Mammillaria prolifera

Mammillaria prolifera


Mammillaria prolifera (Texas Nipple Cactus)

Mammillaria prolifera (Texas Nipple Cactus) is a low-growing cactus that forms a clump of dark green, globose or cylindrical stems. The…

Mammillaria prolifera

Published by Daniel Mosquin on March 22, 2013

My favourite of the Volunteer Park Conservatory glasshouses was the cacti and succulents house, since I was pleased to see what could be accomplished with growing these typically sun-loving plants in an area of the world not known for its sunshine.

Mammillaria prolifera is native to Texas, Mexico, Cuba and Hispaniola. A variety in Texas and northern Mexico, Mammillaria prolifera var. texana, is recognized by the Flora of North America. The FNA also gives a hint to identifying the species (as long as one is north of the USA-Mexico border: “the hairlike radial spines of Mammillaria prolifera provide an instant means of identifying this species, even without reproductive material”. Common names include Texas nipple cactus (note the red fruit in the background or see this photograph), little candles, and silver cluster cactus.

If search engine results are anything to go by, this species is relatively common in cultivation. Growing information is available via the RHS: Mammillaria prolifera.

This is a very striking photograph.

The cactus and succulent wing at the Volunteer Park Conservatory is definitely the most interesting part of the collection.
I have a photo of the same plant.
I prefer yours – better contrast and depth of field.

That’s a beautiful photo. Almost makes you want to pet those furry little guys….until you remember that it’s a prickly little fella. LOL
Great site!

Mammillaria prolifera - garden

Origin and Habitat: The species occurs very widely from Mexico (Coahuila, Nuevo León, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas), the USA (Texas), Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The typical subspecies prolifera occurs throughout much of the Caribbean.
Altitude range: It is found at elevations of 400 to 2,250 metres above sea level.
Habitat and Ecology: The species grows in submontane scrub. In Texas, it occurs in grasslands at low elevations and in Cuba, the plant grows in low, dry thicket. Mammillaria prolifera is quite inconspicuous but has a very large extent of occurrence and is abundant. Although there are threats in places (habitat destruction through logging), they are not sufficient to warrant any concern.

  • Mammillaria prolifera (Mill.) Haw.
    • Cactus mammillaris var. prolifer Aiton
    • Cactus proliferus Mill.
    • Cactus stellatus Willd.
    • Chilita prolifera (Mill.) Orcutt
    • Ebnerella prolifera (Mill.) Buxb.
    • Escobariopsis prolifera (Mill.) Doweld
    • Neomammillaria prolifera (Mill.) Britton & Rose

Description: Mammillaria prolifera is a low growing cactus, commonly branching to form colonies often 6 dm in diameter. Four subspecies are recognized, the nominate subspecies, subspecies arachnoidea (D.R.Hunt) D.R.Hunt, subspecies haitiensis and subspecies multiceps (Salm-Dyck) U.Guzmán (including subsp. texana (Engelm.) D.R.Hunt.).
Stems: The individual stems dark green, globose, cylindric or club shaped to 9 cm high, 3 to 7 cm in diameter (6-7 cm in diameter in subsp. prolifera), of soft texture.
Tubercles: Cylindrical to conic, about 8 mm long, spreading, without latex, Axils of tubercles with several long, hair-like bristles.
Radial spines: 25-40, hair-like, often intergrading with the centrals, straight or twisted, white to yellow to brown, 3-12 mm long.
Central spines: 5 to 12, needle-like, puberulent, 4-9 mm long, much stouter than the radials, straight, white to yellow to reddish, with darker tips (Typcally yellow in subsp. prolifera).
Flowers: 10-18 mm long, borne in old axils but toward top of plant, small, yellowish white, cream or pinkish yellow. Inner perianth-segments erect, pale yellow, with brownish mid-rib, acute filaments pale rose-coloured anthers at first deflexed inward style shorter than filaments stigma-lobes 3, yellow.
Fruit: Crowned by persistent withering perianth, club shaped to cylindrical, somewhat curved, 1.5 to 2 cm long, scarlet.
Seeds: Black, pitted, a little depressed aril white, triangular.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Mammillaria prolifera group

