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Pediocactus nigrispinus

black-spine snowball cactus, Columbia Plateau cactus, dark-spine ball cactus, snowball cactus

Habit Plants typically branched.

depressed-ovoid to elongate-ovoid, 5–30 × 5–15 cm;

areoles oval, villous.


smooth, hard and rigid, distinguishable as radial and central;

radial spines 10–30 per areole, spreading at right angles to tubercles, nearly straight, white to dull reddish brown, 8–20 mm;

central spines 6–12 per areole, widely spreading or nearly erect, reddish brown to nearly black, rigid, straight or slightly curved, base yellow or cream, 15–35 mm, less than 1 mm diam. at base.


1–3.5 × 2.5–5 cm;

scales and outer tepals of flower tube minutely toothed, laciniate, or entire and undulate;

outer tepals with greenish brown midstripes, oblong-cuneate, 12–25 × 4.5–9 mm;

inner tepals white, pink, magenta, yellow, or yellow-green, 19–27 × 5–10 mm.


green tinged with red, drying reddish brown, short cylindric, 6–11 × 5–10 mm.


gray to black, 2–3 × 1.5–2 mm, papillate but not rugose.

Pediocactus nigrispinus

Phenology Flowering spring.
Habitat Great Basin desert scrub, sagebrush, grasslands, coniferous forests
Elevation 400-2000 m (1300-6600 ft)
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]

No known morphologic character supports the taxonomic recognition of infraspecific taxa within Pediocactus nigrispinus. Characteristics used to distinguish the three described subspecies almost completely overlap. Pediocactus nigrispinus has been referred to P. simpsonii var. robustior (J. M. Coulter) L. D. Benson, which remains well within the range of variation for P. simpsonii. An unpublished study by J. M. Porter et al. of noncoding chloroplast DNA sequences shows P. simpsonii is less closely related to P. nigripsinus than to P. knowltonii, P. winkleri, and P. despainii.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Source FNA vol. 4.
Parent taxa Cactaceae > subfam. Cactoideae > Pediocactus
Sibling taxa
P. bradyi, P. despainii, P. knowltonii, P. paradinei, P. peeblesianus, P. sileri, P. simpsonii, P. winkleri
Synonyms P. simpsonii var. nigrispinus, P. nigrispinus var. beastonii, P. nigrispinus subsp. beastonii, P. nigrispinus subsp. puebloensis
Name authority (Hochstätter) Hochstätter: Succulenta (Netherlands) 71: 99. (1992)
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