M. carmenae is native to Mexico Northeast where the plant grows in pine forest, in crevices in north-facing rocks. It is a very rare cactus in danger of extinction in the wild.
M. carmenae is a small succulent belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The stem is spherical and solitary and it is made of small, conical, fleshy woolly tubercles. The plant can reach up to 10 cm in height and 5 cm in diameter. The stem is light green and is completely covered with gold to white, star-like short spines, borne on areoles. The radial spines are soft and feathery and cover all the plant making it white. The white layer of spines is useful to protect the plant from the sunlight and water loss. Blooming occurs from the late winter to the early spring and blossom are borne at the axil of tubercles and form a complete ring around the stem’s apex. The flowers are diurnal, funnel-shaped, small, sweet scented and creamy white with pink shades in color and with yellow stamens. The fruits are green, containing small black seeds. There are many hybrids between M. carmenae and M. laui that are very sought after by collectors.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The best sun-exposure is in bright place but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light in the hottest periods. The plant does not like temperatures below 5°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice soil, clay and soil. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering is very important for this species and should be done well: during the vegetative period you can water the plant (every 7 days), checking that the soil is completely dry before watering again; in winter you should stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. If you want a faster and lush growth you can fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents; stop fertilizing throughout the winter. You should repot the plant every 2 years in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam soil and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
The name of the genus come from the Latin word ‘Mammilla’ that means ‘teat’ or ‘nipple’. There are many hybrids of M. carmenae like “rubispina” with red spines and “albiflora” with white flowers.
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