Sunday, August 6, 2017

California Barrel Cactus

The California barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) is also known as the desert barrel cactus and miner's compass, and is found in the eastern Mojave and western Sonoran Deserts of Southern California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona in the U.S. and Baja California and Sonora States in Mexico. 
California barrel cactus on the outskirts of Joshua Tree NP. 
It is the only large barrel cactus in most of its range in the U.S., only overlapping with two other large barrel cacti in central and southern Arizona. It has a bunch of long curved central spines that point out and downward, covered by small ridges. Nearby each central spine are three shorter outward pointing spines and between eight and 28 smaller and lighter colored radial spines that nearly obscure the stem and its ribs. The spines are more straight and red when new, then curve and gray as they age. The spines can be red, whitish, yellow and combinations. The flowers grow at the top of the cactus and are bright yellow inside, sometimes with a greenish tint, and reddish on the outside.  
Buds, precursors to flowers.

The Indians would take young flowers and boil them and eat them like cabbage. They boiled and mashed older flowers to make a drink. The fruit is bright yellow and is generally not eaten. I've cut them open to find the inside hollow except for black seeds. 


  1. Your photos remind me of the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing.

  2. Love those bright flowers on that thorny plant.