Named after the Californian cactus collector Ted Hutchison, Mammillaria hutchisoniana was first described in 1934. It grows in Baja California (Mexico) and is very widespread, occurring over a region of some 500km. It is a member of the Ancistracanthae series and, as such, presents some difficulty in cultivation. It needs a gritty compost; I use 1 part of John Innes to 1 part of horticultural grit. It will grow quite quickly to form clumps of tall stems (up to 15–20cm). It has white radial spines and several darker central spines, one or more of which is hooked, but its main attraction is its floral display – many cream flowers (2.5–3cm), the outer petals having a maroon mid-stripe, while the stigmas are green (Fig. 1). Although it will grow quite happily for a number of years it has, in my hands, a habit of dying quite suddenly for no apparent reason!
There is a sub-species which is even more tricky in cultivation. Mammillaria louisae was named after Ted Hutchison’s mother, Louisa, who discovered the taxon, so it is quite appropriate that David Hunt ‘re-united’ mother and son by reducing it to M. hutchisoniana subsp. louisae in 1997. It occurs in much more localised habitats within Baja California than the type species and is typically only found as small plants, so is probably short-lived in the wild. In my collection it is always short-lived! It is more globular than the type, only reaching 5cm in height at the most, but it has the most wondrous flowers (up to 4cm across) as seen in Fig. 2. The good news is that it appears to be self-fertile, with the seed long-lasting in viability, so I have regularly propagated it from seed over the years to ensure I still have plants in the collection.
If you are a Mammillaria enthusiast, and you like a challenge, then you should really add these two plants to your wants list.
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