Uebelmannia pectinifera.jpg

Some of the longest spines among the columnar cacti, Stetsonia coryne, aptly named the "Toothpick Cactus"

     Spination is for many one of the most interesting features of plants in the Cactaceae Family. The endless variety is mind boggling to behold. From massively spined specimens such as the Stetsonia above to the fleathery plume like spines of Mammillaria plumosa, magnificence and beauty are to be found in almost every genera and species. Spines can come in all shapes, sizes and every color of the rainbow. Many times it is the dominate desirable feature of the plant.
     Spination likely evolved as a means of defense from grazing animals. Spines can also offer a defense from the searing sun especially those that have evolved almost hair like spines like some of the South American columnars. Many genera such as Ferocactus and Echinocactus are massively spined and animals give them a wide berth. Others such as some of the Gymnocaclyciums have spines that seem to encage the plant, protecting without being quite as offensive. But in some cacti the spination is harmless and seemingly more decorative. The spines of plants like Mammillaria theresae, Mammillaria plumosa and the like probably serve more for shade than anything else. Their harmless spination can offer no protection from foraging animals and can even be pleasant to the touch. In some cacti such as the Opuntias and especially the Cholla varieties, spination can also serves as an aid to reproduction. Animals brush by the fallen segments and they become temporarily stuck in their fur or flesh. Eventually the animal will work the segment free and deposit it farther away where it will often take root and become a completely new plant or colony.
     The images below were culled from many hundreds of photos in my collection. They are meant to illustrate the form, variety and colors of spination as well as some of the more unusual types of spines (in the miniature Mammilarias for example). I hope you enjoy :-)

Coryphantha elephantidens.jpg
The horned devil, Coryphantha elephantidens
Echinocactus ingens.jpg
Brutish, fierce and not to be messed with, Echinocactus ingens
Echinocereus dasyacanthus v. rectispinus.jpg
The ruby red growing tip of an Echinocereus dasyacanthus var. rectispinus
Echinocereus rigidissimus.jpg
Aptly named "Arizona Rainbow", Echinocereus rigidissimus
Ephithelantha micromeris.jpg
The beautiful spination of a golfball sized Ephithelantha micromeris
Ephithelantha micromeris2.jpg
A macro of a button sized specimen of Ephithelantha micromeris
Escobaria minima.jpg
Aptly named for it's small size, an Escobaria minima
Escobaria vivapara var. kaibabensis.jpg
Another beautiful dwarf cactus with tiny hard spines, Escobaria vivapara var. kaibabensis
Espostoa ritterii.jpg
The cottony growth of an Espostoa ritterii
Ferocactus latispinus.jpg
Beautiful but fierce, a gold spined Ferocactus latispinus
Ferocactus latispinus2.jpg
The normal red spined form of Ferocactus latispinus
Ferocactus macrodiscus.jpg
Like candy canes, the new growth spines of Ferocactus macrodiscus
Gymnocalycium denudatum.jpg
Aptly named "Spider Cactus", a Gymnocalycium denudatum
Gymnocalycium denudatum2.jpg
Another view of Gymnocalycium denudatum
Gymnocalycium euryplorum.jpg
The beautiful curly golden spines of Gymnocalycium euryplorum
Gymnocalycium hossei.jpg
A chocolate sculpture encaged in white bones, Gymnocalycium hossei
Gymnocalycium hossei2.jpg
A closer view of Gymnocalycium hossei
Gymnocalycium species nova.jpg
A forest of felt covered black tipped horns, Gymnocalycium species nova
Gymnocalycium unknown.jpg
Another gnarly cage around an unknown Gymnocalycium
Mammillaria gracilis.jpg
Impenetrable and beautiful Mammillaria gracilis
Mammillaria huitzilopochtli.jpg
The horned spiders of Mammillaria huitzilopochtli
Mammillaria humboldtii.jpg
Mammillaria humboldtii covered in snowflakes
Mammillaria luethyi.jpg
Only 1/8 inch across, the tassled spines of Mammillaria luethyi
Mammillaria parkinsonii.jpg
Tiny but hard and sharp, the spines of Mammillaria parkinsonii
Mammillaria plumosa.jpg
Aptly named for it's feathery spines, Mammillaria plumosa
Mammillaria saboae var .haudeana.jpg
The hard but harmless spines of Mammillaria saboae var .haudeana
Mammillaria schiedeana ssp schiedeana.jpg
Like little white spiders, the spines of Mammillaria schiedeana ssp. schiedeana
Mammillaria theresae.jpg
Mammillaria theresae covered in Sea Stars
Myrtillocactus geometrizans.jpg
New growth spines of a Myrtillocactus geometrizans
Oreocereus trollii.jpg
Another furry gold spined cactus, Oreocereus trollii
Stenocactus coptonogonus.jpg
Magnificent red spines on this Stenocactus coptonogonus
Stenocactus unknow.jpg
Rippling ribs and spines of an unknown Stenocactus
Stenocactus unknown2.jpg
Ribs and spines of another unknown Stenocactus
Sulcorebutia rauschii 'gold spined'.jpg
Purple bodied Rebutia rauschii, gold spined form
Tephrocactus articulata ssp papyracantha.jpg
The papery but stiff spines of a Tephrocactus articulata ssp. papyracantha
Thelocactus heterochromus.jpg
Grooved centrals on a Thelocactus heterochromus
Turbinocarpus valdezianus crest.jpg
Tiny lace doilies on a Turbinocarpus valdezianus crest
All images and text are copyright 2006-7 D.S. Franges, unless otherwise noted.