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Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis (Thimble Cactus)


Scientific Name

Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis (Pfeiff.) D. R. Hunt

Common Names

Thimble Cactus, Thimble Mammillaria


Escobariopsis gracilis, Krainzia gracilis, Mammillaria fragilis, Mammillaria gracilis var. pulchella

Scientific Classification

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


Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis, also known as Mammillaria gracilis, is a small cactus with bright green cylindrical stems densely covered with white spines. It offsets freely to form large spiny clumps. The stems are up to 5.2 inches (13 cm) long and up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter. They fall off easily but readily reroot. All spines are usually radial, but occasionally there are 1 to 5 dark-brown central spines. Flowers are creamy to pale yellow with pinkish or brownish mid-stripe, up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) long and about the same in diameter. They appear in spring but also in summer and fall.

Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °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 appear from these tubercles' axils 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.


Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis is native to Mexico (Hidalgo, Queretaro).


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