(mam-mill-lair' ee-ah)

Common name: Pincushion Cactus

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus

Height x width: 2-8" x 6"-indefinite

Growth rate: moderate

Shape: spiny stems surrounded by conical, cylindrical or flattened tubercles (raised appendages); stems vary with species; forms clusters of offsets

Flowers: funnel-shaped, many colors, in a ring around the crown, diurnal

Light: full sun, may survive but not flower in less, also fewer thorns in less light

Temperature: warm, cool mid 40's when inactive

Watering: well-watered, less when inactive

Fertility: low

Humidity: dry

Soil: cactus

Pests and Problems: soft rot, stem spots, scales, mealybugs

Growth habit, uses: desert garden groundcover, pots

Other interest: native mainly to Mexico, but also into the U.S. and Central and South America; name from the Latin mamilla meaning little nipple, refering to the tubercles; a large genus having been collected for over a century, and of much taxonomic discussion

Propagation: seed, removal of offsets


Botanically there are about 150 species but horticulturally about 250; the genus is divided in six subgenera, the that of Mammillaria into 3 sections and 14 series, differentiated mainly by seed and flower differences. The following species are generally more common. Often under spines the color of the radial spines is first, followed by the central spines if different.
Species Common name
bocasana Snowball Cactus, Powder Puff
camptotricha Bird's Nest Cactus
candida Snowball Cushion Cactus
elongata Gold Lace Cactus, Golden Stars
hahniana Old Lady Cactus
parkinsonii Owl's Eyes
plumosa Feather Cactus
rhodantha Rainbow Pincushion Cactus
zeilmanniana Rose Pincushion Cactus

Species habit stems spines flowers
armillata either columnar, dull green brown pink, white, yellow
baumii clusters spherical, green white, yellow bright yellow
blossfeldiana either spherical, dark green yellow, black tips pale pink, red lines
bocasana clumps spherical, blue-green white, yellow, hairy yellowish white
bombycina clusters spherical, green white, white woolly reddish purple
camptotricha clusters spherical, deep green pale yellow white, scented
candida either spherical, green white, felted areoles rose-pink
carmenae clusters spherical, green white, white woolly pink or cream
crucigera clusters spherical, brownish white, white woolly pinkish purple
densispina solitary spherical, dark green yellow, brown, woolly yellow, reddish outer
dixanthocentron solitary cylindrical, green yellow yellowish pink
elongata clusters cylindrical, green white, yellow, red white, yellow
geminispina solitary spherical, green white, white woolly white, red stripes
gracilis clusters cylindrical, green yellow, brown, woolly yellowish white, lined
guelzowiana clusters spherical, green white hairy, brown bright pink, spicy
haageana clusters spherical, green white, reddish, woolly carmine red
hahniana solitary spherical, green white, hairy purplish red
herrerae either spherical, green many white radial only pale pink, red violet
longiflora solitary spherical, green white, reddish pink, often striped
longimamma solitary spherical, green yellowish, few yellow
magnimamma clusters spherical, gray-green yellowish, white woolly purple-red, brownish
mazatlanensis clusters cylindrical, grayish white, brown, woolly carmine-red
microhelia either cylindrical, grayish golden to reddish pink
mystax either either, gray-green white, purplish purplish pink
nejapensis solitary cylindrical, green white, yellowish woolly white, red striped
parkinsonii clusters cylindrical, grayish white, interlaced cream tinged pink
pennispinasa either flat, spherical, green yellow, brown white, pink stripes
plumosa clusters spherical, green white, white woolly whitish, lined
pringlei solitary spherical, green golden cherry red
rhodantha solitary either, green white, yellow, woolly purplish pink
schiedeana either spherical, green yellow, white, woolly cream
sempervivi either spherical, dark green white, yellow, woolly white, yellow-pink
senilis solitary either, pale green white, woolly violet-red
supertexta clusters cylindrical, green white purplish-red
tayloriorum clusters spherical, grayish white, woolly purplish-pink
zeilmanniana clusters spherical, dark green white, brown, hairy white to red-violet


©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS121, Indoor Plants.

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