Ferocactus is a barrel-shaped cactus that has tiny flowers and large spines. They have shallow roots and flowers that are multicolored. They are used widely as houseplants because they are incredibly gorgeous to look at. They are also known as the ‘traveler’s friend’ and in fact, a lot of desert art has been inspired by their shape and form.
- 1 How to Grow and Care For Ferocactus
- 2 How to Propagate Ferocactus
- 3 Types of Ferocactus Cacti
- 3.1 Ferocactus alamosanus (Alamos Barrel Cactus)
- 3.2 Ferocactus chrysacanthus
- 3.3 Ferocactus chrysacanthus ssp. grandiflorus
- 3.4 Ferocactus cylindraceus (California Barrel Cactus)
- 3.5 Ferocactus cylindraceus ssp. lecontei
- 3.6 Ferocactus diguetii (Santa Catalina Barrel Cactus)
- 3.7 Ferocactus echidne
- 3.8 Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis
- 3.9 Ferocactus emoryi (Emory’s Barrel Cactus)
- 3.10 Ferocactus emoryi ssp. rectispinus
- 3.11 Ferocactus flavovirens
- 3.12 Ferocactus fordii (Ford Barrel Cactus)
- 3.13 Ferocactus fordii ssp. borealis
- 3.14 Ferocactus gracilis (Fire Barrel Cactus)
- 3.15 Ferocactus gracilis ssp. coloratus
- 3.16 Ferocactus gracilis ssp. gatesii
- 3.17 Ferocactus gracilis ssp. tortulispinus
- 3.18 Ferocactus hamatacanthus (Turk’s head)
- 3.19 Ferocactus herrerae
- 3.20 Ferocactus histrix
- 3.21 Ferocactus latispinus (Devil’s Tongue Barrel Cactus)
- 3.22 Ferocactus macrodiscus
- 3.23 Ferocactus macrodiscus ssp. septentrionalis
- 3.24 Ferocactus peninsulae
- 3.25 Ferocactus peninsulae ssp. viscainensis
- 3.26 Ferocactus pilosus
- 3.27 Ferocactus pottsii
- 3.28 Ferocactus recurvus
- 3.29 Ferocactus recurvus ssp. greenwoodii
- 3.30 Ferocactus recurvus ssp. spiralis
- 3.31 Ferocactus reppenhagenii
- 3.32 Ferocactus robustus
- 3.33 Ferocactus santa-maria
- 3.34 Ferocactus schwarzii
- 3.35 Ferocactus stainesii
- 3.36 Ferocactus tiburonensis
- 3.37 Ferocactus townsendianus
- 3.38 Ferocactus townsendianus var. townsendianus
- 3.39 Ferocactus viridescens (San Diego Barrel Cactus)
- 3.40 Ferocactus viridescens ssp. littoralis
- 3.41 Ferocactus viridescens ssp. viridescens
- 3.42 Ferocactus viscainensis
- 3.43 Ferocactus wislizeni (Fishhook Barrel Cactus)
- 3.44 Ferocactus wislizeni ssp. ajoensis
- 4 FAQs
How to Grow and Care For Ferocactus
In addition to being gorgeous, these plants have a long shelf life. Sometimes, they can even last more than a century. They are usually between 2 and 10 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide. A young Ferocactus is usually globular in shape and as it grows old, it takes cylindrical proportions.
If you also love the shape and size of this cactus and want to bring it home, invest in learning more about the Ferocactus because that will enable you to care for it well and keep it happy in the long run.
Ferocactus loves its time in the sun. You would need to ensure a steady supply of sunlight for the cactus because it will not thrive otherwise. Though the partial shade is not life-threatening, you need to keep the rest of its environment warm.
During the winter months, when there is no sunlight, you would have to make alternate arrangements such as grow lights while also protecting the plant from frost and mist.
A young Ferocactus will need a little more water and care as opposed to an old plant. Ferocactus, in general, does not require a lot of water. Thanks to the shape of its leaves, the cactus is efficient in storing water and can go on for prolonged periods sans any addition.
Water them regularly during the growing season i.e. between spring and fall. In the winter months when the temperatures are falling, its watering needs reduce drastically.
As a rule of thumb, you should only water the plant when the topsoil layer has completely dried out. Otherwise, the soil may get soggy and too moist and this can be harmful to Ferocactus.
Well-drained soil is the best companion of the Ferocactus. The container you are planting it in should have ample drainage holes at the bottom to allow water to pass. Regular cacti mix should work well for this and if you want to create your soil, take 45% pumice, 40-45% compost and sand together to make a healthy potting mix.
While you are at it, you could also add some decomposed granite and pebbles around the pot to mimic its natural habitat. It is also pleasing to the eye.
