Sunday, January 08, 2012

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Mammillaria candida—snowballs of the desert

Some cacti have evolved so successfully that they have adapted to life across a wide region. Now in darkest winter, it's time to talk about the "Snowball Cactus" which is just such a cactus: Mammillaria candida. (Scheidweiler 1838). The spine covering on Mammillaria candida is so dense that the cactus does appear like a big snowball or puffball. The flowers can be light pink, dark pink, white with dark midveins... or even yellow!

Its habitat stretches across several states in northeastern Mexico: Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, and Tamaulipas.

Mammillaria candida grown and photographed by Sentient Meat
Unlike some puffball-like mammillaria, Mammillaria candida has spines which really mean business. I thought it looked soft and friendly so I started to repot it without gloves. I thought if I moved slowly and gently I could just turn it upside down with one hand and rest it ever-so-lightly in my other hand. Big mistake! After trying this maneuver gingerly a couple times, I gave up. I can try again in the spring. With gloves.

Mammillaria candida (syn M. ortizrubiona) ML 656 - Photo : Michel Lacoste at
M candida is sometimes separated from the rest of Mammillaria into its own genus, Mammilloydia, because its seeds are not pitted and lack the perisperm found in all other mammillaria. Recent molecular studies, however, place M. candida squarely within Mammillaria, a huge genus which includes many cacti much more distantly related than Mammillaria candida.

Mammillaria candida - Photo : Willy at

See Also gallery of species starting with C

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