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Pincushion cactus – edible wild plant – how to find, identify, prepare, and other uses for survival.

The sharp thorns of the Pincushion cactus

Pincushion cactus plant (Mammilaria species)

Pincushion cactus showing flowers and elongated red fruitThe Pincushion Cactus, also known as Nipple Cactus or Fishhook Cactus, are round, short, globe shaped to barrel-shaped, and without leaves. Sharp spines cover the entire plant. The roots are fibrous or fleshy.  They may grow to over 3 feet but most grow to about 6-8 inches in height by 4-6 inches in diameter.

The flowers are funnel-shaped and range from white and greenish to yellow, pink, or red in color (often with a darker mid-stripe).  The fruit is berry-like and usually red but can be white, yellow, or green.  The seeds are brown or black.

Where to find the Pincushion cactus plant in the wild

These cacti are found throughout much of the desert regions of the southwestern United States and parts of Central America including Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras.

These cacti are native to North America and can be found in various habitats such as deserts, grasslands, and woodlands.

In the United States, pincushion cactus plants are commonly found in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. They can also be found in other parts of the country such as California, Nevada, Utah, and Oklahoma.

Edible parts of the Pincushion cactus plant

They are a good source of water in the desert.  The fruits, which are typically red, elongated structures that look like little red peppers, are edible.

Other uses for the Pincushion cactus plant

Pincushion cactus plants have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The Native American tribes in the southwestern United States have used the plant to treat a variety of ailments such as wounds, fever, and stomach issues. The plant has anti-inflammatory properties and can also be used as a pain reliever.

Pincushion cactus plant picture identification guide

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