Mammillaria matudae is a columnar cactus with a green conical-shaped stem that gives rise to many circular heads (offsprings) basally. The stem has one central spine on the top and approximately 20 radial spines. This young plant is quite tidy-looking and tends to bend down as it elongates with age.
This plant blooms star-like purple-pink flowers at the tip of its stem. The benefits of low maintenance and resistance to harsh conditions make this cactus a great houseplant. It has a dual advantage as it can be grown indoors and outdoors as well.
Because of the Mammillaria matudae shape, it is named as “Thumb cactus”.
The scientific name of this cactus is Mammillaria matudae Bravo.
Mammillaria matudae Classification
- Family: Cactaceae
- Subfamily: Cactoideae
- Tribe: Cacteae
- Genus: Mammillaria
About The Genus
There are 200 species of the genus Mammillaria. Most of the species are endemic to Mexico and the southwest United States. It is one of the largest genera of the family Cactaceae. These small succulent plants are mainly terrestrial. The commonly known plants include old women, thumb cactus, snowball cactus, lemon ball cactus, etc.
Origin and Distribution
In 1753, Botanist Carl Linnaeus discovered a cactus crowned with flowers. He named it Mammillaria matudae. This plant is endemic to Mexico, the Caribbean, and the southwest part of the US.
Features of the Mammillaria matudae
This cactus has a cylindrical stem covered with tubercles. The size of the foliage is 12-inches in length and 1.2-inch in diameter. These tubercles vary in shape and may exist as conical, pyramidal, cylindrical, or round.
There may be bristles-shaped or hair-like spikes on the tubercles. The radial spines are pectinate in shape and white with a yellow base. The pointed central spine at the tip of the cactus is reddish-brown. The radial spines are 2-3mm long and the central spine is 5mm long.
The plant produces 1.2mm long edible fruits that are red with a greenish tint.
This striking cactus blooms in spring with a complete ring of 2-3 flowers surrounding the tip of the stem. These star-like flowers are purple-pink and 1.2 cm long. The flowers give a halo effect as they grow on the axils of the tubercles of late year’s growth. Let the plant thrill in the winter to encourage flowering.
A Deciduous Plant
This cactus is a deciduous plant. It loses its leaves in the long periods of drought and winters. Firstly, the functional foliage turns yellow and brown due to the loss of chlorophyll and inhibition of nutritional intake. Eventually, the leaves dry out and shed off the plant.
The Mammillaria matudae is 8-inch long and 1.2-inch wide that looks beautiful in a small pot. This small and compact plant can be placed anywhere; at the corner of the room, office space table, gardens, etc.
It is a fast-growing cactus that attains its maximum height in a couple of months.
Mammillaria matudae cactus is a decade-lasting plant. Under the proper care, you can enjoy your adorable cactus for many years to come.
Although this cactus can withstand a varying degree of temperatures, this is not a frost-hardy plant. Move the plant indoors when the temperature falls below 30 Fahrenheit.
When it comes to maintaining the humidity levels of indoor plants, you don’t have to worry about the Mammillaria matudae as it also enjoys low humidity and dry climates.
When watered, the tubercles expand and store moisture. The presence of spines and lack of stomata allow a considerable amount of water storage as well. All the above features make this cactus a drought-resistant plant. These succulents can go days without water.
Disease and Pest Resistance
The plant is prone to the attack of Mealybugs and scales. These insects suck the juice out of the stem. They are hard to detect as they blend in with the color of foliage. Luckily, you can free your plant from these bugs by rubbing cotton dipped in alcohol.
Other disease-causing agents are fungi and bacteria. The increased frequency of watering causes fungal infection. It is best to cut off the fungal-affected parts of the plant to save the rest.
Luckily, it does not potentiate any harmful side effects if ingested mistakenly. It is a pet-friendly plant and even produces edible fruits.
Mammillaria matudae is good news for busy plant enthusiasts. It continues to grow even if you forget to take care of it for weeks. All this plant asks of you is less watering and more bright light. This low-maintenance plant is a gem for people with busy schedules.
This cactus stays dormant in winters. During this time, the plant can’t grow or produce any offspring.
Mammillaria matudae Care
Mammillaria matudae care involves:
- Watering: Mild and infrequent watering
- Sunlight: Bright indirect sun to partial shade
- Temperature: 21-27 °C
- Soil Type: Fast draining soil with ¾ of mineral grit
- Soil pH: Slightly acidic
- Humidity: 50%
- Fertilizer: High potassium cactus fertilizer or all-purpose fertilizer
- Repotting: Once a year
- Propagation: By offsets or seeds
Cactus Mammillaria matudae requires mild watering. You can water the plant once a week in the growing seasons of spring and summer and once a month in winters. Just like most of the cacti, this plant also stores a lot of water in the foliage resulting in long-term survival. However, this plant is not tolerant to excessive watering or long-standing water.
Water the plant once the soil is dry. You can mist thumb cactus in winters only to prevent root rot.
Thumb cactus thrives in bright indirect sun to partial shade. Keep the plant close to a south-facing window. It’s best to keep the plant outdoors except when the sunlight is too intense in the peak hours of the day as this may Scorch the leaves.
It can survive at varying temperatures in a hot climate. The ideal temperature requirement is 21-27 °C. Although this cactus is a temperature-resistant plant, temperature conditions above 33 °C can burn the plant.
As the Thumb cactus is not frost-hardy, keep the plant indoors in winters especially at freezing temperatures.
Use a fast-draining cactus soil mix for the plant to make sure that no water accumulates in the soil. For well-drainage, you can add ¾ of the mineral grit such as pumice and perlite to the potting mix and make big draining holes at the base of the pot. This pot dries out the soil quickly, thereby preventing root rot.
Well, the thumb cactus is a fan of slightly acidic pH. Usually, the soil pH is neutral. You can make the soil more acidic by slightly diluting the water with a few drops of vinegar. Mist the plant with this water once every week. Eventually, the soil will become more acidic. Avoid frequent misting as this may damage your plant.
Humidity Requirements of Mammillaria matudae
Unlike tropical plants, cactus thrive in low humidity. The ideal humidity level is 50%. If your plant is indoors, there is no need for a humidifier to increase the humidity levels.
The powder puff cactus is not very demanding about the nutritional requirements. You can add high potassium fertilizers or all-purpose fertilizer to the soil once every 4-8 weeks in the growing seasons of summer and spring.
For best results, fertilize the plant in May. If you have recently potted your plant, wait for a couple of months before you fertilize as the compost stays fresh for quite a while.
Seasonal Pruning Requirements
This easy-to-take care plant does not need any grooming and pruning.
Although Mammillaria is a fast-growing cactus, it still is a small plant. You can re-pot the plant after 2-3 years when it reaches the maximum height of 12 inches. Use a bigger pot as compared to the old one. Make sure the soil is dry before re-potting.
It is best to re-pot in the growing seasons of summer and spring. Avoid watering for at least a couple of weeks after re-potting. Keep the conditions uniform so that the plant grows in a regular cylindrical shape.
Mammillaria matudae Propagation
As the thumb cactus produces many offsets basally, you can treat those offsets as offsprings and propagate them.
- Gently remove the cactus with a thick paper
- Keep the offsets on the paper tower and wait for new callus to grow
- When the new callus becomes visible, move the offspring to a fresh potting mix.
- Keep the baby plant in a bright and warm spot
- Avoid watering until a couple of weeks.
Mammillaria matudae is a cylindrical cactus that is filled with spines and crowned with hot pink flowers. It is a low-maintenance plant and requires minimal care. Thumb cactus is an exotic cactus that will add a flair of beauty and cuteness to your space.