Hooked in beauty

“And the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers is always the first to be touch’d by the thorns.” -Thomas Moore

Mammillaria swinglei is one deadly beauty. A few days ago, I found a dead bird in its pot, still hooked with the plant. Though its funnel-like flowers are in-odorous, they are 3 cm wide and are quite attractive; their petals are white with pink stripes at the center. Its stems are without latex, about 10-25 cm tall, 3-5 cm in diameter, and dull green.

Its defense mechanism is composed of central and radial spines. Its 1 to 4 dark brown or black central spines are needle-like, the lowest one elongated (up to 1 1/2 cm long), hooked at apex or sometimes straight. In addition, its 11 to 18 radial spines are obscuring the tubercles; they are 7-14 mm long, needle-like rather stout, and are dull white with dark tips.


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