Lemon Ball Cactus
Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei
mam-mil-AR-ee-uh rho-dan-the PRING-lee-eye
Synonyms of Mammillaria pringlei from Plants of the World Online: Cactus pringlei J.M.Coult., Mammillaria parensis R.T.Craig, Mammillaria pringlei var. columnaris F.Schmoll ex R.T.Craig, Mammillaria pringlei var. longicentra Backeb., Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei (J.M.Coult.) D.R.Hunt, Neomammillaria pringlei (J.M.Coult.) Britton & Rose
Mammillaria pringlei (J.M.Coult.) K.Brandegee is the accepted and correct name of this species of Mammillaria. It was named and described as such by Mary Katherine Brandegee in Zoe in 1900. It was first named and described as Cactus pringlei by John Merle Coulter in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium (Smithsonian Institution) in 1894.
Many websites and databases are still using Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei (J.M.Coult.) D.R.Hunt as the accepted name for this cactus. It was named and described as such by David Richard Hunt in Mammillaria Postscripts in 1997.
The genus, Mammillaria Haw., was named and described by Adrian Hardy Haworth in Synopsis Plantarum Succulentarum in 1812. According to Plants of the World Online by Kew, there are 162 accepted species in the Mammillaria genus as of when I am updating this page on 12-23-19. That number is likely to change and has done so many times since I started blogging.
I brought this cactus home from Lowe’s on April 24, 2017. The label says:
“Mammillaria pringlei, native to Mexico, is sometimes considered a subspecies of Mammillaria rhodantha. The stem is covered in dense, golden spines, sometimes curling to lengths of 1” or more. Rings of deep flowers appear in summer. Protect from frost.”
According to Llifle (see link at the bottom of the page), Mammillaria pringlei is one of several yellow or golden/amber-spined variants of Mammillaria rhodantha. They usually grow as a solitary ball cactus that eventually divides dichotomously (branches out by splitting each head).
Zones: USDA Zones 9b-11 (25 to 40° F)
Light: Sun to part shade
*Soil: Fast-draining. Potting soil amended with pumice or perlite and grit.
Water: Average during the growing period, barely to none during the winter.
There are many cactus and succulent recipes online. I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz potting soil with 1 part additional perlite and 1 part chicken grit for many years. I began using a mixture of about 50/50 Miracle Grow Potting Soil and pumice in the Fall of 2018 with favorable results. I repot any time of the year as necessary but I have found that repotting in the fall keeps their soil nice and loose for the winter.
Mammillaria pringlei can be globe-shaped, or somewhat so, or short and cylindrical (which is guess is what mine is). Llifle says, “It is one of the few Mammillaria that is completely covered with yellow spines. The spines on this species seem to radiate light, almost making it appear to glow.”
Mammillaria pringlei can flower any time of the year and for long periods.
I measure the cacti periodically to see their rate of growth. Some grow so SSSSLLLLOOOOWWWW you need to measure them to make sure they are alive. Well, seriously, if they were dead they would turn brown and shrivel up. When I moved the plants inside for the winter, this cactus measured 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide and it is in a 3 1/2″ tall and wide pot. I measured it when I bought it, but somehow I can’t find where I wrote it down… I will find it someday.
I put this cactus on the kitchen windowsill for the winter with a few others. It gets morning sun and is doing very well there.
This species is one of many fast-growing cactus. Many, like this one, freely flower even at a young age which just adds more interest. I am not sure how many there are, but the top is LOADED with buds. It is so funny how long it takes for them to actually flower, though.
When warmer temperatures finally arrived I was able to take the plants back outside. (Ignore the plant to the right).
On June 24, in the late afternoon, I noticed the buds on the Mammillaria pringlei were getting larger…
Then on June 28, I was out earlier and some of the flowers were opened.
It is very interesting how its flowers are arranged in a circle around the top of the plant. The flowers grow from the previous years growth
Later on, in the early evening, the flowers were closed up. They kind of look like tiny tulips.
Some cactus seem to be “leaners” no matter what. I straighten this plant up every time I re-pot it…
I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter on October 10 because the forecast was calling for an “F” in a few days and the nighttime temperatures were getting cooler. I usually measure the cactus and succulents when I bring them inside. This time the Mammillaria pringlei was 4 7/8″ tall x 2″ wide (without the spines). Last year I screwed up and included the spines when I took measurements. So, with the spines least year it was 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide.
On October 10 when I re-potted this cactus and measured it, I wrote down that it was 4 7/8 ” tall x 2″ wide (without the spines). As I was writing this on November 9, I was thinking it was bigger so I went to measure it again. This time it is 5 3/4″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide (without the spines). So, did it grow 7/8″ in a month while inside? Last year I screwed up and included the spines in their measurements so out of curiosity I measured it with the spines. Including the spines, it is currently 6 1/8″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide. Last year it was 4 1/2″ tall and 3 1/2″ wide with the spines… GEEZ! That is 1 5/8″ taller and the same width.
November 29 was a nice spring-like day, so I took the cactus to the back porch for a photoshoot. I was working on a post to show the difference between the cactus in my collection.
Mammillaria pringlei is one of only a few species that have glowing golden spines. It has 18-22 radial spines and 5-7 central spines that are somewhat re-curved. Information says it is generally a solitary ball cactus that eventually divides dichotomously.
I moved the plants to the front and back porches in May once temperatures warmed up enough. The above photo is the Mammillaria pringlei happily basking in the sun on the back porch on June 22.
LOOKING GREAT and starting to flower again on July 4. It is a bit wet because we had rain. 🙂
I had to move the potted plants back inside for the winter on October 10 because an “F” was in the forecast. I always photograph the plants when I bring them inside and take measurements of the cactus and some of the succulents. The Mammillaria pringlei measured 5 1/2″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide (not including the spines). It was 4n 7/8″ tall x 2″ wide last year on October 10.
It took a short break and started flowering again…
Even though we had an “F” the temperatures warmed back up again. The cactus were giving me dirty looks so I put them back outside for a few more days.
The Mammillaria pringlei is a great cactus and I highly recommend it as a companion.
I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by. Be sure to check out the links below for additional information about the genus, species and growing information. The links take you directly to information about the genus and species. There are many online sources for this species as it is very popular.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species list Mammillaria pringlei as vulnerable in its natural habitat. This is due to its restricted range, being present in only three areas. Information states it has experienced declines because of the collection of its flowers and even whole plants for Christmas decorations. Apparently, this species is not found in any of the protected areas.
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