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Graham's Nipple Cactus Mammillaria grahamii var. grahamii (Mammillaria milleri, Mammillaria microcarpa)


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Graham's Nipple Cactus
credit: Mike and Zahra/CCSA

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Alternate name: Fishhook Pincushion

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description A low, cylindrical cactus with one or several stems and many hooked spines; flowers pink or lavender.
Habit: succulent native perennial shrub; variable.
Height: 2.75-6 in (7-15 cm) or more.
Stem: spherical to cylindrical, 3-4.3 in (7.5-11 cm) diameter.
Leaf: spine, white to gray to red-brown; radial spines dense, obscuring stem, 20-35 per areole, 0.25-0.5 in (6-12 mm) long; central spines sometimes hooked, 1-4 per areole, 0.5-1 in (12-25 mm) long.
Flower: vase-shaped, pink to lavender to red-purple (rarely white), 0.8-1.8 in (20-45 mm) wide; in ring around upper stem.
Fruit: cylindrical to club-shaped berry, bright red, 0.5-1 (12-25 mm) in long; projecting in ring from upper stem.

Flower April to September.

Habitat Dry silty, sandy, gravelly, or rocky soils of igneous or calcareous origin: deserts, arid grasslands, Chihuahuan and Sonoran desert scrub, interior chaparral, oak woodlands, alluvial slopes, hills, canyons, washes, plains; 260-4600 ft (80-1400 m).

Range Southeastern California east to western Texas and south to northern Mexico.

Discussion Also known as Graham's fishhook cactus, Arizona fishhook cactus, pincushion cactus, fishhook pincushion cactus. Sometimes categorized as Mammillaria grahamii, not a variety. Collection restricted in Arizona. The genus name refers to the projections on the stems, which resemble mammary glands. Similar species of Mammillaria and Coryphantha are distinguished by the position of the flower relative to the cluster of spines. In Coryphantha older projections have a groove on the upper side. Both genera have some species with hooked spines. The wild-plant enthusiast who wishes to find reference to Graham's Nipple Cactus in more technical literature must check under two more scientific names: the long-used M. microcarpa and the recently used M. milleri. The synonymy reflects historical problems in nomenclature and the difficulty of obtaining a satisfactory classification, problems that are very common in the Cactaceae.