Return to Library Home Page

Scientific: Mammillaria grahamii (formerly Mammillaria microcarpa)
Common: pincushion cactus, Graham's nipple cactus
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Found in desert washes, rocky hillsides and canyons of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts from eastern California to Texas and south to near Sinaloa, Mexico below 3,500 feet in elevation.

Pronounciation: Mam-a-LAR-ee-a GRAM-ee-i

Hardiness zones
USDA 8-11

Landscape Use: This is an excellent small for intimate scale desert, rock and succulent gardens.

Form & Character: Rounded, columnar, diminuative, dainty, fragile, pure.

Growth Habit: Mostly a diminuative columnar cactus when a basal branching habit to 8 inches tall.

Foliage/Texture: Short spines, 20 to 35 or more per areole in several series but all equally thin, mostly appressed, white to brown, the longest spine is blackened and usually slightly hooked, stems columnar, short and slightly globose; very fine texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Produces a ring of small and delicate pink magenta star-shaped flowers with protruding yellow anthers; fruits small, bright red.

Seasonal Color: Flowers profusely during spring and again during summer with a bit of supplemental water.

Temperature: Very heat tolerant, but requires a nurse plant when young.

Light: Full sun to partial shade. Takes some landscape western sun in Phoenix (sans strong reflected light), however, it grows best in an eastern exposure.

Soil: Does best in alkaine, well-drained, sandy to gravely soil.

Watering: Rarely needs supplemental irigation.

Pruning: None

Propagation: Seed

Disease and Pests: Root rot in poorly drained and overwatered soil.

Additional comments: Pincushion cacti are very small, delicate, basally-branched columnar cacti with very showy pink flowers. They make an excellent addition to an intimate scale cactus, rock, or display garden, and contrast well with other small agave and cacti species. This interesting little cactus was named after Colonel James Duncan Graham (1799-1851). The majestic sky island, Mount Graham in east central Arizona, was also named after him.