  • Mammillaria prolifera" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/9303/Mammillaria_prolifera'> Mammillaria prolifera (Mill.) Haw. : (subsp. prolifera) has stems 6-7 cm in diameter, cream to pinkish yellow flowers and yellow spines. Distribution: throughout much of the Caribbean.
  • Mammillaria prolifera subs. arachnoidea (D.R.Hunt) D.R.Hunt : has slender, fine central spines and quite narrow funnelform flowers. Distribution: Tamaulipas and Hidalgo.
  • Mammillaria prolifera f. cristata" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/17633/Mammillaria_prolifera_f._cristata'> Mammillaria prolifera f. cristata hort. : Crested form.
  • Mammillaria prolifera subs. haitiensis (K.Schum.) D.R.Hunt : has stems to 7 cm in diameter, cream-white-yellow flowers and more spines than the type species, giving it a more whitish appearance. Distribution: endemic of Hispaniola.
  • Mammillaria prolifera subs. multiceps" href='/Encyclopedia/CACTI/Family/Cactaceae/9319/Mammillaria_prolifera_subs._multiceps'> Mammillaria prolifera subs. multiceps (Salm-Dyck) U.Guzmán : has white and brown spines. Distribution: USA (Texas) and northeastern Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi).
  • Mammillaria prolifera subs. texana (Engelm.) D.R.Hunt : has whitish or else translucent, honey-yellow spines and dirty yellow,pinkish or almost tan flowers(same as subsp. multiceps?). Distribution: Southern Texas along the Rio Grande river.
  • Mammillaria prolifera subs. zublerae (Repp.) D.R.Hunt

Mammillaria prolifera Photo by: Carolina González
Mammillaria prolifera Photo by: Carolina González
Mammillaria prolifera Photo by: K.k. Agrawal
Mammillaria prolifera Photo by: Carolina González
Mammillaria prolifera Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli

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The gallery now contains thousands of pictures, however it is possible to do even more. We are, of course, seeking photos of species not yet shown in the gallery but not only that, we are also looking for better pictures than those already present. Read More.

Cultivation and Propagation: Mammillaria prolifera is a freely clustering species that reproduces easily by cutting, recommended for any collection that needs lots of light with ample airflow. Given the kind of care used on any but the desert forms of cacti, even in a small pot, this little cactus will grow and proliferate its small heads into an interesting cluster.
Growth rate: It is a small growing, but easily flowering species. It offset from the base and can fill a 25 cm pot in just a few years given the best conditions.
Soils: It likes very porous standard cactus mix soil with little organic matter (peat, humus).
Repotting: Repotting every 2-3 years. It will need a pot with sufficient depth to allow the tap root. As it is especially prone to rot under-pot in a smaller container filled with very porous compost. Use pot with good drainage.
Watering: Water regularly in summer, but do not overwater (very wet-sensitively, especially in light of its succulent root system). Its roots are easily lost in pots that stay damp for any length of time. Keep dry with ample airflow in winter. In the rest period no high atmospheric humidity!! Care must be taken with watering as they tends to become swollen and untidy in growth habit if given too much water and shade.
Fertilization: During the growing season enrich the soil using a fertilizer rich in potassium and phosphorous, but poor in nitrogen, because this chemical element doesn’t help the development of succulent plants, making them too soft and full of water.
Hardiness: Reputedly sensitive to frost , but less so if kept on the dry side prior to, and during, cold weather (hardy to -5° C for short periods). However some warmth throughout the year will increase the grower's success (minimum 5° to 8°C during rest season).
Exposition: Outside bright sun, filtered sunlight or afternoon shade, inside it needs bright light, and some direct sun. Subject to sunburn if exposed to direct sun for too long. Tends to bronze in strong light, which encourages flowering and heavy wool and spine production.
Uses: It is an excellent plant for container growing. It always looks good and stays small. It look fine in a cold greenhouse and frame.
Pests & diseases: It may be attractive to a variety of insects, but plants in good condition should be nearly pest-free, particularly if they are grown in a mineral potting-mix, with good exposure and ventilation. Nonetheless, there are several pests to watch for:
- Red spiders: Sensitive to red spider mite. Overhead watering is helpful in controlling mites.
- Mealy bugs: Occasionally mealy bugs they develop aerial into the new growth among the wool with disfiguring results, but the worst types develop underground on the roots and are invisible except by their effects.
- Scales: Scales are rarely a problem.
- Rot: Rot it is only a minor problem with cacti if the plants are watered and “aired” correctly. If they are not, fungicides won't help all that much.
Propagation: Direct sow after last frost or (usually) cuttings. Seeds germinate in 7-14 days at 21-27° C in spring, remove the glass cover gradually as the plants develops and keep ventilated, no full sun for young plants! The seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted, after which they can be planted separately in small pots. Cuttings: wait until the offsets that appear at the base of old clustered specimens are 1/3 the size of the parent and then detach and plant. Cuttings will take root in a minimum temperature of 20° C (but better in hot weather). Cuttings of healthy shoots can be taken in the spring and summer. Cut the stem with a sharp, sterile knife, leave the cutting in a warm, dry place for a week or weeks (depending on how thick the cutting is) until a callus forms over the wound. Once the callus forms, the cutting may be inserted in a container filled with firmed cactus potting mix topped with a surface layer of coarse grit. They should be placed in the coarse grit only this prevents the cut end from becoming too wet and allows the roots to penetrate the rich compost underneath. The cuttings should root in 2 to 6 weeks.

