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Escobaria sneedii var. leei
(Lee's pincushion cactus)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Cactaceae

Scientific Name: Escobaria sneedii Britton & Rose var. leei (Rose ex Bdecker) D. Hunt

Synonyms: Escobaria leei Rose ex Bdecker; Coryphantha sneedii (Britton & Rose) A. Berger var. leei (Rose ex Bdecker) L. Benson

Vernacular Name: Lee's pincushion cactus

R-E-D Code: 3-3-3

Description: Stems forming small dense clusters, the individual stems mostly 1-2 cm thick and to 8 cm tall; tubercles on mature stems with upper surface grooved; spines about 30-90 per areole, typically white often brown at tip, fading to gray, slender and bristle-like, mostly about 1-2.5 mm long, radiating from areole and appressed against plant, sometimes with one to few short porrect centrals; flowers not opening widely, to 1.5 cm wide (usually smaller); tepals pale yellowish to pinkish or nearly white, usually with midribs darker; stigmas white to pink; fruit elongate, 1-1.5 cm long, green to somewhat reddish; seeds about 0.8 mm long, kidney-shaped, pitted, brown, with hilum lateral. Flowers in April.

Similar Species: The variety leei differs from other Escobaria in densely clumping habit, small stem size, and tightly pectinate spination.


Distribution: New Mexico, Eddy County, Guadalupe Mountains.

Habitat: Primarily cracks in limestone in areas of broken terrain and steep slopes of Chihuahuan desert scrub; 1,200-1,500 m (4,000-5,000 ft).

Remarks: In Flora of North America, Volume 4 (2003), all taxa in the Escobaria sneedii Complex, which includes Escobaria sneedii var. leei, have been submerged into a single highly variable species, Coryphantha sneedii, without recognition of subspecific taxa. The NMRPTC notes the subjectivity involved in taxonomic decisions within this complex and will continue to consider E. sneedii var. leei to be a distinct entity. In discussions at the 2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council Meeting, Council members concluded that E. sneedii var. leei represents a population of plants that is geographically defined and sufficiently distinct from other closely related populations that it deserves taxonomic recognition. Although the population of E. sneedii var. leei is distinct as a whole, it may be difficult to assign some plants to a specific taxon without detailed analysis because it intergrades with E. guadalupensis that is found at higher elevations toward the sourthern end of the Guadalupe Mountains (Baker and Johnson 2000). Some call these intermediate plants E. sneedii var. sneedii.

This is apparently a neotenic variety of the species in which juvenile spination is retained throughout the life of the plant.

Conservation Considerations: This species is common in its very restricted area of distribution. It is popular with collectors and has been subject to commercial collecting in the past, but is now propagated commercially on a large scale and is readily available.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Baker, M.A. and R.A. Johnson. 2000. Morphometric analysis of Escobaria sneedii var. sneedii, E. sneedii var. leei, and E. guadalupensis (Cactaceae). Systematic Botany 25(4):577-587.

*Benson, L. 1982. The cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

*Britton N.L. and J.N. Rose. 1923. The Cactaceae IV. Carnegie Institution, Washington D.C.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2003. Flora of North America, volume 4. Oxford University Press, New York.

*New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984. A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

*Weniger, D. 1970. Cacti of the Southwest. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Information Compiled By: David J. Ferguson, 1998; last updated 2006

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Escobaria sneedii var. leeiTE.T.S2?G2T2


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council