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FEROCACTUS cylindraceus ssp. cylindraceus

Image of Ferocactus cylindraceus ssp. cylindraceus

James H. Schutte



Botanical Name

FEROCACTUS cylindraceus ssp. cylindraceus

Plant Common Name

Barrel Cactus , California Fire Barrel Cactus

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

The desert barrel cactus is so densely covered in small and large spines on its vertical ribs that you'd never know the underlying green stem-trunk is photosynthesizing sunlight. This slow-growing, upright, succulent evergreen perennial occurs on gravelly or sandy soil across the American Desert Southwest and into Mexico's Sonora and Baja California. This species is often misleadingly and erroneously called the compass barrel cactus, as it's confused with another species from this same region.

The stem rib notches, called areoles, each hold 12 to 32 white-yellow, tan to reddish-pink spines. Mature plants typically reach over head high, with a perfectly straight, upright, pole-like habit. This species doesn't lean consistently like the so-called "compass" barrel cactus (F. wislizeni). Older plants produce a circle of showy, cupped, yellow flowers with dark red sepals (bud coverings). Rarely are the yellow flowers streaked with red or orange. Flowering occurs from early spring to fall, depending on climate and latitude. After pollination, bright yellow fruits develop. Fruits may be fleshy or leathery after they dry, with seeds inside.

This sun-loving cactus must have a well-drained soil. It is equally happy in the ground or in a pot. Give it occasional water in summer, and dry conditions in winter. An irrigation system is not a requirement in the landscape, however. Desert barrel cactus is valued as a tall specimen accent plant in a xeriscape rock garden or water-conservation landscape in regions that lack winter freezes. Aid species conservation by avoiding wild-collected plants.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    12 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    5'-9' / 1.5m - 2.7m

  • Width

    16"-32" / 40.6cm - 81.3cm

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    North America, Southwestern United States, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central America, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances


  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Red, Orange

  • Fruit Color


  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Houseplant, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing