Mammillaria polythele var. affinis
Mammillaria polythele subsp. durispina
Mammillaria polythele var. hexacantha
Mammillaria polythele var. latimamma
Mammillaria polythele is native to Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast and Mexico Southwest where the plant grows in xerophyllous shrubland and in oak forests and can spread up to 2400 m of altitude.
Mammillaria polythele is a perennial cactus belonging to the Cactaceae botanical family. The cactus has a solitary habit when young and forms cluster of offsets overtime and can reach up to 60 cm in height and 15 cm in diameter. The roots are fibrous ad swollen. The stem is cylindrical, made of tubercles grass green, arranged in 21 spiral axis. The tubercles are pyramidal-conical, prominent and bear the woolly areoles at the top. The areoles are small, white, in age becoming naked without axillary bristles, and bear the spines. The radial spines are absent1. The 3-4 central spines are spreading, dark brown to reddish brown, up to 2 cm long. Blooming occurs from during the summer and the blossoms are borne at the apex of the stem in a ring, forming a crown of flowers. The flowers are showy and beautiful, funnel-shaped, rose to pinkish purple with yellow stamens at the center of the tube. The fruits are club-shaped, dull red containing brownish seeds.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a bright exposure, indirect sun-light, this will help development of flower buds. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. Temperatures below 5 ° C can damage the plant so it is best to shelter it or place it in a cold greenhouse during the winter. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 10 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The best draining soil for this genus is made up of 33% fertile loam and 66% coarse sand. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. Irrigation is proportional to the size of the pot, the position and the season. In Spring and Autumn the plant can be watered with a glass of water every 7-10 days; in summer it can be watered every 3-5 days. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. The plant must be fed with a high potassium fertilizer in the summer. You can dilute the fertilizer twice a month in the irrigation water. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil; it is usually done every 3-4 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can use the offsets during the spring. Cut an offset and then let it 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. It is advisable to use rooting hormone at the base of the cut to energize root development. 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 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’ and refers to the numerous, nipple-shaped tubercles of their stem, that are the distinctive feature of this genus. The name of the species comes from the Greek and literally means “multiple tubercles”, in reference to the numerous protrusions from which this cactacea is formed.
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