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  Pediocactus despainii CACTUS ART

Cultivation and Mail Sale
of Cacti and Succulents.

Pediocactus despainii SB1014 Near San Rafael Swell,
Emory County, Utah, USA   TL
Outdoors in the rock garden - cultivated all year round without any sheltering.

Morphology (Identifying Characteristics):  It is a small cactus, typically unbranched, but during dry or cold weather the plants may not appear above ground at all. (in cultivation branching is quite common).
Subglobose to obovoid to turbinate, 3.8-6 × 3-9.5 cm; Can swell to up to 3.8-6 cm in diameter and 3-9.5 cm in height
Succulent and Fasciculate.
Areoles :
Circular to oval, villous to glabrate.
Spines: Smooth, relatively hard,  radial, 9-15 per areole, spreading, white, 2-6 mm. (rarely in old plants,  a small central spine of 4-8 mm).
Flower: Near the tip of the stem, 1.5-2.5 × 1.8-2.5 cm; scales and outer tepals minutely toothed to entire and undulate; outer tepals yellow-bronze to peach-bronze or pink with purple midstripes, 4-10 × 3-6 mm; inner tepals yellow-bronze to peach-bronze (rarely pink), 6-12 × 4-6 mm. Blossoming time: April and May.
Fruit: Green, drying reddish brown, turbinate.

Notes: This plant is a spring ephemeral  but can have - with a good environmental condition - a second short growing season in Autumn before the long winter rest . In the wild the species is easily overlooked except in the spring, when they are in bloom.

Flower buds stay dormant on the plant apex all the winter

Silky shining flowers, yellow bronze to peach bronze (rarely pink)

Hoar frost

Melting snow

Outdoor in the garden

Grafted on Echinopsis



A bench of Pediocactus despainii at CACTUS ART NURSERY - Flowering size plants.
 Flowering size plants Grafted on a frost hardy Opuntia compressa stock



Family: Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Scientific Name: Pediocactus despainii S.L. Welsh & S. Goodrich 1980

Type: Holotype deposited in the Herbarium of the Brigham Young University, collected around the San Rafael Swell, Utah, on May 5th,1978 by Despain. Paratype deposited in the Herbarium of the Brigham Young University, collected around the San Rafael Swell, Utah, on the 7.5.1979 by Neese & Thorne.
: Pediocactus despainii Welsh & Goodrich, Great Basin Naturalist, 40:83-86, 1980

Vernacular names:

  • San Rafael Cactus
  • Despain's pincushion cactus
  • Despain footcactus


  • Puebloa bradyi  ssp. winkleri var. despainii  (Welsh & Goodr.) A. Doweld 1999
  • Pediocactus simpsonii var. despainii
  • Pediocactus bradyi var. despainii  (Welsh & Goodr.) Hochst.
  • Pediocactus bradyi subsp.  despainii (Welsh & Goodr.) Hochstätter  1995

Distribution: This species is known in the wild from only two localities with a total of about 6000 individuals, it is endemic to Emory county in central Utah.
It grows on hilltops, benches, gentle slopes and desert pavements of cobble or pebble,  in open  pinyon-juniper woodlands and mixed semi-arid shrub-grassland communities in fine textured soils rich in calcium. At altitudes ranging from 1450 to 2080 meters ASL. The habitat of this species is vulnerable. In fact it is seriously threatened by over collection, surface disturbance from off-road vehicle use, humans trampling and cattle grazing. In addition part of the range of  this species is exposed to dangers from exploitation of oil, gas,  gypsum and other minerals.
Snow usually covers the plants during the coldest winter month.

Conservation status: This species was originally listed in Appendix II of CITES in 1975 and uplisted to Appendix I in 1983.

Etymology: The genus name "Pediocactus" derives from the Greek words “Pedion” meaning “plain/level” referring to the general habitat of the plant on the Great Plains, and the word “cactus” ( an old genus name) The genus name implies "Cactus of the plains"
The species name "despainii" derives from
the name of  the discoverers: K. Despain who discovered the plant in 1978.





Cultivation: Rot prone and difficult to grow on it's own roots in cultivation
Watering Needs: better and easier if grafted. It needs regular water in late winter, early spring (the short main growing season), and also in Autumn, when flower buds are produced and it starts growing again. The flowers buds stay dormant on the plant apex all winter
.  They will then open in spring when the temperature rises. To avoid any damage to the buds, don’t let grafted plants that stay in the heated greenhouse completely dry out. Some light watering in winter is useful for keeping the flower hydrated and healthy.

