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.
©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
FNA 2003, Benson 1982, Allred and Ivey 2012, Breslin et al. 2015, Martin and Hutchins 1980
Common Name: spinystar Duration: Perennial Protected Status: No status in Arizona. General: Pincushion cactus with solitary stems, or clusters of up to 30 stems in older individuals; stems ovoid to cylindric, 3-20 cm high and 4-8 cm diameter; tubercles long and narrow, 3-25 cm long and 3-8 mm wide. Spines: Spines are dense, obscuring the stem; each areole has 10-40 radial spines and 4-14 cenetral spines; spines are 7-25 mm long, thin, very straight and sharp-pointed, and the radial spines radiate out like bicycle spokes and overlap the spines from neighboring areoles; spines are bright to ashy white with reddish or brownish tips and sometimes stripes. Flowers: Pale rose-pink to bright magenta, usually in clusters of several flowers around the tops of the stems; flowers 2-6 cm long and 2-7 cm wide; petals many, in several series; outer petals fringed and inner petals spreading and recurved (curled outward), sometimes with darker stripes down the center, or grading from a dark color near the center of the flower to a lighter color near the petal tips. Fruits: Fruits ovoid to obovoid, 12-28 mm high by 2-20 mm wide, juicy, green, and gradually maturing to a red or red-brown color; containing many seeds. Ecology: Found in a veriety of habitats and substrates, from 500-9,000 ft (152-2743 m); in the Southwest, usually found above 3,500 ft; 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 the long narrow tubercles (they appear to go very deep toward the center of the cactus that you cannot see the base of the tubercles); long, thin, straight spines, at least some of which usually have red or otherwise darker-colored tips; no hooked spines and no wool at the base of the spines; pink flowers which grow from the axils of the tubercles around the top of the cactus, but not out of the very center of the top. The species is widespread and variable, with several varieties. Look for it under the genus name Escobaria or Coryphantha. Flora of North America uses the name Coryphantha and does not recognize any varieties; Allred and Ivey (2012) do the same. 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. 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, AHazelton 2017