Since it is a desert cactus, Ferocactus enjoys dry, arid climates. It is frost-sensitive and doesn’t take well to cold temperatures. In short, if you want to bring this home, you need to create desert-like conditions for it to thrive.
Ferocactus grows well in areas that aren’t very fertile and are low on nutrients. This makes it desirable because there ain’t a lot of maintenance required.
This means there aren’t aggressive fertilizer needs that you need to meet should you get this cactus home. However, you can go for one cycle of fertilizing before the growing season to aid its growth. A fertilizer that is low in hydrogen once a year will work just fine.
How to Propagate Ferocactus
Propagating Ferocactus is fairly easy. Once you have done the hard work, you can simply sit back and relax because Ferocactus doesn’t have a lot of maintenance needs.
- Step 1: Prepare the soil at home by taking sand, perlite and compost so that the soil is well-draining. Alternatively, you can even go with a cacti potting mix. Add a very small amount of fertilizer but don’t go overboard.
- Step 2: Take a small cutting from the main stem and place it in the potting mix.
- Step 3: Keep the soil moist and let the Ferocactus grow. You will need to be patient because these are slow-growing cacti.
Once you have propagated the cuttings, do not water the container for at least a week or two. This is to give the cactus a near-native growing environment. Also, do not expose the container to harsh sunlight at the very outset. Partial shade or bright (not scorching) sunlight is ideal.
Sometimes people also propagate it with seeds but cuttings work better.
Types of Ferocactus Cacti
Ferocactus alamosanus (Alamos Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus alamosanus is small barrel cactus, usually solitary but sometimes clumping.
Ferocactus chrysacanthus is a small-sized solitary or rarely cespitose barrel cactus with up to 6 heads. The plant is very densely spined (one of the spiniest of the Ferocacti) and because of that, will tolerate full sun.
Ferocactus chrysacanthus ssp. grandiflorus
This subspecies has red or red-orange flowers.
Ferocactus cylindraceus (California Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus cylindraceus is a colorful barrel cactus usually unbranched, forming a single moderately tall column. Four subspecies are recognized, the nominate form, subsp. eastwoodiae (L.D.Benson) N.P.Taylor, subsp. lecontei (Engelm.) N.P.Taylor and subsp. tortulispinus (Gates) N.P.Taylor.
Ferocactus cylindraceus ssp. lecontei
Ferocactus lecontei along with Ferocactus tortulispinus, and Ferocactus rostii is one of the old controversial geographical forms of the variable Ferocactus cylindraceus. The plant is usually unbranched forming a single column up to 2 m tall and 30 cm in diameter. The ribs are 2.5 cm high and tuberculate.
Ferocactus acanthodes is differentiated between variety lecontei with an untwisted, non-hooked central spine 5-7 cm in length, often closely pressed to the stem, and variety acanthodes with a central spine 7-15 cm in length. The former grows at higher elevations 700-1500 m in elevation, while the latter usually inhabits the 50-700 m elevational range.
However, it looks very similar to other varieties of Ferocactus cylindraceus which are linked to each other by populations of plants with intermediate characteristics. Nowadays all of them are thought to belong to a unique polymorphic species.
Such variations have led to the establishment of several unnecessary names for this species. Ferocactus lecontei shows a large range of variability in spine color (whitish-grey, yellow, pink, reddish, purplish or brown). Some plants have long, strong central spines while other have shorter. The variability in spination of plants from different populations and within the same population too may be considerable.
Ferocactus diguetii (Santa Catalina Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus diguetii is a spectacular cactus that grows up to 4 m tall. It is among the largest species of column-like cacti, usually unbranched, forming a solitary column. The plants from from Santa catalina are probably the largest and most spectacular Ferocactus.
Ferocactus echidne is a medium-sized barrel cactus usually unbranched, sometimes many-stemmed when adult. There are two variations, Ferocactus echidne var. echidne and Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis G.Unger, but these are not accepted by Hunt et al. (2006). There is a need for taxonomic clarification, as the species is also sometimes confused with Ferocactus glaucescens (DC.) Britton & Rose. The species is very variable and it is likely that it hybridizes with F. glaucescens in some parts of its range.
Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis
Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis (Ferocactus victoriensis) distinguishes from the standard Ferocactus echidne for its more cylindrical stems with central spines longer than 4,5 cm.
Ferocactus emoryi (Emory’s Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus emoryi is a solitary barrel cactus except in case of injury to the growing tip, it lacks the lower radial spines of Ferocactus wislizenii and Ferocactus acanthodes but has similar heavy, ridged, hooked central spines.
Three subspecies are recognized, the nominate form, subsp. covillei (Britton & Rose) D.R.Hunt & Dimmitt and subsp. rectispinus (Engelm.) N.P.Taylor.
Ferocactus emoryi ssp. rectispinus
Ferocactus rectispinus is a solitary barrel cactus except in case of injury to the growing tip.
