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Mammillaria

Arguably the most popular cactus genus in cultivation, Mammillaria is one of the largest genus of the cactus family with about 200 recognized species. They are spiny cacti with ball-shaped or columnar stems, growing either solitary or in clumps. Low-growing, rarely over around 6-8 in in height (15-20 cm), they bear nipple-like tubercles and are covered with spines in a wide range of colors. The spines can be stiff and stout, or bristle-like and hair-like. Funnel-shaped flowers are are often produced in a ring near the apex of the stem. The blossoms give way to small edible fruits, usually red, resembling little candies. Mostly endemic to Mexico, a handful of species are native to the United States, Central America and Northern South America as well as the islands of the Caribbean. Easy to grow, these miniature cacti are perfect for containers. They can be grown as houseplants, but also grow well outdoors in frost-free climates. Protect them from cold, as most are frost sensitive and only hardy to 23°F (-5°C) for brief periods.

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Mammillaria bocasana (Powder Puff Cactus)

Mammillaria bocasana (Powder Puff Cactus) is a small clumping cactus that tends to form large clumps over time. The spherical stems, up to 5 in. tall (12 cm) and 3 in. wide (8 cm), are covered with silky white hairs, with each cluster surrounding a yellow-to-red hooked spine. The hooked spines were used as fish hooks in its native Mexico. In spring and summer, it bears funnel-shaped, creamy-white, creamy-yellow or pinkish flowers, up to 1 in. long (2.5 cm) and 0.6 in. wide (1.5 cm). The blossoms are followed by cylindrical, rosy-pink to red fruits, 1 in. long (2.5 cm).

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Mammillaria bombycina (Silken Pincushion)

Popular and beautiful, Mammillaria bombycina (Silken Pincushion) is a small cactus, with solitary or clustered stems, that tends to form a large and gorgeous clump over time. The cylindrical stems, up to 6-8 in. tall (15-20 cm) and 2 in. wide (5 cm), are covered with dense white hairs between the tubercles which are adorned white radial spines and hooked reddish-brown central spines. In spring, it bears deep rose-pink funnel-shaped flowers, 0.6 in across (1.5 cm). Silken Pincushion will produce several complete rings of flowers every year.

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Mammillaria elongata (Lady Fingers)

Mammillaria elongata (Lady Fingers) is a small cactus with clustered finger-like stems, forming a tight clump of erect, ascending or prostrate stems over time. The elongated cylindrical stems, up to 6 in. tall (15 cm) and 1 in. wide (3 cm), are densely covered with short, interlocking, white to golden yellow to brown spines, more or less recurved, and arranged as a star.

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Mammillaria hahniana (Old Lady Pincushion)

Mammillaria hahniana (Old Lady Pincushion) is a small cactus, with solitary or clustered stems, that tends to form large clumps over time. At first globular, later cylindrical, the stems, up to 12 in. tall (30 cm) and 4 in. wide (10 cm), are covered with dense white bristles and fine spines. Blooming profusely, it produces a pretty ring of rose-red flowers, 0.5 in long (1 cm). The blossoms are followed by small red fruits that are edible.

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Mammillaria parkinsonii (Owl's Eye Pincushion)

Mammillaria parkinsonii (Owl's Eye Pincushion) is a woolly, mound forming, blue-green cactus with spherical or cylindrical stems. Initially solitary, the stems, 6 in. tall and wide (15 cm), form a compact bunch over time by dichotomic division. The stems divide, giving it its namesake appearance. This Mammillaria species can form a clump of 8-10 heads in as little as 6 years.

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Mammillaria plumosa (Feather Cactus)

Mammillaria plumosa (Feather Cactus) is a clustering cactus forming a low, dense mound of globose stems, 2.5 in. wide (6 cm), entirely covered by an abundance of white feathery spines. The spines are adorned with very long hairs that are arranged like the segments of a bird's feather, and protect the plant against the blistering sun of the desert. In late summer, creamy-white or dull pink sweetly-scented flowers, up to 0.6 in. across (1.5 cm), appear at the top of the stems.

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Mammillaria prolifera (Texas Nipple Cactus)

Mammillaria prolifera (Texas Nipple Cactus) is a low-growing clustering cactus that can form a dense clump of globose stems, 4 in. tall (10 cm) and up to 24 in. wide (60 cm). Each dark green stem, 2-3 in. in diameter (5-7 cm), bears dense, golden-yellow to white spines. In summer, a profusion of creamy-yellow flowers tinged pink, up to 0.7 in. long (1.8 cm), appear in old axils towards the top of the stems. They give way to edible red berries, 0.8 in. long (2 cm), that taste like strawberries.

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Mammillaria rhodantha (Rainbow Pincushion)

Mammillaria rhodantha (Rainbow Pincushion) is a small columnar cactus that tends to form large clumps over time. The short, cylindrical, dark green stems, up to 16 in. tall (40 cm) and 5 in. wide (12 cm), are covered with prominent tubercles and spines that grow from the areoles at the tip of the tubercles. The slightly curved central spines are red-brown or pale to golden yellow, up to 0.6 in. (1.5 cm) long. The radial spines are creamy-white and up to 0.4 in. (1 cm) long. White wool can be seen growing on the top part of the plant body.

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Mammillaria spinosissima (Spiny Pincushion Cactus)

Mammillaria spinosissima (Spiny Pincushion Cactus) is a small cactus with solitary stems at first, then often clustering later. The cylindrical dark blue-green stems, up to 12-20 in. tall (30-50 cm) and 4 in. wide (10 cm), are covered with dense bristly red-brown or white central spines, and cream radials. In spring, it produces a pretty ring of carmine-pink flowers, 0.8 in across (2 cm). The blossoms are followed by small greenish to dull purple fruits.

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