CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Coryphantha ramillosa

Kathy Rice

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Coryphantha ramillosa

Common Name: 
bunched cory cactus
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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 Fish & WildLife

Coryphantha ramillosaenlarge
Photographer: Kathy Rice

Coryphantha ramillosaenlarge
Photographer: Kathy Rice

Coryphantha ramillosa is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Kathleen C. Rice contributed to this Plant Profile.

Coryphantha ramillosa

C. ramillosa is a small, multiheaded cactus with slender spines that curve in all directions. Flowers are pale pink to deep rose, and fruits are green and juicy at maturity. It was officially listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November 1979.

Five new sites recently accessed on privately owned land south of Sanderson, Texas suggest that plant populations may extend even further east than previously believed. Additional documentation of the range of this species is needed.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Coryphantha ramillosa
  The plant community may be described as a xeromorphic (desert) shrubland dominated by Larrea tridentata and Agave lechuguilla, and many cactus species (Hernandez and Barcenas 1995). Two interesting cacti of note at the Big Bend National Park site are Opuntia aurespina and Opuntia imbricata var. argentea.

  Coryphantha ramillosa is restricted to the Bouquillas and Santa Elena limestone formation and is distributed along cracks in rock ledges at edges of canyons and on hilltops (USFWS 1979, 1986).

Number Left
  Plants may possibly be more common than previously thought in Big Bend and Blackgap (in remote areas), with ca. 5,000-10,000 plants in Brewster and Terrell Counties (Schmalzel et al .1999).


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Mexico *FR83 8/26/1988  
  Texas S2 T 4/28/1987  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  Ecological relationships are unknown.

  Small population numbers, patchy distribution, restricted habitat, and collection are the primary threats (USFWS 1986).
Grazing by cattle, sheep, or goats does not influence distribution of Coryphantha ramillosa, since it is found mainly in inaccessible areas (Schmalzel et al. 1999)

Current Research Summary
  The Garden has a grant agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor Coryphantha ramillosa in Big Bend National Park, collect seeds, and document new locations (if any). Two permanent transects are now established, and heights and diameters of plants in the study area are measured. Growth rates are estimated by painting the tips of apical spines and noting location of marked spines as plants increased in size. Reproductive capacity is assessed by counting flowers and fruits per plant, and numbers of seeds per fruit. Of the few Coryphantha and Escobaria species for which there are data on reproduction, Coryphantha ramillosa appears to produce the fewest fruits. This observation is based on only a few years of data and does not necessarily indicate a trend. In 1997, the mean number of fruits per reproductive plant was 1.32, with a mean number of 198 seeds per fruit. Long-term monitoring of Coryphantha ramillosa may be required to identify a link between growth or size with fruit production. The link between size and reproduction may not exist (Anderson 1998).

Current Management Summary
  Management of the lands on which C. ramillosa occurs is variable (Schmalzel et al. 1999). One population documented in Big Bend National Park is located at a much-visited archaeological site, and is highly subject to human trampling. This site has two permanent monitoring transects.

The new sites are located on privately owned land located near Sanderson, Texas. The land is currently being grazed by goats, as little forage remains for cattle and sheep previously occupying the same land. Most of the new occurrences were documented along the north side of the Rio Grande, within a 3-mile range of the river. Plants were located in situations that were well-protected from grazing animals, and not subject to erosion, as they were between cracks in rocks.

Research Management Needs
  Established transects will continue to be monitored in the future. Insect-plant relationships, reproductive trends and continued documentation of distribution will be investigated in future years. Soils, associated vegetation, and microhabitat conditions are also being analyzed in an attempt to find common factors between documented sites.

