Mammillaria senilis

Mammillaria senilis after it came in the mail at 1″ tall x 1 1/2″ wide on 11-30-20, #766-2.

Mammillaria senilis

mam-mil-AR-ee-uh  SEE-nil-is

Synonyms of Mammillaria senilis (9) (Updated on 12-10-22 from Plants of the World Online): Cactus senilis (Lodd. ex Salm-Dyck) Kuntze, Cochemiea senilis (Lodd. ex Salm-Dyck) Orcutt, Mamillopsis diguetii (F.A.C.Weber) Britton & Rose, Mamillopsis senilis (Lodd. ex Salm-Dyck) F.A.C.Weber ex Britton & Rose, Mammillaria diguetii (F.A.C.Weber) D.R.Hunt, Mammillaria haseloffii C.Ehrenb., Mammillaria linkei C.Ehrenb. ex Salm-Dyck, Mammillaria senilis var. diguetii F.A.C.Weber, Mammillaria senilis var. haseloffii (Ehrenb.) Salm-Dyck

Mammillaria senilis Lodd. ex Salm-Dyck is the accepted scientific name for this species of Mammillaria. It was described by Joseph zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck* in Cactaceae in Horto Dyckensi Cultae in 1850. He cited Conrad Loddiges for being the first to name and describe the species.

*(Joseph Franz Maria Anton Herbert Ignatz Fürst und zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck)

The genus, Mammillaria Haw., was named and described as such by Adrian Hardy Haworth in Synopsis Plantarum Succulentarum in 1812.

As of 12-10-22 Plants of the World Online lists 139 species in the Mammillaria genus (there were 154 when this page was previously updated on 9-5-21 when this page was last updated). It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 150 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.


Mammillaria senilis on 11-30-20, #766-3.

I ordered this Mammillaria senilis from a seller on Ebay called Succulent Depot on November 26. It was late at night, so might as well say they received the order on the 27th. The order confirmation said I would probably receive the plant on December 3, so I was surprised when it arrived on November 30.

I knew it would be small, so when it arrived I wasn’t 100% shocked when it measured one 1″ tall x 1 1/2″ wide. It was in a 2″ pot so it still has a little growing to do before I have to put it in a new pot. It was well well-wrapped and made it to its new home safe and sound.

The plant only looks cute and cuddly, but don’t give it a hug… The long, hooked spines stuck in my fingers and I could have carried it across the floor by its spines. 🙂 While removing it from my fingers on one hand, the spines stuck in the fingers on the other hand.

Mammillaria senilis on 11-30-20, #766-4.

The Mammillaria senilis grows on moss-covered boulders in pine forests at 7800-9000 feet (2400-2800 meters) above sea level in Chihuahua, Jalisco, and Sinaloa, and southern Zacatecas in Mexico. It does not appear to have a common name, but the species name, senilis, means “of an old man”…

Mammillaria senilis is a small globe-shaped/cylindrical cactus that grows up to 5-8” tall x about 4” wide (depending on what website you look at). It is well known for looking like a ball of cotton with long, hooked spines. This cactus branches out basally to form clumps.

Mammillaria senilis on 11-30-20, #766-5.

As with all Mammillaria species, it is covered with tubercles that are arranged in a spiral pattern. Areoles on top of the tubercles produce 30-40 very thin radial spines that are, um, 20 mm in length… That’s around 3/4”. My cactus is only 1” tall x 1 1/2” wide and looks very very odd to have such long, thin, hair-like spines. It also has 4-6 white central spines with yellowish tips. The upper and lower central spines have tiny hooks that, in case you are wondering, stick in your fingers. The axils between the tubercles also have wool and bristles, but who can tell? 

Mammillaria senilis on 6-24-21, #803-20.

This is a very strange cactus. It has an issue of moving around a bit and sometimes its roots are not even in the potting soil. You can’t just pick it up, make a hole, and stuck it back in like other cactus. This one will stick to your fingers and gloves so when you try to let go, it won’t let go…

Mammillaria senilis on 8-17-21, #826-37.

The Mammillaria senilis is on the front porch with most of the succulents instead of the back porch in full sun. Most of the older cactus are on the back porch. I took the above photo on August 17 (2021) for a post about the plants on the front porch. I took measurements of most of them, but not this guy. I will have to do that…

This cactus will produce orange-red flowers at some point… Well, I hope they are that color but they can also be yellowish to white. Pink is rarer, which is a good thing. Mammillaria senilis has flowers that differ from other Mammillaria species and was once placed in the genus Mamilopsis all by itself. Well, the genus was created in 1923, especially for this species, but according to Plants of the World Online, Mamilopsis senilis is a synonym along with eight other names… 

Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa, and southern Zacatecas in Mexico.
Zones: USDA Zones 10a-11 (30 to 40° F/-1.1 to 4.5° C)
Size: Maybe up to 6-8” tall
Light: Light shade
Soil: Very well-draining. Good quality potting soil amended with pumice (50/50) or additional perlite and chicken grit (2-1-1).
Water: Water only when soil is dry during the growing period and basically non during the winter. This plant has a shallow root system and is rot prone…


The Mammillaria senilis died at some point… It seemed like every time I looked at this plant its roots were out of the soil. I would put it back in the soil and it would always stick to my fingers or gloves. It was weird. Then, the last time I went through the process its spines started breaking off so I decided it was definitely dead. It was a neat cactus, but the issue with it not staying in the soil and having it stick to my fingers all the time was an ordeal. If I purchase another one it will have to be MUCH bigger than 1″ wide with a better root system…

You can read my Cactus Talk & Update and Cactus & Succulent Tips to get my opinion about growing cacti and succulents.

When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cacti and succulents.

LLIFLE (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) says Mammillaria senilis is slow-growing and one of the more difficult of the Mammillarias to grow. The website says it needs a lot of light, but in areas, with intense heat and sun, it is best with afternoon shade. Information on other sites says it needs to be placed in light shade…

There isn’t that much online about this species except mainly from websites selling it. Maybe someday there will be more.

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. If you notice I made an error, please let me know. Of course, you can always send me an email at


Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.