Plants→Mammillarias→Biznaga Prolifera (Mammillaria prolifera)

Common names:
(2) Biznaga Prolifera
(1) West Indian Nipple-Cactus
Texas Nipple Cactus

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Cactus/Succulent
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 9b -3.9 °C (25 °F) to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
Fruit: Showy
Flower Color: White
Suitable Locations: Xeriscapic
Resistances: Drought tolerant
Containers: Needs excellent drainage in pots
Miscellaneous: With thorns/spines/prickles/teeth
Conservation status: Least Concern (LC)

Prolifically clumping low, spiny cactus with small stems, creamy white to pinkish yellow flowers, and bright red fruit. A widespread, variable species. Stems are dark green to blue-green. 5-12 central spines, 25-40 radial spines (which are sometimes hard to tell apart). Found in southern Texas, northeastern Mexico (south to Querétaro), and the Caribbean. Relatively common and well-behaved in cultivation. Easy to propagate from offsets, which are easy to remove. Clumps may not survive shipping intact.

The polyploid Mammillaria (Mammillaria prolifera subsp. prolifera) is the Caribbean form (found on Cuba and Hispaniola), with

2.5 inch diameter stems (on the large side for this species) and yellow spines. The polyploid Texas Nipple Cactus (Mammillaria prolifera subsp. texana) is the main continental form, with white and brown spines. The diploid Mammillaria (Mammillaria prolifera subsp. arachnoidea) is restricted to southern Tamaulipas and Hidalgo and is characterized by fine central spines and narrow, funnel-shaped flowers.

A small, heavily clumping, globular cactus. Flowers white, may possess stripes and a red/orange colored throat. Self pollinating. Spines yellow, prominent (obscuring the stem), can have shades of white or gray. Stems are tuberculated like all mammillarias, and are somewhat flexible. Certain parts of the plant (near branch joints and the base) can be colored red. Its heads can root and break easily, forming large clusters. Likes a winter rest and mineral to semi-mineral soil. It can tolerate moderate light levels and likes frequent watering in summer.
The cactus is famous for 2 things:
-it's among the easiest mammillarias to grow (along with elongata and vetula gracilis) because of its fast clumping speed and durability
-and it's among the most famous mammillarias grown for fruit, with strawberry-flavored, chili-pepper-shaped berries.

Mammillaria Species

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Mammillaria (mam-mil-AR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: prolifera subsp. texana
Synonym:Mammillaria pusilla var. texana
Synonym:Mammillaria texana
Synonym:Mammillaria multiceps var. texana
Synonym:Escobariopsis prolifera subsp. texana
Synonym:Cactus stellatus var. texanus


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gardeners' Notes:

On Apr 10, 2005, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

The 'prolifera' & 'haitiensis' subspecies have thicker stems (2.5-3 inch) than the 'arachnoidea & 'texana' subspecies (down to 1.6 inch thick).
The subspecies 'prolifera' has cream to pinkish yellow flowers & yellow spines.
The subspecies 'arachnoidea' has fine & thinner central spines & narrower funnel shaped pinkish flowers.
The subspecies 'haitiensis' has cream-white-yellow flowers and more spines than the other subspecies which gives it a whiter appearance.
The subspecies 'texana' has brown & white spines and pinkish flowers.

More synonyms of this plant are Mammillaria prolifera var. texana, Mammillaria prolifera f. texana & Cactus texanus.

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