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Escobaria organensis
(Organ Mountains pincushion cactus)

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



Family: Cactaceae

Scientific Name: Escobaria organensis (D.A. Zimmerman) Castetter, Pierce & Schwerin

Synonyms: Coryphantha organensis D.A. Zimmerman

Vernacular Name: Organ Mountains pincushion cactus

R-E-D Code: 2-1-3

Description: Stems solitary, growing in clumps, or commonly branched to form small dense clusters, the individual stems mostly 2-4 cm thick and to 15 cm long; tubercles on mature stems with upper surface bearing a groove; spines with a yellowish cast often reddish-brown at the tips, about 20-60 per areole, majority slender and bristle-like to about 10 mm long and spreading, approximately 30 percent thicker, and 1-2.5 cm long; flowers not opening widely, to 2 cm wide (usually smaller) and pale yellowish to pinkish or nearly white, usually with midribs darker, stigmas white to pink; fruit elongate, 1.5-2 cm long, green to somewhat reddish; seeds about 1 mm long, kidney-shaped with hilum lateral, pitted, brown. Flowers April and May.

Similar Species: Escobaria tuberculosa usually has more richly colored flowers that open widely, fruits that ripen bright red, and seeds that are smaller and rounder. The yellowish cast to the spines distinguishes Escobaria organensis from other members of the Escobaria sneedii Complex.


Distribution: New Mexico, Doņa Ana County, in northern Franklin and Organ mountains.

Habitat: On andesite, quartz-monzonite, and to a lesser extent rhyolite and limestone in broken mountainous terrain. Associated mostly with Chihuahuan desert scrub and open oak and piņon-juniper woodland; 1,350-2,600 m (4,400-8,530 ft).

Remarks: In Flora of North America, Volume 4 (2003), all taxa in the Escobaria sneedii Complex, which includes Escobaria organensis, 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. organensis to be a distinct entity. In discussions at the 2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council Meeting, Council members concluded that E. organensis 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. organensis is distinct as a whole, it may be difficult to assign some plants in the population to a specific taxon without the aid of geographic information. In particular, Escobaria organensis intergrades with E. sneedii var. sneedii in the northern Franklin Mountains. Escobaria organensis is also difficult to distinguish from E. sandbergii that occurs in the San Andres Mountains to the north.

Conservation Considerations: This species is common within its area of distribution. There are no known threats to populations at this time.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

*Castetter, E.F., P. Pierce and K.H. Schwerin. 1975. A reassessment of the genus Escobaria. Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 47:60-70.

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.

*Zimmerman, D.A. 1972. A new species of Coryphantha from New Mexico. Cactus and Succulent Journal (U.S.) 44(3):144.

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 organensisSoCE...S2G2


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