Plant at first solitary, afterwards freely sprouting from the base and often forming great many-stemmed mounds up to 100 cm high and more than 2 m wide. F. flavovirens is similar to Ferocactus robustus, but it has larger and fewer stems with more ribs and different spines.
Ferocactus fordii (Ford Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus fordii is a single stemmed small barrel cactus although it does offset occasionally. It is similar but a bit smaller than Ferocactus viridescens. Two subspecies are recognized, the nominate form and subsp. borealis N.P.Taylor.
Ferocactus fordii ssp. borealis
Ferocactus fordii ssp. borealis occurs one-third of the way down the Baja peninsula, near the coast and near the road. It is fully grown at 20 cm in diameter.
Ferocactus gracilis (Fire Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus gracilis is an exceptionally attractive red-spined barrel with remarkably red flowers and yellow fruit, which was discovered by Mr. Howard E. Gates in 1928. Mr. Gates published the species in 1933. It is quite variable. In Baja California Ferocactus gracilis can be confused with Ferocactus cylindraceus; the latter species has yellow flowers while those of the former are almost always red.
Ferocactus gracilis has stems up to 1 m in tall and has central spines less than 5 mm wide. It is distributed in northern central Baja California.
Ferocactus gracilis ssp. coloratus
Ferocactus gracilis ssp. coloratus is a particularly attractive cactus with remarkable spines, that differs from the type species in having shorter stems and shorter spines with upper and lower of four principal centrals at least 6 mm and often over 1 cm wide; lowers spines similar to those of Ferocactus gracilis but with less red pigment and less broadly expanded; seeds more angular, irregular, and slightly larger than those of gracilis.
The population of barrel cacti in which F. gracilis ssp. coloratus occurs is variable, and the specimens which have been collected to represent coloratus are usually the extreme examples. It is possible that the population may actually represent a hybrid swarm containing genetic material from both Ferocactus gracilis and Ferocactus peninsulae , which occurs in the adjacent Sierra San Florias, and Ferocactus peninsulae var. viscainensis, which occurs in the Vizcaino Desert to the south.
Ferocactus gracilis ssp. gatesii
Ferocactus gracilis var. gatesii is a particularly attractive cactus with remarkable spines, thet differs from Ferocactus gracilis in having stems up to 1,5 m tall (occasionally up to 3 m tall), more ribs (24-32) and the central spines are shorter, curved but not hooked and only 3 mm wide. It is closely related to the northern Ferocactus cylindraceus.
Ferocactus gracilis ssp. tortulispinus
Ferocactus hamatacanthus (Turk’s head)
Ferocactus hamatacanthus is a medium-sized barrel cactus with spines somewhat variable in number, diameter, and position, depending on origin. It has stems up to 60 cm tall, ribs rounded but not compressed, and brownish-reddish spines. Distribution is in Southern Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico.
Ferocactus herrerae is a barrel-shaped cactus with remarkably long hooked spines.
Ferocactus histrix is a colorful barrel cactus that is usually unbranched, forming a single moderately tall column up to 110 cm tall and 50-60(-80) cm in diameter.
Ferocactus latispinus (Devil’s Tongue Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus latispinus is a modest-sized barrel cactus and probably the best-known of the Ferocactus, and if you want only one from this group, this is the one to choose.
It has hemispherical or flat-topped stems, with 4 large red or grey-red central spines of which the lowest one is conspicuously wider, flat, hooked up to 4 cm long. Distribution is in central and southern Mexico (Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and south)
Ferocactus macrodiscus is a medium sized barrel cactus with a depressed-globose stem and blue-green epidermis. Growth from seed is quite rapid and plants will flower when only a few cm across. Flowers are white with pinkish-purple striped petals.
Two subspecies are recognized, the nominate form and ssp. septentrionalis (J.Meyrán) N.P.Taylor. The ‘macrodiscus’ subspecies has a blue-green epidermis and areoles 0.5 to 1 cm long. The spines are yellow or red and curved. It is the most prevalent.
Ferocactus macrodiscus ssp. septentrionalis
The ‘septentrionalis’ subspecies has a greenish-yellow epidermis and the areoles are 1.5 to 2.5 cm long. The spines are straight and strong.
Ferocactus peninsulae is large ribbed barrel cactus with an erect stem becoming cylindric in age and attaining a height of 2,5 meters, which is unusual for the genus. Spines and flowers are very similar to those of Ferocactus wislizeni. Cultivated plants can be reliably distinguished from Ferocactus wislizeni var. herrerae only when seeds or details of the wild sources are available.
Ferocactus peninsulae ssp. viscainensis
Ferocactus peninsulae subs. viscainensis is a large barrel cactus that is often considered a separate species. It distinguishes for the dull olive-green body, more ribs, (13-21) which are distinctly tuberculate, thin, deep and undulate. It is also known by many to be synonymous with Ferocactus gracilis.
