Cochemiea (2010)

By Eric Driskill (June 2010)

Some say that Cochemiea is a subgenus of Mammillaria, despite it being raised to the level of genus in 1899 by Fredrick Walton. The name honors a tribe of Native Americans, the Cochimi, who once occupied part of Baja California. Britton and Rose accepted the genus and included four species in it. Anderson lists five species in his book.

The five species are all found in Baja California, as far north as El Aguajito and ranging over 500 miles south to near La Paz, with some species found on islands off the coast of Baja. The plants form clusters up to 7 feet wide. Stems can reach lengths of 3.5 feet and up to 3 inches in diameter. Central spines are hooked, while the radial spines are straight.

The bright flowers open during the day and are pollinated by hummingbirds. The flowers are narrow, tubular and red. Flowers of C. maritime resemble those of mammillarias. The other four species have flowers that are much more tubular, with some looking like those of Fouquieria mcdougalii or Aloe longistyle, with their red petals open at the end.

F. mcougalii flowers are also hummingbird-pollinated. Though A. longistyle grows far removed from these two plants, I am willing to bet that, with its long floral tube, it is also pollinated by hummingbirds.

In my opinion, C. poselgeri has the nicest blooms of the cochemieas. These aren’t particularly difficult cacti to grow nicely, and though they do clump with age, you won’t have to clear massive areas of space to accommodate a large clump of cochemiea for several more years.