Ex Situ Needs
  Germination tests were conducted on 15 May 1997 on seeds collected in Big Bend National Park in 1996 to determine initial viability. Seventy seeds were placed on a sterilized perlite media in a germination box. Seeds were subjected to a diurnal temperature regimen of 20C nights and 30C days, with 16 hours of light per day. The humidity was set at 60%. The seeds began to germinate within 5 days. Sixty-three of the seventy germinated, yielding a final germination percentage of 90% after 20 days. Germination tests are conducted every five years on each seed accession to determine if recollection is necessary.
The collection of Coryphantha ramillosa at Desert Botanical Garden consists of 16,331 field collected seeds, 7 plants, and 1,483 seeds produced in cultivation. During 1997, seeds were collected from five new sites on privately owned land south of Sanderson, Texas in Terrell County. Seeds were cleaned, desiccated at 27% relative humidity, counted, sealed into airtight foil packets, and stored at -20C. This desiccation and freezing process under very controlled conditions is a means of extending longevity of seeds by slowing the metabolic processes taking place inside seeds. Under normal storage conditions, seeds of most cacti remain viable for only a few years, while this storage method can potentially prolong the life of seeds for decades. A portion of each seedlot was shipped to the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado as a back-up to the collection at Desert Botanical Garden.
Another germination test was initiated 6 February 1998 to test seeds collected in Big Bend National Park in 1995 and stored frozen. Thirty seeds were placed on Turflite, a sterile, clay-like media, under the same environmental conditions as the May 15 test. The clay-like media, Turface Quick-dry, was substituted for the perlite used in the previous experiment because the small cactus seeds migrated down into the perlite and were not easily relocated, and the clay-like texture more closely approximated the texture of native soil of Coryphantha ramillosa.
Subsequent tests completed in a media used to dry playing field surfaces, a heat-treated clay, were easier to count and transplant into native-type soil. Currently the Garden has ca. 300 plants in various stages of development, to be used to produce seeds in cultivation.


Books (Single Authors)

Benson, L. 1982. The Cacti of the United States and Canada. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. 1044p.

Correll, D.S.; Johnston, M.C. 1970. Manual of the vascular plants of Texas. Renner: Texas Research Foundation. 1881p.

Kartesz, J.T. 1993. Species distribution data for vascular plants of 70 geographical areas, from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Kearney, T.H.; Peebles, R.H. 1973. Arizona flora. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085p.

Poole, J.M.; Riskind, D.H. 1987. Endangered, threatened, or protected native plants of Texas. Austin, TX: Texas Parks Wildlife Department.

Warnock, B.H. 1970. Wildflowers of the Big Bend Country, Texas. Alpine, Texas: Sul Ross State Univ. 157p.

Weniger, D. 1984. Cacti of Texas and neighboring states: a field guide. Austin: University of Texas Press. 356p.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Electronic Sources

(2000). Center for Plant Conservation's National Living Collection--Profiles. Desert Botanical Garden. http://www.dbg.org/Collections/cpc.html. Accessed: 2002.

(2002). Botany: Investigator's Annual Reports. The National Park Service: Big Bend National Park. http://www.nps.gov/bibe/iar/botany.htm. Accessed: 2002.

(2002). Conserving Native Species in Brewster County. Texas Department of Agriculture. http://www.agr.state.tx.us/pesticide/endangered/pes_brewster1.htm. Accessed: 2002.

(2002). Texas Threatened and Endangered Plants--Profiles. Texas Parks and Wildlife. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/endang/plants/index.htm. Accessed: 2002.

ESIS. (1998). Endangered Species System (ESIS): Fish and Wildlife Exchange. [Web site;] Virginia Tech. http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/WWW/esis/. Accessed: 2002.

USFWS. (2002). U.S. Plant Profiles. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Affairs. http://international.fws.gov/animals/plantpro.html. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Hernandez, H.M.; Bercenas, R.T. 1995. Endangered Cacti of the Chihuahuan Desert: I. Distribution patterns. Conservation Biology. 9, 5: 1176-1188.

Rice, K. 2000. North America's Deserts: Treasure Troves of Endemism. World Conservation.

Rice, K. 2002. The Search for Coryphantha ramillosa. Endangered Species Bulletin. 27, 3: 20-21.

USFWS. 1976. Proposed Endangered Status for 1700 U.S. Plants. Federal Register. 41: 24523-24572.

USFWS. 1979. Determination that Coryphantha ramillosa and Nelloydia mariposensis are Threatened Species. Federal Register. 44, 216: 64247.

USFWS. 1979. Service Lists 32 Plants. Endangered Species Technical Bulletin. 4, 11: 1, 5-8.


Anderson, E.F. 1998. First Annual Report. Study of the Bunched Cory Cactus (Coryphantha ramillosa). Phoenix, Arizona: Prepared for USDI Fish and Wildlife Service by Desert Botanical Garden.

Heil, K.D.; Brack, S.; Porter, J.M. 1985. The rare and sensitive cacti of Big Bend National Park. Big Bend National Park, Texas. p.41.

Schmalzel, R.J.; Anderson, E.F.; Rice, K.; Quirk, P. 1999. Final Report. Study of the Bunched Cory Cactus (Coryphantha ramillosa). Phoenix, Arizona: Prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Desert Botanical Garden.

USFWS. 1990. Bunched cory cactus (Coryphantha ramillosa) recovery plan. Albuquerque, New Mexico: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.49.

Weniger, D. 1979. Status report on Corphantha ramillosa. Albuquerque, New Mexico: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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