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Mammillaria matudae (Thumb Cactus)

Mammillaria matudae with flowers

The Mammillaria matudae, is a beautiful, ornamental cactus, very widespread throughout the world and flowering even more beautiful.

Natural plant of Mexico, of arid and desert zones, where it is distributed by the state and near the border with the state of Michoacán and Guerrero.

Mammillaria matudae  flower
Mammillaria matudae flower

They do well in areas of Arizona, and California.

It grows at altitudes between 700 and 1,250 meters above sea level and are generally areas of desert scrub.

Description of the Mammillaria matudae.

It is a cactus about 20 cm high and has a ball or globular shape. It is of slow growth, it grows very well in rocky areas and desert type gardens.

Also called the Big Toe cactus or cactus thumb .

The Mammillaria matudae, is a columnar cactus that extends basally, to form large groups.

The stem is quite orderly in youth and tends to recline as it lengthens, which gives older plants a characteristic habit.

Each head is surrounded by a complete ring, 2-3 flowers thick, magenta flowers with a star shape and generally only 2 to 5 cm, from the tip of the cactus growth.

There are great variations in the color of the thorns.
The stem is cylindrical, about 10 to 20 cm or more tall and up to 3 cm in diameter.

The leaves are persistent, like evergreens throughout the year. Does not require any pruning and presents the same color all year.

It has a radical system, with small roots, which facilitates the transplant . This cactus, it exudes latex when cut.


It has about 18 to 20 radial spines, only 2 to 3 mm long, the lower ones are longer, very cropped, pectinate and curved towards the body, white, translucent, with a yellowish base.

It has a central spine, pointing upwards, from white to almost black, turning brown or grayish with age and up to 5 mm long.

Flowers and fruit.

The flowers of the Mammillaria matudae, are small funnel-shaped and up to 12 millimeters in size and purple.

Mammillaria matudae  flower
Mammillaria matudae flower

The fruits are red with green dots of 12 millimeters in size. The seeds are light brown.

It is a species of free flowering and relatively fast growth. Exposure, in full sun and light shade. The best color and shape, is given with high lighting.

It is related to Mammillaria pilcayensis and Mammillaria spinosissima.

How to grow and care mammillaria matudae.

This cactus can not withstand very low temperatures. It does not bear temperatures below -4ºC. Better to avoid negative temperatures.

The matudae, it is better to cultivate it in not very cold environments and better in interior, although you can have it in both environments.


Because of the origin and habitat of this cactus, it can thrive in nutrient-poor, sandy and generally dry soils.

Mammillaria matudae in flower

Dry and arid soils have little water, so the risks must be constant. A porous cactus soil, with adequate drainage, is a good idea.

If we prepared a substrate culture, and not be like their conditions of origin, however i’ll be fine and will grow better.

The most appropriate will be to have neutral soils, with neutral pH, as are commercial preparations normally.


Water thoroughly, when the substrate is dry to the touch in summer, but do not water excessively and try to have a good drainage in the pot .

 Keep dry in winter.

Growth and propagation

Among the best tips for the growth of the Mammillaria matudae, is that they re-plan regularly.

Replanting will increase the number and size of the stems and increase the number of flowers produced.

Replant the matudae annually, until it reaches about 3 cm. in size, then every two or three years will be enough.

For replanting, it is best to do it at the end of winter, but it can also be done at another time.

Do not water for a couple of weeks after replanting, to reduce the risk of root rot through the broken roots.

In addition, it is important to keep growth as uniform as possible, since the long cylindrical body will easily show variations in growth conditions.

For the propagation of the Mammillaria matudae, we will make it from woody stem cuttings.

Let the cut surface become insensitive before replanting.

From the seed, always after the last frost, in spring. Collect the seeds, of the ripe fruits, which should be clean and dry.

Crystalline variety.

Something that makes the cactus so fascinating are the innumerable ways in which they are expressed throughout the year, according to the light, the season, the temperature, the soil and the hydration.

This occurs with the cristata varieties.

Mammillaria matudae cristata.
Mammillaria matudae cristata.

Crest forms generally occur when an injury to the plant occurs at an early age, for example, this damage may be due to insects eating the growing tip, or for many other causes, including a genetic predisposition.

As a reaction to the “injury”, the cells at the tip of the branch where growth occurs, begin to multiply at a much faster rate and the tip of normal growth “goes crazy”, creating spirals in the shape of a crest.

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