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Mammillaria prolifera (Texas Nipple Cactus)


Scientific Name

Mammillaria prolifera (Mill.) Haw.

Common Names

Little Candles, Silver Cluster Cactus, Strawberry Cactus, Texas Nipple Cactus, West Indian Nipple Cactus


Cactus proliferus (basionym), Neomammillaria prolifera

Scientific Classification

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


Mammillaria prolifera is a low-growing cactus that forms a clump of dark green, globose or cylindrical stems. The individual stems are up to 3.6 inches (9 cm) tall, up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) in diameter. The have conic to cylindrical tubercles with 25 to 40 radial spines and 5 to 12 central spines. The radial spines are hair-like, white or yellow, and up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long, while the central spines are needle-like, white, yellow to reddish with darker tips and 0.4 inches (1 cm) long. Flowers appear in spring. They are yellowish-white, cream, or pinkish-yellow with brownish midrib, up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) in diameter. Fruits are scarlet, club-shaped to cylindrical, and up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) long.


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. The cactus mustn't be 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.  See more at How to Grow and Care for Mammillaria.


Native to Texas, Mexico, Cuba, and Hispaniola.


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