purplish under stress, spheric to cylindric or turbinate, often flat-topped, 1-15(-25) × 1.8-12(-20) cm, firm or flaccid; tubercles distinct, not confluent into ribs, pyramidal, conic, or cylindric, 3-25 × 2-9 mm; areoles of 2 kinds: vegetative areoles (spine clusters) at tips of tubercles; reproductive areoles in axils of tubercles, woolly, bristly, or naked; areolar glands absent; cortex and pith usually not mucilaginous, instead containing latex (absent in M. grahamii). Spines [2-]5-80(-90) per areole, of every color that cactus spines can be, hairlike, bristlelike, or needlelike, glabrous or plumose, (0.5-)2-25(-31) × 0.01-0.6 mm; radial spines (6-)10-80 per areole, straight to curved or crinkly bristles, (0.6-)3-25 mm; central spines 0-several (indefinitely numerous and intergrading with radial spines in M. lasiacantha), straight, curved, or hooked, terete. Flowers diurnal, in ring distant from stem apex (or nearly apical at anthesis forming a ring around new growth, subsequent apical growth displacing fruits even farther away from apex), in axils of tubercles, unconnected to spine clusters, funnelform, campanulate, or rotate, 0.9-4(-5.2) × 0.6-3.5(-7.5) cm; outer tepal margins entire or fringed; inner tepals yellow, white, rose-pink, magenta, or maroon, 4-30 × 1.5-8.5 mm; ovary lacking scales and spines; stigma lobes cream, yellow, red, pink, or brownish green, 0.3-8 mm. Fruits indehiscent, usually pink, bright red, or greenish, green and barrel-shaped when seeds mature, sometimes becoming colored and clavate or cylindric to ovoid, 5-30(-40) × (2-)4-9(-26) mm, usually juicy; scales and spines absent (or rudimentary); floral remnant persistent to quickly deciduous. Seeds black, brown, reddish, or yellowish (with tan, corky strophioles in M. tetrancistra), 0.8-1.5 × 0.6-1.4 mm, usually pitted or raised-reticulate (with additional wrinkling in M. tetrancistra) [impressed-reticulate M. candida of Mexico], often shiny; testa cells flat to concave, walls straight to sinuate. x = 11.

Species ca. 164 (14 in the flora): sw United States, Mexico, West Indies, Central America.

The greatest diversity in Mammillaria occurs in Mexico, in rocky sites bordering, but not in, semidesert. Some latex-bearing species, such as M. lasiacantha and many Mexican taxa, have their latex ducts deep inside the cortex, not in the tubercles. When preserving specimens outside the flora area, location, color, and viscosity of latex should be carefully recorded after plants have been cut and the latex allowed to ooze from its ducts for a few minutes. The latex ranges from sticky and white to less viscous and translucent. Tubercle length in descriptions refers to the distance the tubercle protrudes or projects outward from the stem axis. Fruits with mature, viable seeds sometimes remain on the plants for months before or after ripening. The time given in each phenology statement refers to the time of first ripening of the fruit (not seeds). Seeds or dried remains of fruits often may be found deep in the axils of the tubercles, hidden by spine clusters or even pulled below the level of the soil.


Craig, R. T. 1945. The Mammillaria Handbook....Pasadena. Hunt, D. R. 1987. A New Review of Mammillaria Names. Botley. [Reprinted from Bradleya 1-5, 1983-1987.] Pilbeam, J. 1981. Mammillaria: A Collector’s Guide. London. Reppenhagen, W. 1989. Die Gattung Mammillaria nach dem heutigen Stand meines Wissens, 1988. Frankenthal.