Ferocactus pilosus is a simple or clumping barrel/column cactus with thick red spines. In habitat plants must be a great age, often forming into quite massive groups, with several subsidiary barrels growing from the main one, with deep green bodies densely covered with bright red spines up its entire length.
Most plants have bright red spines with bristle-like, white radials—a wonderful contrast, but in some populations, the white bristles are occasionally absent. Such variation has led to the establishment of several names for this species.
Ferocactus pottsii is a small barrel cactus, usually solitary but it sometimes clumps at the base.
Ferocactus recurvus is a rejected name for Ferocactus latispinus subsp. spiralis. It is a modest-sized, winter-blooming barrel cactus that is distinguishable from the standard Ferocactus latispinus for the more elongate to cylindrical stem, fewer and stouter radial spines and only one longer central spine.
Ferocactus recurvus ssp. greenwoodii
Ferocactus recurvus ssp. spiralis
Ferocactus reppenhagenii as old plants are of a small diameter, nearly cereoid growing with usually less than 13 ribs (while Ferocactus alamosoanus are large globular in appearance with many ribs (more than 20).
Clumping small barrel cactus, that forms powerful colonies of hundreds of branches, reaching over 90-100 cm high and 3(-5) m wide. The remarkable polycephalic habit of Ferocactus robustus is quite unlike that of any other species in the genus. These clusters are probably not from the same original root system but are a complex which has developed from seedling plants that have grown up around the parent.
Ferocactus schwarzii is a solitary slow-growing barrel cactus that becomes nearly spineless when old making it a handsome plant. At a first glance, the mature specimens looks more like a Echinocactus than a Ferocactus. Its stem is deeply grooved and bright green, up to 80 cm tall and 50 cm wide.
Ferocactus pilosus is still known by the commercial growers as Ferocactus stainesii, but most authors have dismissed Ferocactus stainesii as perhaps not worthy of even varietal status, suggesting that there is not really a fundamental difference between the two and this description can be applied to all the synonyms of the type species taxa.
Ferocactus townsendianus var. townsendianus
Ferocactus viridescens (San Diego Barrel Cactus)
Ferocactus viridescens is a solitary barrel cactus, sometimes wider than tall. Its stems are much shorter than those of Ferocactus cylindraceus but the taxonomic distinctions between the two species are muddled. In California, Ferocactus viridescens and Ferocactus cylindraceus are allopatric.
In the absence of geographic data, the largest plants of Ferocactus viridescens might not always be distinguishable from straight-spined mature plants of Ferocactus cylindraceus. Immature plants of Ferocacactus cylindraceus have mostly or entirely hooked spines but gradually switch to producing straighter spines in old age.
Ferocactus viridescens ssp. littoralis
The ‘littoralis’ variety has 21-34 ribs not tuberculate. It has 21-34 spines per areole. It is indigenous only along the west coast of Baja California down to Mission Santo Domingo.
Ferocactus viridescens ssp. viridescens
The ‘viridescens’ variety has 13-25 tuberculate ribs and 15-25 spines per areole.
Ferocactus wislizeni (Fishhook Barrel Cactus)
The fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni) is a barrel-shaped or columnar cactus that stay usually a single column; rare specimens may be multiple, typically it grows to a diameter of roughly 50-80 cm. It usually grows to a height of 1-2 meters. However, specimens as tall as 3 meters have been recorded.
Lifespan has been reported to be from 50 to 130 years. In habitat often this barrel-shaped cactus leans to face southward toward the equator, earning them the nickname “compass barrel cactus”. Older barrels can lean so far they uproot themselves and fall over, especially after heavy rains when the soil is loose. Its flowers are yellow to red-orange and appear atop the cactus fruit during the summer months. The common name comes from the spines, which are thick and hooked.
Ferocactus wislizeni ssp. ajoensis
Ferocactus wislizeni subsp. ajoensis is an infraspecific name used to indicate a very long spined form of Ferocactus wislizenii. The specific name ajoensis refers to the town of Ajo, the type locality of this species.
It is distinguished from the type subspecies of F. wislizeni by a columnar, slender body, longer, denser and more robust spines and earlier and longer flowering period during the summer months. This subspecies will almost certainly not be recognized by more strict taxonomists. But it’s interesting and definitely looks different from the usual wislizenii.
1,000 Types of Cactuses with Pictures
The sheer gorgeousness of Ferocactus makes it a highly desirable cactus among homeowners. It also induces several questions and we have answered one of the most commonly asked questions on Ferocactus just for you!
How Fast Does Ferocactus Grow?
Ferocactus grows rather slowly almost to a point that it may end up testing your patience. This explains its long shelf life and it may take several years, sometimes even decades, to reach its full height.