Frost Tolerance:  Winter hardy (to -25°)  the plants grafted on Opuntia are good for outdoor cultivation in raised beds, rock gardens, balconies, window sills etc..


Photo gallery: Alphabetical listing of Cactus and Succulent pictures published in this site.

Photo gallery PEDIOCACTUS


International winter hardy cactus test

In  the years 2003-4 over one hundred people experimented the cultivation outdoors of the P. despainii in various parts of the world.  CACTUS ART nursery sent free plants to all who agreed to join the winter test. The purpose of the test was to evaluate the resistance to frost, and the adaptability of this plant under different climatic conditions (from the United States to Russia, from China to the Europe) Here are some photos from the participants to the test:

Nr. 094  Török László  Hungary ~ Tatabánya
March 03 2004   Dear Valentino,
I had got the plants safe. I planted them. The photo shows it. Thank you.
For the moment the plants are in a unheated greenhouse, because the place in the open-air is not ready (because of the weather). The plants will be on their own place in this month. Best wishes ...László Török


April 2004 Dear Valentino!
Each of the plants overlived the winter. The smallest temperature was -22°C. The two Pediocactus blossom  now.
Best wishes: László Török

Nr. 036   Scott F. Smith Colorado ( U.S.A.) ~ Denver

September 02 2003:...the 3 cactus arrived safe and sound. Perfect shape. They arrived on August 29th 2003. I replanted them that very same day. The cactus were beautiful. Then it rained that very night. I was utterly amazed by that. More rain than we usually ever get. But our weather is back to normal again.

April 16 2004: Greetings from Denver Colorado USA. Just to let you know my Pediocactus despainii have now been blooming for two weeks. These are quite stunning. They have done so very well. Thank you. The coldest the temperature dropped to this year was -7 (F). (-21.6 C).

April 08 2005:
Valentino, greetings from Denver Colorado. Has been a beautiful week so far here. I have attached two photo's of the test cactus Pediocactus despainii for you. They are in full glory right now. Each plant now has 5-6 flowers. The others will bloom shortly.  Scott
Nr. 042/K A.C.Y.S. - Vicente Bueno Spain ~ Bétera (Valencia) 

September 22 2003 The winter test plants just repotted I send you the pictures of the received cactus. The ceramic gravels were retired after the picture and one of the
Pediocactus located in the greenhouse.

April 15 2005
Dear Valentino:

I send you two photos of  Pediocactus despainii after the last very hardy winter
(-15ş C for ten hours). Thanks for this beauty.

Vicent Bueno

Nr. 065  Yannick Gregorn  Celje ~ Slovenia

November 26 2003 I have received your cactuses. You will receive your pictures when it stops raining (I hope it will be soon), because I have planted them outside.
December 01 2003 Here are the pictures of your sample cactus, I planted them outside last week. I hope they will survive the winter.
Best regards   Yannick
February 15 2004 As you see the plants are still resisting, but I don't know what is happening with pediocactus despainii a brownish layer has covered some parts of cactus (as you see on the last picture). I hope everything is OK and this is just a result of cold weather if it is not please give me some instructions how to preserve the plant.
Minimum temp in January -15° C.

May 17 2004
Here is the picture of Pediocactus blooming.

Best regards

November 13 2004
I want to inform you that Sclerocactus and Pediocactus are still resisting except the snail had a small dinner

April 2005
I send you the last picture  of your Pediocactus despainii from  winter test:  they are both still alive and must inform you that the cactuses didn't have any protection during the winter and the lowest temperature in this winter was
 -25°C, (the previous winter  it was -15°C) and they weren't under snow cover. Thank you again for publishing my picture.

Best regards   Yannick

  Pieter Colpaerst (Belgium)

...In the hardy cacti bed between sedum acre and mosses...

Paul Davydov
(Ontario Canada)

...with a lot of frost and snow ahead...

Andrea B.

…in the balcony with the Bologna landscape…

  Valentin Posea

... immediately after a snowstorm... the temperatures get down in Bucharest till –15 C degrees...
Daquiang wang

...Shanghai has a delightful climate with four distinct seasons...
David Van Langen
(Texas USA)

..Here's the Pedio despainii  that is in the Lizard Pen....
Home | E-mail | Plant files | Mail Sale Catalogue | Links | Information | Search

All the information and photos in cactus art files are now available also in the new the Enciclopedia of Cacti. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.