1 Central spines hooked   (2)
+ Central spines, when present, straight or curved throughout their lengths   (8)
2 (1) Outer tepals long fringed; seeds large, 1.3 -2.4 mm; cortex and pith mucilaginous (slimy); stems soft and flabby   (3)
+ Outer tepals entire or short fringed; seeds small, 0.8 -1.2 mm; cortex and pith not mucilaginous, cut surfaces almost dry to the touch; stems relatively firm   (5)
3 (2) Spine clusters appearing to have more than 1 series of radial spines, one superimposed on the other, as well as hooked central spines; seeds black, with big, tan, corky strophioles   4 Mammillaria tetrancistra
+ Spine clusters with only 1 series of radial spines in addition to hooked central spines; seeds black or chocolate brown, without conspicuous strophioles   (4)
4 (3) Inner tepals rose or magenta   2 Mammillaria wrightii
+ Inner tepals white, pale greenish, or pale rose-pink   3 Mammillaria viridiflora
5 (2) Axillary bristles present on stem; inner tepals whitish or yellowish; stigma lobes yellow, greenish yellow or brownish green; sw California, Mexico   8 Mammillaria dioica
+ Axillary bristles absent on stem; inner tepals brilliant pink or purple, or if mostly white then stigma lobes red; stigma lobes red or green; e edge of California e to Texas, Mexico   (6)
6 (5) Stems 2-3.5 cm diam.; plants branched prolifically from base and every branch with independent root system, connections to rest of clone ephemeral, resulting in dense clumps of independently rooted stems; stigma lobes red   6 Mammillaria thornberi
+ Stems greater than 3.5 cm diam.; plants unbranched or, if branched, then centrally taproots; branches, when present, never (or very rarely and tardily) rooting; stigma lobes red or green   (7)
7 (6) Stigma lobes green or yellow-green; outermost tepals minutely fringed; fringes less than 0.15 mm; spines (19-)26-33(-38) per areole   5 Mammillaria grahamii (in part)
+ Stigma lobes bright red to red-purple; outermost tepals conspicuously fringed; fringes 0.4 mm; spines ca. 9-16 per areole   7 Mammillaria mainiae
8 (1) Central spines 0 or indefinitely numerous (depending on interpretation), not differentiated from radial spines; spines (26-)40-60(-90) per areole; stems (1.4-)2-4(-7) cm diam   10 Mammillaria lasiacantha
+ Central spines (0 or)1-12 per areole, at least 1 strongly differentiated from radial spines, if central spines absent, then spines 10 or fewer per areole and mature stems mostly greater than 7.5 cm diam   (9)
9 (8) Radial spines hairlike, soft, white to pale yellow, conspicuously contrasting with central spines   9 Mammillaria prolifera
+ Radial spines bristlelike or needlelike, relatively hard, white, yellowish, brown, or almost black, not contrasting with rigid, needlelike central spines   (10)
10 (9) Inner tepals bright yellow; flowers 50-70 mm diam.; stems many branched, soft and flabby, low, nearly spheric;   1 Mammillaria sphaerica
+ Inner tepals greenish yellow, white, pink to purplish, maroon, or rusty; flowers 6-35(-45) mm diam.; stems few branched or unbranched, firm, either cylindric or low and flat-topped (spheric in young M. grahamii)   (11)
11 (10) Central spines 6-12 per areole; spines (33-)43-60 per areole; inner tepals maroon, rusty, or purplish red; flowers 6-10 mm diam   11 Mammillaria pottsii
+ Central spines (0-)1-4 per areole; spines (6-)7-33(-38) per areole; inner tepals greenish yellow, white, pinkish, rose-purple, or lavender; flowers 15-35(-45) mm diam   (12)
12 (11) Stems spheric to cylindric, (2.3-)3.5-6.8 cm diam., latex absent; inner tepals bright rose-pink or rose-purple; spines (19-)26-33(-38) per ar- eole; seeds black   5 Mammillaria grahamii (in part)
+ Stems low, flat-topped, usually 7.5-25 cm diam., latex present, sticky, white; inner tepals greenish yellow, white, cream, or pale pink, with midstripes of pink, lavender, or brown; spines (6-)7-22(-26) per areole; seeds orange or yellow when fresh, becoming reddish brown   (13)
13 (12) Fruits brilliant scarlet, carmine, or crimson; radial spines often more than 12 per areole: (8-)10-22(-26)   12 Mammillaria heyderi
+ Fruits relatively pale purplish pink, whitish, or pale green; radial spines (5-)6-12 per areole   (14)
14 (13) Outer tepals entire; inner tepals white to pale pink often striped with pink or lavender; spines 6-10 per areole; central spines 0-1 per areole; fruits purplish pink; Texas, New Mexico   13 Mammillaria meiacantha
+ Outer tepals minutely fimbriate (8× lens); inner tepals yellow-green or cream with yellow-green midstripes; spines 11-16 per areole; central spines 1-4 per areole; fruit whitish, pale green, or pink; Arizona, Mexico   14 Mammillaria macdougalii

  • List of lower taxa


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