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Escobaria villardii
(Villard pincushion cactus)

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



Family: Cactaceae

Scientific Name: Escobaria villardii Castetter, Pierce & Schwerin

Synonyms: None

Vernacular Name: Villard 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 about 20-50 per areole, majority slender and bristle-like to about 10 mm long and spreading, typically white, yellowish or pale brownish and dark at tip, fading to gray, approximately 30 percent of the spines in each areole stouter, thicker, darkly pigmented, and 1-2 cm long; flowers not opening widely, to 2.5 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 in April.

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 markedly stout, rigid, and darkly pigmented central spines distinguish Escobaria villardii from other members of the Escobaria sneedii Complex.


Distribution: New Mexico, Otero and Doņa Ana counties; west slope of the Sacramento Mountains and northern Franklin Mountains.

Habitat: Loamy soils of desert grassland with Chihuahuan desert scrub on broad limestone benches in mountainous terrain; 1,370-2,000 m (4,500-6,500 ft).

Remarks: In Flora of North America, Volume 4 (2003), all taxa in the Escobaria sneedii Complex, which includes Escobaria villardii, 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. villardii to be a distinct entity. In discussions at the 2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council Meeting, Council members concluded that E. villardii 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. villardii 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. For example, the Doņa Ana County record of E. villardii occurs within the range of E. sneedii var. sneedii and needs corroboration by a vouchered specimen identified by an expert in the family, with notes on the variation in the population from which the specimen was taken. Populations of E. sneedii var. sneedii in Doņa Ana County are variable in spine length and coloration, perhaps because they are intergrading to E. organensis. Most, if not all populations of E. sneedii var. sneedii and var. leei contain a few individuals that lack small, clustered sterile stems (a characteristic of E. villardii). If such an individual with unusually long reddish spines were taken from a population of E. sneedii var. sneedii, it could be identified as E. villardii.

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. Reassessment of the genus Escobaria. Cactus and Succulent Journal (US) 47(2):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.

Sivinksi, R. 1995. Status report for Villard's pincushion cactus (Escobaria villardii). Submitted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, Albuquerque.

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
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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