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Lee Pincushion Cactus Escobaria sneedii var. leei (Coryphantha sneedii var. leei)


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Lee Pincushion Cactus
© Gary M. Stolz/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Alternate name: Carpet Foxtail Cactus

Family: Cactaceae, Cactus view all from this family

Description This small, rare cactus, whose dense spines make the stem look cobwebbed, may comprise up to 100 stems in a single mounded plant.
Habit: succulent native perennial shrub.
Height: to 6 in (15 cm) tall.
Stem: spherical to cylindrical, grooved when mature, 0.6-3 in (15-75 mm) tall, 0.4-1 in (10-25 mm) diameter.
Leaf: tiny spine, white or cream with brown tip, becoming gray, held close to stem, 0.05-0.1 in (1-2.5 mm) long; 30-90 radial spines per areole, central spines often absent.
Flower: brownish-pink funnel, to 0.6 in (15 mm) wide, to 0.5 in (12 mm) tall; opening in the morning, .
Fruit: small berry, cylindrical to club-shaped, about 0.5 in (12 mm) long, green or red.

Endangered Status The Lee Pincushion Cactus is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in New Mexico. This plant has been the victim of poaching in the Guadalupe Mountains where it lives. Despite its spines, this cactus is a highly prized plant, often taken from its desert habitat by rare-plant collectors. A second threat to the species, which has now been addressed, came from maintenance of nearby Carlsbad National Park.

Flower March to June.

Habitat Chihuahuan desert scrub to conifer woodlands, rock outcrops (rarely alluvial rubble), usually narrowly confined to cracks in limestone; 2000-8500 ft (600-2600 m); also cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Found only in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico, near Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Discussion Some authorities list this plant at the species level as Coryphantha sneedii, Escobaria sneeedii or Escobaria leei. Also known as Lee's pincushion cactus. A federal threatened plant; listed as endangered in New Mexico.