Mammillaria plumosa-Feather Cactus

Mammillaria plumosa after I put it in a pot on 9-22-18.

Feather Cactus

Mammillaria plumosa

mam-mil-AR-ee-uh  plum-OH-suh

Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit

Mammillaria plumosa F.A.C.Weber is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of cactus. It was named and described by Frédéric Albert Constantin Weber in Dictionnaire d’Horticulture in 1898. 

Plants of The World Online lists four synonyms of this cactus.


Mammillaria plumosa after I unwrapped it from being shipped on 9-22-18, #511-4.

I bought this plant from a seller on Ebay and it arrived on September 22 (2018). It was really NICE and arrived safe and sound wrapped in toilet paper. The selection on Ebay and a few groups on Facebook is much better than what I can find at Wal-Mart and Lowe’s…


Mammillaria plumosa with its roots on 9-22-18, #511-6.

The cluster measured approximately 3/4” tall x 2 1/4” wide. You cannot tell how many offsets are in the cluster because of all the fuzz. A single specimen of this species can take a couple of years to offset, but I can feel there are several in this cluster of fuzz. It kind of reminds me of a VERY HAIRY Thimble Cactus (Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis).


Mammillaria plumosa on 9-22-18, #511-7.

Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Coahuila, Nuevo León, & Tamaulipas in Mexico.
Zones: USDA Zones 9a-11 (20-40° F)
Size: Around 5” tall x 16” wide clumps
Light: Sun to light shade
Soil: Very well-draining soil. Potting soil amended with additional grit and pumice or perlite.
Water: Regular watering during the summer and barely in the winter. Keep water off the spines (feathers) for best appearance…


Mammillaria plumosa in its new pot on 9-22-18, #511-10.

I put the cluster in the smallest pot I thought it should be in for its size. Cactus do not need large pots because their root system is not that big. To much soil under the plant can lead to root rot, which is another reason not to overwater.

Its status in its natural habit is listed as “near threatened” by the IUCN Red List. Llifle said it grows on limestone cliffs in sparse xerophytic shrubland and there is a continuing decline due to ongoing plant collecting. Apparently, the species is illegally collected for the ornamental trade. Locals collect the plant from the wild and sell them at local markets at Christmas time as they are used to decorate nativity scenes.


Mammillaria plumosa on 11-29-18, #534-23.

November 29 was a nice spring-like day, so I took the cactus to the back porch for a photo shoot. I was working on a post to show the difference between the cactus in my collection.

This cluster of plants has one central plant 1 1/2- 1 3/4″ (depending on where you measure), with six offsets.


Mammillaria plumosa close-up on 12-1-18, #535-18.

The areole of the Mammillaria plumosa produces about 40 radial spines that are from 1-7 mm long. I think that is up to about 1/32″. Anyway, the radial spines are very short that somehow are interlacing and feathery. Llifle says, “The spines in this species have very long hairs along the spine-axis arranged as are the segments of a bird’s feather and that furnish an epidermal protection against the blasting sun of the desert.” Another more complicated website says, “Epidermis cells on spines of Mammillaria plumosa grow out as thricomes, shading the plant.” I think they misspelled trichomes…

OK, in layman’s terms… I looked at the plant closely with a magnifying glass and it was still fairly difficult to see what is going on because everything is so small. The tubercles are fairly close together so the radial spines kind of interlace with each other. The radial spines, even though Llifle says they are 1-7 mm long, some of them measured 1/8″ long and are pretty stiff. Even though they are thin and stringy looking, they are more like a very thin wire. Very few resemble feathers, BUT if you look closely at the above photo you can actually see a few in this photo that does look like feathers… It is hard to tell where the hair (trichomes) comes from but Llifle says the spine axis. That would mean also from the areole since that is where the spines grow from. The wooliest areas are around the apex and feel like cotton. Oh yeah… The brown spots in the photo are the centers of the areoles. It is going to be neat watching this plant grow.

By the time I was finished looking the plant over, it was telling me, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”


Mammillaria plumosa produces yellowish-white flowers sometimes with pink mid-stripes which have a strong scent.

I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by. This plant will definitely be interesting.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.