Plants usually unbranched or with age in some populations to 30 branches, most branches of largest clumps often immature, stems usually stiff and erect, smooth in immature plants to sparsely and coarsely needle-covered in adult plants. Roots ± diffuse, less than 1/4 of stem diam. Stems usually more than 1/2 above ground (sometimes deep-seated and flat-topped in winter, in cold climates and/or in immaturity), oblate, spheric, ovoid, obovoid, or cylindric with age, 2.5-20 × 3-11 cm; tubercles 8-25 × 3-8 mm, stiff or ± flaccid; areolar glands absent; parenchyma not mucilaginous (except possibly in far north); druses in pith and cortex present, some large, 0.7-1 mm diam., lenticular, usually conspicuous in old parts of stem; pith 1/5-2/3 of lesser stem diam.; medullary vascular system present. Spines 11-55 per areole; radial spines 10-40 per areole, weakly appressed or tightly appressed, pectinately arranged in subadults of some populations, either bright white, ashy white, pale tan, pale pinkish gray, or reddish brown (rarely stramineous), tips dark bright pinkish brown, reddish brown, dark brown, orange-brown, or pinkish orange on all or only largest spines (dark tips rarely absent), 7-22 × 0.08-0.6 mm; subcentral spines sometimes present in adaxial parts of clusters; central spines straight, snowy white, ashy white, reddish brown, sepia, purplish gray, pinkish gray, brownish red, pinkish brown, horn colored, pale tan, dark purplish brown, or stramineous, opaque or vitreous, fading, then blackening with age; outer central spines 3-14 per areole; inner central spines (0-)1(-4) per areole, appressed or strongly projecting, in 'bird´s-foot' arrangement or radiating like spokes, longest spines 9-25 × 0.2-0.7 mm. Flowers slightly subapical, 20-57 × 25-67(-90-) mm; outer tepals conspicuously fringed; inner tepals 21-56 per flower, usually spreading, recurved, pale rose-pink to reddish pink or magenta, sometimes with darker midstripes, sometimes shading to white or pale greenish, proximally magenta, often darkest distally, 15-35 × 1.3-6 mm; outer filaments magenta or basally white (rarely entirely white or greenish white), seldom contrasting with inner tepals and, if so, then paler; anthers bright dark yellow (rarely orange-yellow); stigma lobes 5-13, erect or ascending, white to magenta, 2.5-5.5 mm. Fruits green, exposed portions slowly turning dull brownish red, ovoid to obovoid Flowering spring-late summer (Apr-Aug); fruiting 2-5 months after flowering. Desert scrub to conifer forest, mostly low hills or mountaintops, diverse substrates; 200-2700 m; Alta., Man., Sask.; Ariz., Calif., Colo., Kans., Minn., Mont., Nebr., Nev., N.Mex., N.Dak., Okla., S.Dak., Tex., Utah, Wyo.; Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora). Coryphantha vivipara is the most widespread, abundant and variable member of the genus, but it is rare in Mexico. Reports of it from Oregon, Idaho, and northern Utah are incorrect (A. D. Zimmerman 1985). In the northwestern part of its range, Coryphantha vivipara may occur with Pediocactus simpsonii, which differs in seed color and texture, fruit dehiscence and succulence, and location of flowers/fruits on the plant; sterile material may be distinguished by spine and bract characteristics.
Coryphantha vivipara flowers are virtually identical to those of C. macromeris and Mammillaria wrightii; in the absence of vegetative material, flowers may be unidentifiable. Some unrelated species, such as C. echinus, vegetatively resemble C. vivipara, but those particular species usually have (1) some of the central spines slightly curved, (2) a few areolar glands present, or (3) no medullary vascular system. The large lenticular druses (to 1 mm wide) in the pith and cortex of C. vivipara are shared only with C. sneedii.
Stems solitary or in clumps, to 30 cm; tubercles elongate, 5-20 mm; areoles moderately woolly; central spines mostly 4, 1 pointing downward, 1-2 cm, red or basally white; radial spines 12-20, 1 cm, white; fls 4 cm, dark purplish-pink; fr green 1.2-2.5 cm; seeds brown, 1.5-2 mm; 2n=22. Dry, grassy plains; w. Minn. to Kans. and Okla., w. to Alta. and Ariz. May-Aug. (Mammillaria v.; Neomammillaria v.) Ours is var. vivipara.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
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FNA 2003, Benson 1982
Common Name: spinystar Duration: Perennial Protected Status: No status in Arizona. General: Unbranched or with up to 30 branches in older specimens, often in large, immature clumps, the stems stiff and erect, smooth in immature plants, to sparsely and coarsely needle covered in adult plants. The stems half above ground, ovoid to cylindric, 2.5-20 cm tall by 3-11 cm high, but this character varies with water availability. Spines: Areoles bear 11-55 spines with 10-40 radial spines per areole, these weakly appressed or tightly so, arranged like a comb in some, the spines bright to ashy white with reddish brown, dark tips, 7-22 mm long, the central spines straight, with 3 -14 outer ones and 1 inner per areole. Flowers: Slightly subapical, 1.5-2 cm long by 2 mm wide, with outer tepals conspicuously fringed with 21-56 inner tepals per flower, these usually spreading and recurved, pale pink to striking red and magenta, the tepals 15-35 mm long by 1-6 mm wide. The outer filaments magenta to basally white, while the anthers are dark yellow, with 5-13 lobes. Fruits: Green berry, turning red to dull brownish red, ovoid to obovoid, 12-28 mm by 7-20 mm, juicy and with a persistent floral remnant. Ecology: Found on a variety of substrates, and widespread from 500-9,000 ft (152-2743 m), flowers April-August. Distribution: Much of western N. Amer. from Alberta, CAN, south to CA, east to TX; south to c MEX. Notes: Distinguished by being mostly above the ground and erect; possessing tubercles and not ridges; spines 11-55/areole with no wool or hooked spines; and flowers arising from axils of tubercles and only on the stem apex. Very widespread and variable. While Tropicos and FNA refers to this species complex as Coryphantha, USDA Plants still refers to this genus as Escobaria. FNA refers to Alan Zimmerman-s 1985 dissertation on Coryphantha as its standard, given that Zimmerman wrote the treatment. This is likely a permanent name shift that folds all the varieties into this species description. In our region there are a number of rare varieties, including var bisbeeana, var. arizonica, and var. vivipara which are worth maintaining. Please note that we maintain them here. It is advisable to clarify which species are present either through collection or identification and subsequent photographic record. Ethnobotany: The fruit is eaten raw and boiled, and is useful in small amounts against diarrhea. Etymology: Coryphantha is from the Greek koryphe, for summit or crown, and anthos for flower, referring to the way the flowers crown the stem, while vivipara means bearing bulblets. Synonyms: Escobaria vivipara and others, see Tropicos Editor: SBuckley, LCrumbacher 2010, FSCoburn 2015