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Ferocactus emoryi (Emory’s Barrel Cactus)

Emory's barrel cactus, Coville's Barrel Cactus, Traveler's Friend

Emory's Barrel Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus emoryi, Succulent, Succulents, Cactus
Emory's Barrel Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus emoryi, Succulent, Succulents, Cactus
Emory's Barrel Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus emoryi, Succulent, Succulents, Cactus
Emory's Barrel Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus emoryi, Succulent, Succulents, Cactus
Emory's Barrel Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Ferocactus emoryi, Succulent, Succulents, Cactus

Ferocactus emoryi (Emory’s Barrel Cactus) is a striking and resilient cactus species that offers both aesthetic and practical benefits to gardens and landscapes. Its unique appearance, vibrant flowers, and adaptability to harsh conditions make it a valuable addition to any desert or xeriscape garden.

Ferocactus emoryi – Emory’s Barrel Cactus: An In-depth Look

Ferocactus emoryi, commonly known as Emory’s Barrel Cactus, is a striking, spherical to cylindrical cactus species known for its robust and formidable appearance. This plant is characterized by its thick, fleshy body adorned with prominent, vertical ribs lined with stout, sharp spines. The spines, which can be red or light brown, provide a striking contrast to the green to blue-green body of the cactus. Ferocactus emoryi is particularly notable for its large, showy flowers that bloom in vibrant colors atop the plant.

Native: Ferocactus emoryi is native to the Sonoran Desert, spanning regions of northern Mexico (Sonora and Baja California) and the southwestern United States (Arizona). This cactus thrives in the arid desert climate, growing in rocky, well-drained soils and often found on slopes or flat plains. It belongs to the cactus family Cactaceae, which also includes Opuntia (Prickly Pear) and Mammillaria (Pincushion Cactus).

Plant Type and Habit: Emory’s Barrel Cactus is a perennial succulent with a solitary, barrel-shaped growth habit. While it primarily grows as a single stem, older plants may produce offsets or grow in clusters. The plant is slow-growing but can live for many decades, making it a long-term feature in any desert garden or landscape.

Size: It typically reaches a diameter of 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) and a height of about 4 to 8 feet (120 to 250 cm). The cactus’s substantial size and bold structure make it a focal point in any garden setting.

Flowers: The flowers of Emory’s Barrel Cactus are large and vibrant, usually measuring 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in diameter. They are funnel-shaped and come in shades of yellow, orange, or red. The flowers are borne in clusters at the top of the plant, creating a spectacular display against the backdrop of the cactus’s spines. Ferocactus emoryi typically blooms in late summer to early fall. The blooming period provides a splash of color during a time when few other desert plants are in flower. Following the flowering period, Ferocactus emoryi produces small, fleshy fruits that are typically yellow or green. The fruits are cylindrical and contain numerous small, black seeds. The fruits are edible and can be consumed raw or cooked, but they are primarily of interest to wildlife rather than humans.

Stem: The body of Emory’s Barrel Cactus is characterized by its thick, fleshy structure and prominent ribs. The ribs, which can number between 15 and 30, are lined with areoles that produce the plant’s sharp spines, a strong central spine, and 7-9 reddish-white radial spines. The body color ranges from green to blue-green, and the plant’s surface may be slightly glaucous (waxy), giving it a subtle sheen.

Uses: Emory’s Barrel Cactus is primarily used as an ornamental plant in desert landscaping and xeriscaping. Its striking form and colorful flowers make it an excellent focal point in gardens, rockeries, and container plantings. The spines have also been historically used by indigenous peoples for various practical purposes.

Hardiness: Ferocactus emoryi is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11. It can tolerate temperatures down to around 20°F (-6°C) for short periods, but it prefers warmer climates. The cactus is well-adapted to the extreme heat and dry conditions of the desert but should be protected from prolonged frost.

Wildlife: The flowers attract bees, beetles, and birds. The fruits are a food source for desert wildlife, such as rodents, birds, and insects. The dense spines provide shelter for small animals, protecting them from predators and harsh environmental conditions.

Deer and Rabbit: Due to its formidable spines, Ferocactus emoryi is generally avoided by deer and rabbits.

Toxicity: Ferocactus emoryi is not known to be toxic to humans or animals. However, its sharp spines can cause physical injury if handled improperly. It is advisable to wear gloves and use caution when working with or near this cactus to avoid punctures and scratches.

Drought: Ferocactus emoryi is highly drought-tolerant, an essential adaptation for survival in its native desert habitat. The plant stores water in its thick, fleshy body and requires minimal watering once established. Overwatering can be detrimental, leading to root rot and other issues.

Invasiveness: Ferocactus emoryi is not considered invasive. It grows slowly and does not spread aggressively. While it may produce offsets, these are relatively few and can be easily managed or transplanted to new locations.

Benefits: The primary benefits of Ferocactus emoryi include its striking ornamental qualities, low maintenance requirements, and adaptability to arid conditions. It serves as an excellent focal point in desert and xeriscape gardens, attracting pollinators and providing food and shelter for wildlife. The plant’s drought tolerance and hardiness make it a resilient choice for challenging environments.

Emery’s Barrel Cactus Growing Tips

Light: Requires full sun for optimal growth. Ensure at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Soil: Needs well-draining soil, such as a cactus or succulent mix. Add sand or perlite to improve drainage. Alkaline soil with a pH between 6.1-7.8 is preferred.

Water: Water sparingly; allow the soil to dry completely between waterings. Reduce watering in winter when the plant is dormant.

Fertilizer: Feed 2-3 times with a diluted, balanced cactus fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer).

Pruning: Pruning is not necessary.

Propagation: Propagate by seeds.

Pests and Diseases: Generally pest-resistant but watch for pests like mealybugs or scale insects. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so ensure proper drainage.

Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 11
Climate Zones 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Cactaceae
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 4' - 8'
(120cm - 240cm)
Spread 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spacing 24" - 36"
(60cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Native Plants United States, Southwest, Arizona
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Mediterranean Garden
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 9 - 11
Climate Zones 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Cactaceae
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 4' - 8'
(120cm - 240cm)
Spread 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spacing 24" - 36"
(60cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Native Plants United States, Southwest, Arizona
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Mediterranean Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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