Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Flowering Tornado Survivor

Mammillaria candida

Say hello to my old Snowball cactus.  I grew this from seed I obtained from Mesa Garden C&S nursery and the premier supplier of C&S seed in the U.S.

The seed was sown in the spring of 1987, making the old Snowball 26 years old.  It didn't start flowering until its 10th year but has flowered faithfully every year since, except for 2003, the year following the tornado.  Our home was hit with an F3 tornado on April 28, 2002.  I lost over 200 cacti and other
 succulents.  Fortunately, more than 100
plants survived, including the old Snowball.  The surviving plants had to spend a very sad winter of 2002-03 in a cold (not below frezzing) and relatively dark basement and very few of those, including the Snowball, had the strength to flower in 2003.  The photo at the right shows the side of our house after the tornado.  I had just moved a lot of plants outside and they were sitting on a plant stand next to the house.  I never found most of those.  The old Snowball was still inside the house and was knocked out of its pot, but otherwise undamaged.

Mammillaria candida is unique among the mammillarias in that it has seeds with a smooth surface while all other mamms have seeds with a reticulated surface.  In plant taxonomy seed structure, as well as flower and fruit structure, is considered important in that they are features less likely to be affected by environmental conditions, and thus displaying true genetically controlled characters.  Because of the different seed structure, Mammillaria candida was once named Mammilloydia candida, but now it's back in the genus Mammillaria

To maintain the tight spine cover, which is the main ornamental feature of this plant, it must have lots of direct sunlight, otherwise, it's relatively easy to grow, although slow.   The individual round stems, shown in the photo above, are approximately 8 to 10 cm in diameter.  All in all it's a very pretty cactus and of course, another old friend. 



  1. Gorgeous plant! Hard to believe you grew this from seed. Congratulations!

  2. Thanks Arid. "Hard to believe you grew this from seed."
    Well, somebody had to do it. :-) When I first started to seriously collect succulents in the mid to late 1970's I fell in love with the Mesa Garden Seed List. It was like a candy shop for me, and I never really thought much about having large specimen plants, and the time necessary to product them. I like the idea of my plants being totally mine from the beginning, seed to flower. I didn't want a nursery having a hand it in. I also didn't have a lot of disposable income at the time and growing from seed made sense. I haven't done a survey but my guess is that 70 percent of my specimen plants have been grown from seed. The oldest, which I haven't blogged about yet is a Copiapoa cinerea. The seed was planted in November 1979 - so that would be 34 years this fall. It's been great fun.

  3. 26 years, I love how cacti and succulents foster patience in their guardians!