Mammillaria of the Month

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Mammillaria crinita

Mammillaria crinita ssp. crinita Rep 1059 'puberula'  Photo: copyright C. Davies

Over the next few months, this page will be showing a number of forms of Mammillaria crinita. The plants in this Group in the Stylothelae have been given many names over the years, and even today there is still some controversy over the exact number of subspecies (if any) of M. crinita.

The form shown in the photograph was named by W. Reppenhagen as Mammillaria puberula, although it was soon consigned to synonomy with Mammillaria crinita. It shows one aspect of the variability of this species, namely pubescent spines.

The species in the earlier Hunt classification of the Crinita Group are characterised at a genetic level by the lack of a specific marker, the rpl16 intron. This is not something that the amateur would be conscious of however! But to the botanist, it very clearly delineates this Group from other members of the Stylothelae, which otherwise might appear to be superficially similar.

The most in depth field study of the Group has been carried out by W & B Fitz-Maurice, and their articles can be found in issues of the Journal of the Mammillaria Society and the Journal of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America.

Without wanting to get into the taxonomic debate, it is interesting that in the New Cactus Lexicon, the Stylothelae is now defined as containing only thr follwoing species: anniana, bocasana, crinitassp. crinita, crinita ssp. leucantha, crinita ssp. wildii, duwei, erythrosperma, fittkaui ssp. fittkaui, fittkaui ssp. limonensis, glochidiata, marcosii, mathildae, nana, painteri, schwarzii, zeilmanniana

The description of Mammillaria crinita ssp.crinita has been modified a number of times since its first description in 1926 by De Candolle, and now describes a plant with a depressed globose to shortly columnar stem, solitary or clustering from the base, axils with some wool, and a variable number of bristle, from none to 14, some up to 14mm. It can have from 10 to 29 radial spines, white or yellow, smooth or pubescent, variable in length to 12mm long, and irregularly radiating. Its central spines vary from 1 to 4, from light yellow to dark brown, smooth to pubescent, one of the spines hooked, the others if present are straight. It 's flowers are up to 15mm in length, white or yellow or pink through to red, with stigma lobes of yellow or green. The seed is brownish black.

In cultivation, the species is relatively easy to grow, and it comes readily from seed, flowering at an early age, often in its second year. Large clusters can be seen in collections, and in flower they make a fine show, especially some of the pinker flowered forms.

Its habitats can be found in a number of Mexican states, including Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes,Jalisco, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Mivhoacan and San Luis Potosi.