Ferocactus - Arizona Barrel, Barrel Cactus, Crow's Claws, Devil's Tongue, Fishhook Cactus, Giant Spined Barrel, Hatpin Cactus, Strawberry Cactus, Turk's Head
DESCRIPTION: This group consists of about 35 cacti found across the southwest U.S. and northern Mexico. They are excellent for growing in containers on patios and in greenhouses or as landscape plants. When young, they are usually globular shaped, though they eventually become columnar with age, some species gradually reaching a height of up to 13 feet. In the summer, large, bell- or funnel-shaped flowers are produced at the plant's crown. These are usually followed by sticky, yellow berries. These plants have a gland on the areole that secretes a sugary nectar in the summer and fall in order to attract pollinating ants. In humid conditions, this can cause sooty mold to form. To prevent this, spray off the plant with water to remove the nectar. F. cylindraceus (Compass Barrel Cactus; Fire Barrel) is a pretty species that can grow up to 10 feet high with a spread of 3 feet. In the wild, this cactus becomes columnar though in cultivation it remains barrel-shaped. It is covered in long, hooked spines, which are brilliant red at the crown. It bears bell-shaped yellow or orange flowers. F. latispinus (Crow's Claw; Devil's Tongue Cactus) forms a globular or flat-topped, globular plant covered with red or yellow spines. With age, the spines become flat and lie against the body. In the spring or fall, cream- to purple-colored flowers are borne. This plant grows up to 10 inches high with a spread of 15 inches. F. glaucescens (Blue Barrel Cactus) has a blue-green body covered with straight, light yellow spines. It produces yellow flowers.
POTTING: Most species grow best in a fairly roomy, well-drained container filled with a porous compost that doesn't contain too much humus. They require a minimum temperature of 41º F. Many of these plants can survive hot sun and frost, though F. macrodiscus and F. robustus cannot.
PROPAGATION: These cacti will easily grow from seeds and some from cuttings. Seeds can be sown in the spring or summer in well-drained pots of sandy soil that are half-filled with crocks. Make sure the surface is evenly smooth and sow the seeds thinly on top. Cover them with a bit of fine soil. Moisten and lay a piece of glass across the top. The pots should be set in a warm greenhouse or sunny window until they start to sprout after which the glass should be removed so they can receive full light and air. It isn't good to keep the glass over the seedlings, so if some of them are up before others, they may be pricked out and placed in another pot. The transplanted seedlings should not be disturbed until they are well rooted after which they can be planted separately in small pots. Cuttings made from pieces of the stem of any size can be detached and laid aside for a few hours to allow a protective "skin" to form over the cut. They can then be planted in pots of sand or very sandy soil. Place them in a spot where they'll receive sun and do not water until the soil becomes fairly dry. After a while the soil can be moistened regularly but never kept constantly saturated.
VARIETIES: F. echidne; F. glaucescens (Blue Barrel Cactus); F. macrodiscus; F. acanthodes (Fire Barrel); F. covillei (Fishhook Cactus); F. hamatacanthus (Turk's Head); F. latispinus (Devil's Tongue Cactus; Crow's Claw); F. rectispinus (Hatpin Cactus; Giant Spined Barrel); F. setispinus (Strawberry Cactus); F. wislizenii (Arizona Barrel; Candy Barrel Cactus; Fishhook Cactus); F. cylindraceus (Compass Barrel Cactus; Fire Barrel); F.herrerae; F. pilosus; F. robustus; F. viridescens.
Go see DICTIONARY OF BOTANICAL NAMES.
Back to our botanical home page.