California barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus)

California barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus)

Ferocactus cylindraceus is a species of barrel cactus which is known by several common names, including California barrel cactus, Desert barrel cactus, and miner’s compass.

This cactus is native to the eastern Mojave Desert and western Sonoran Desert Ecoregions in: Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah in the Southwestern United States; and Baja California, and Sonora state in Northwestern Mexico.

It is found in gravelly, rocky, or sandy soils, in Creosote Bush Scrub and Joshua Tree Woodland habitats, from 60–1,500 metres (200–4,920 ft) in elevation.

Ferocactus cylindraceus is usually cylindrical or spherical, with some older specimens forming columns 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height. It is covered in long, plentiful spines, which are straight and red when new and become curved and gray as they age.

The cactus bears flowers that are maroon outside, and bright yellow inside, with red or yellow centers on the side that faces the sun. The fleshy, hollow fruits are yellow.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.