Federal and State Listed Species of Texas:
Sneed's pincushion cactus

Distribution

Current

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Distribution map of Sneed's pincushion cactus (Escobaria sneedii var. sneedii).

Scientific Name
Escobaria sneedii var. sneedii
Other Scientific Names
Coryphantha sneedii, Mammillaria sneedii, Escobaria sneedii ssp. sneedii
Other Common Names
Sneed’s cory cactus, carpet foxtail cactus, Sneed’s carpet escobaria
Status
Federally and State Endangered
Global Rank
G2T2
State Rank
S2

Global Location

Sneed’s pincushion cactus grows in far western Texas in El Paso County and in adjacent southern New Mexico in Doña Ana County.

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Description

Sneed’s pincushion cactus is a succulent perennial that grows multi-branched stems (2.5-13.5 cm long) in clumps of up to 100+ stems. Usually only 3-5 stems are mature and cylindrical or club-shaped. The usually numerous immature stems are small and more or less round. The stem tissue has a visible coarse-grained texture. Stems have ridges that run more or less vertically and are divided into spine-tipped, cone-shaped projections. Spines arising from each of these projections are numerous and so dense and close to the stem that it is completely hidden. Straight, sharp spines arise from each tip. Some of the spines (radial spines) form a ring closely pressed against the stem somewhat like very closely arranged spokes of a bicycle wheel. Other spines (central spines) arise interior to the radial spines and point slightly outward from the radial spines. The shortest central spines are the most outward pointing. There are typically 24-46 white radial spines (3-12 mm long) and five to 24 central spines (usually 5-16.5 mm). Central spines are bright white with pink, lavender, or brown tips. Sneed’s pincushion cactus has whitish to pink to pale rose flowers, which are 1.1-2.5 cm long. The fruits are green, maturing to a brownish-pink color and 6.5-15.5 mm long. The seeds are 0.9-1.5 mm long and red- to orange brown.

Sneed's pincushion cactus grows clumps of up to 100+ stems. The typically bright white spines press close to the stem and point slightly outward, away from the stem.

Credit: Jackie Poole - Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

Sneed's pincushion cactus has straight, sharp spines, which are tightly clustered. The 24-46 white radial spines (34 in the illustration) arise exterior to the 5-24 bright white central spines (8 in the illustration).

Credit: Patrick Stark - Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

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Similar Species

A few cacti species can be confused with Sneed’s pincushion cactus. Cob cactus (Escobaria tuberculosa) has an assemblage of generally larger, but fewer (3-20, rarely 50+) stems that lack coarse-grained-textured tissue. The stems usually have several rows of spineless projections at their bases. Each spine-tipped projection usually has 6-8 central spines and 20-30 radial spines (none of which are as white as Sneed’s pincushion cactus). The slightly larger flowers (2-3 cm long) bloom in May in the late afternoon and produce bright red fruits with smaller seeds (0.8 mm long). Lee’s pincushion cactus (Escobaria sneedii var. leei) has more stems per cluster (to 250) and more spines (62-95) than Sneed’s pincushion cactus. Also, unlike Sneed’s pincushion cactus, Lee’s pincushion cactus spines bend back toward the stem. Guadalupe pincushion cactus (Escobaria guadalupensis) has fewer stems per cluster (usually 2-3) and few, if any, immature stems.

Cob cactus has fewer stems usually with several rows of spineless projections at its base. The spines are not as white as Sneed’s pincushion cactus.

Credit: Patrick Alexander

Guadalupe pincushion cactus has fewer stems per cluster (usually 2-3) than Sneed’s pincushion cactus.

Credit: Mike Powell - Sul Ross State University

Lee’s pincushion cactus has more stems per cluster and more spines than Sneed’s pincushion cactus. All of Lee’s pincushion cactus spines press close to the stem.

Credit: Robert Sivinski

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Floral Characters

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Leaf Characters

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Habitat

Sneed’s pincushion cactus occurs on exposed areas of steep, sloping limestone in the shrublands or grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Habitat of Sneed’s pincushion cactus.

Credit: Jackie Poole - Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

Life Cycle Events

Flowering can occur April to September, although most blooms open in April. The flowers open from mid-morning to noon. Fruiting follows in August to November.

Survey Season

As a succulent perennial, this cactus can be found year-round; however, it is more easily located and identified while in flower April to September.

Comments

More recent research of Sneed’s pincushion cactus, Lee’s pincushion cactus and Guadalupe pincushion cactus has found that biogeographic evidence supports the conclusion that the three cacti are remnants of larger populations that contracted when precipitation decreased in most of the region. However, the same study suggested that Sneed’s pincushion cactus is a hybrid of the other two cacti as the shape and structure was intermediate between the other two cacti (Baker and Johnson 2000). Further research will be required to tease out which theory is correct.