Ferocactus Encyclopedia

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Cacteae
Genus: Ferocactus
Species:  Many species (Click links below for more information)

Ferocactus Nice!Ferocactus means wild or fierce cactus. They are the some of the largest cacti in North America. Sometimes ferocactus are called "Barrel Cactus" but this term often refers to echinocactus as well. To add to the confusion, some people use the term ehinocactus interchangably with ferocactus but they are indeed different Genus. The best known species of Echinocactus is the Echinocactus grusonii from Mexico, which is known as the Golden Barrel Cactus.

Native American Indians would boil young flowers and would eat them like steamed cabbage. There was also a Native American drink made from mashing old flowers into water. The large barrel cactus have been used as a cooking pot by cutting a whole in the top and scooping out the insides and inserting hot coals from a fire into the cactus with the food and then the top was put back on to allow everything to steam/cook. Did this add a level of flavor to the food? How many large cactus vanished this way? Ferocactus spines have also been used as needles for many things including: sewing, tattooing and even as a record player needle.

One cause of the destruction and protected status of ferocactus is cactus candy. This cactus candy became very popular and there is even a prefered cactus for this that has a common name of Candy Barrel Cactus. Recently, in order to avoid destroying protected cactus the cactus candy is made with Opuntia (Prickly Pear). Prickly pear is very common and a fast grower that can keep up with the demand commercially of cactus candy.

In an emergency situation, (stranded in the desert), ferocactus pulp can be chewed for its water content, but the flavor varies greatly depending on subspecies.

Range & Habitat

Ferocactus cactus grow where not much else can survive, rocky terrain and desert washes, areas with heavy gravel, many kinds of desert landscapes. They grow in North America in the Mojave desert, Sonoran desert and Chihuahuan deserts of southern California. Their range reaches all the way to southern Arizona west to Texas and south into Baja, California and central Mexico.

Species of Ferocactus:

Scientific Name
Common Names
Ferocactus alamosanus  
Ferocactus chrysacanthus  
Ferocactus cylindraceus    
Ferocactus diguetii  
Ferocactus echidne  
Ferocactus emoryi  
Ferocactus flavovirens  
Ferocactus fordii  
Ferocactus glaucescens  
Ferocactus gracilis  
Ferocactus hamatacanthus  
Ferocactus herrerae  
Ferocactus histrix  
Ferocactus horridus  
Ferocactus johnstonianus  
Ferocactus latispinus  
Ferocactus macrodiscus  
Ferocactus peninsulae  
Ferocactus pilosus  
Ferocactus pottsi  
Ferocactus rectispinus  
Ferocactus reppenhagenii  
Ferocactus robustus  
Ferocactus santa-maria  
Ferocactus schwarzii  
Ferocactus stainesii  
Ferocactus townsendianus  
Ferocactus viridescens  
Ferocactus wislizeni