Ferocactus gracilis (Fire Barrel Cactus) [synonym Ferocactus viscainensis]

Native to southwestern North America and Mexico, the Fire Barrel Cactus is of ‘Least Concern’ status according to IUCN. It has unusually bright scarlet/red spines.

Ferocactus gracilis (Fire Barrel Cactus) [synonym Ferocactus viscainensis for subsp. coloratus]
Deciduous: no
Hardiness Zones: 9b-11 (survives to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit))
Height: rarely to 2.4 meters (8 feet) (usually to 1.2 meters (4 feet)) tall
Diameter: central stem to 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter
Growth Rate: slow
Age: Long-lived perennial, some of this genus do not begin branching until 20 years old.
Root System: extensive, shallow
Family: Cactaceae
Subspecies: subsp. gracilis, subsp. gatesii, subsp. coloratus
Tolerates: drought
Problems (major): Basal rot, Fungal wilt, Yellow fungus, Fire blight, Bacterial wilt, Cactus beetles
Problems (minor): Wooly scheild louse, Jackrabbits, Packrats, Javelina
Poisonous: likely contains toxic alkaloids, oxalic acid
Soil requirements: requires well-drained, light/sandy soil
Air requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: low
Sun requirement: requires full sun
Primary photosynthetic organ: stem
Leaf structure: sharp spines, bright scarlet red, emerge from areole (leaf base on cacti), clusters of 7-13 (most radial, 2-4 longer central spines), to 5 centimeters (2 inches) long
Stem: strictly columnar, singular, to 24 ribs
Flowering structure: golden/bright yellow or vivid, bright orange; center bright yellow
Reproduction by offsets: no, unable to regenerate once shoot apical meristem cut
Monocot or dicot: dicot
Notable characteristics:
The spines are a bright, vivid red (especially when wet). This cacti, unlike others, will die if the top is cut since it cannot branch out.

These may be grown for ornamental purposes in select zones. Fire Barrel Cactus may be grown indoors next to a bright window when young.
Sources used:

A young specimen at the Missouri Botanical Gardens

All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.


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