Mammillaria tetrancistra

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Mammillaria tetrancistra Blooming In The Anza-Borrego Desert
   © W.P. Armstrong 19 July 2012     Mammillaria dioica In April       Another Wildflower Of Late Summer  
The fish-hook cactus called "Yaqui Mammillaria" (Mammillaria tetrancistra) is one of the most spectacular wildflowers of the southwestern United States. Its blossoms are not commonly seen by most wildflower lovers because it has a very different flowering cycle compared with most other wildflowers of California. It typically blooms about five days following the monsoonal rain showers of mid summer and early fall. In fact, it often blooms during the hottest months of the year, long after most other desert wildflowers have bloomed and gone to seed. The following image shows a plant with its bright red nipple-like fruits. I took the picture in March 1968, 44 years ago. This is how long I have been botanizing this region without ever seeing this species in flower. It typically has several hooked spines in the center of each areole. The other species of fish-hook cactus in California (M. dioica) blooms during the spring months and has a single hooked spine per areole. Special thanks to naturalist Karyn Sauber for showing me where this remarkable cactus was blooming.

Summer Monsoonal Rain Season In San Diego County July-August 2012

Massive cumulonimbus clouds over eastern San Diego County during the summer monsoonal rain season.
Image taken during August 2012 from Owens Peak (Palomar "P") northeast of Palomar College campus.

Considering all the prerequisites for flowering, the window of opportunity for photographing Mammillaria tetrancistra at its optimal blooming time is relatively short. Even if you have GPS coordinates for this species, monsoonal showers are often very local. Plants in a given area might not have flowers after five days because they didn't get rainfall. In the following images, the flowers were fully opened by late morning, but during the blistering daytime heat, they began to deteriorate by mid afternoon.

Sony T-9 and Nikon D-40x with 60mm macro lens & SB-400 flash. Most images taken of shaded plants with flash.

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Mammillaria tetrancistra also appears on two single-page Wayne's Word calendars available through CafePress.

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Massive cumulonimbus clouds over eastern San Diego County during the summer monsoonal rain season.

19 July 2012: 10:00 A.M. 6 days following a 20 minute downpour.

1. Sony T9 (Flash)
Flowering Mammillaria tetrancistra and a young barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) at the base of a Krameria.

2. Sony T9 (Flash)

3. Sony T9 (Flash)

4. D-40x Aperture Priority F22 (No Flash)

5. D-40x Aperture Priority F22 (Flash)

6. D-40x Aperture Priority F22 (Flash)

7. D-40x Program Mode (Flash)

Close-up view of single flower. Sony T9 (Flash)

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