Sneed Pincushion Cactus

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Sneed Pincushion Cactus

Coryphantha sneedii var. sneedii

ListedNovember 7, 1979
FamilyCactaceae (Cactus)
DescriptionPincushion cactus with densely clumped, cylindrical stems and brownish pink to pale pink flowers.
HabitatChihuahuan Desert; limestone ledges in desert grassland.
ThreatsCollectors, loss of habitat.
RangeNew Mexico, Texas


The Sneed pincushion cactus, Coryphantha sneedii var. sneedii, grows in clumps of as many as 100 or more cylindrical or spherical stems, 1-3 in (2.5-7.5 cm) long and 0.4-1.2 in (1-3 cm) in diameter. The central spines, 6-17 per areole, are white, tipped with pink or brown; radial spines, 35-90 per cluster, are white. Spines often grow nearly parallel to the stem.

Sneed cacti flower after about three years, usually in April. The brownish pink to pale rose flowers, 0.5 in (1.2 cm) wide, open at midday. Fruits develop from August to November and, when ripe, barely project beyond the tips of the spines. Ripe fruits have a prune-like odor and attract rodents, which serve to disperse the seeds.

This species has also been known as Escobaria sneedii and Mammillaria sneedii.


This cactus grows in cracks on cliffs or ledges in semi-desert grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert. These limestone outcrops support only sparse vegetation, such as low shrubs, some rosette-forming perennials, cacti, and herbs. Habitat elevation is between 3,900-7,700 ft (1,200-2,350 m); annual rainfall varies from 8-16 in (20-40 cm) per year.


Sneed pincushion cactus was once fairly widespread in the Franklin, Guadalupe, and Organ mountainsbetween Las Cruces and Carlsbad, New Mexico and south into Hudspeth, Culberson, and El Paso counties, Texas. Its range may well have extended into Mexico. It was first collected from Anthony Gap, Texas.

It is still locally abundant in the Franklin Mountains (El Paso County, Texas, and adjacent Dona Ana County, New Mexico), where nine populations are known. There are two smaller populations in the Organ Mountains north of El Paso (Dona Ana County, New Mexico); and nine in the Guadalupe Mountains (Hudspeth and Culberson counties, Texas). Another population was recently discovered at Carlsbad Caverns (Eddy County, New Mexico).

Seven populations are on private lands; other sites are in Lincoln National Forest, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. In 1986, the total population was estimated to be in excess of 10,000 plants.


Although not showy, some collectors prize the Sneed cactus for its unusual appearance, and it is systematically collected from the wild. Collectors visit privately owned sites on a regular basis. Population sites in the Franklin Mountains are accessible from the roads and, if located by collectors, could be depleted. Access to other localities is more difficult, affording a measure of natural protection.

Conservation and Recovery

Recovery will depend on enforcing existing prohibitions against collection and on increasing the number of plants on protected land. Several sites in the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Park are under federal protection. All populations are covered by the endangered species plant laws of New Mexico and Texas.

To reduce collection pressures, the Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan recommends that the cactus be cultivated and plants made available to the commercial trade. Nearly all cultivated plants produce viable fruit. The Forest Service has provided the New Mexico Nature Conservancy with nursery stock of Sneed pincushion cacti to transplant on protected land. The plant will be considered for reclassification as Threatened when at least three populations each have been established on the Guadalupe, Franklin, and southern Organ mountains and when the total number of plants on these federally owned sites reaches 20,000.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Endangered Species
P.O. Box 1306
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103


Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Heil, K. D. and S. Brack. 1985. "The Cacti of Carlsbad Caverns National Park." Cacti and Succulent Journal 57:127-134.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1986. "Sneed and Lee Pincushion Cacti (Coryphantha sneedii var. sneedii and Coryphantha sneedii var. leei ) Recovery Plan." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1987. "Endangered and Threatened Species of Arizona and New Mexico (with 1988 Addendum)." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque.

Weniger, D. 1970. Cacti of the Southwest. University of Texas Press, Austin and London.