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Epithelantha bokei (Pingpong Ball Cactus)


Scientific Name

Epithelantha bokei L.D. Benson

Common Names

Pingpong Ball Cactus, Button Cactus, Boke's Button Cactus


Epithelantha micromeris subsp. bokei

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Cacteae
Subtribe: Cactinae
Genus: Epithelantha


Epithelantha bokei is a disc-shaped or cylindrical, usually unbranched cactus up to 2 inches (5 cm) tall. It is so thickly covered in white or yellowish spines. The flowers are pale pink and up to 0.7 inch (1.8 cm) long and wide. The fruits are red and 0.4 inch (1 cm) long. Much of the plant is located below ground, with a few centimeters above. It contracts into the ground during dry periods.

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USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

To encourage better flowering, allow the plants to enjoy a cooling period in the winter and suspend watering. Unlike many other cacti, which use their ribs as storage devices, Mammillaria feature raised tubercles, from which spines emerge. When you water, the tubercles will expand to allow for increased water storage. The flowers emerge from the axils of these tubercles on the previous year's growth, which accounts for their interesting halo effect. It's imperative that the cactus is not exposed to prolonged dampness and sitting water. Never let your cactus sit in a dish of water. Lastly, make sure to fertilize during the growing season for the best results.

Repot as needed, preferably during the warm season. To repot Mammillaria, make sure the soil is dry before repotting, then gently remove the pot. Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you repot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so, then begin to water lightly to reduce the risk of root rot.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Mammillaria.


Epithelantha bokei is naive to Texas in the United States and Coahuila in Mexico.


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