Barrel cactus
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Barrel cactus
(Ferocatus wislizeni)
7 This is the common barrel cactus found around Tucson and farther East.

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In Depth Ferocatus wislizeni, Barrel cactus
Family: Cactaceae, the Cactus family
Distribution: Southwestern USA and Mexico
Habitat: Low deserts
Habit: Usually a single-stemmed plant, barrel shaped, becoming short-columnar with age.
Flowering: Summer
Natural History Notes: The name is derived from the Latin ferox means "fierce" and the Greek kaktos, some kind of spiny plant. This common barrel cactus has a range from Texas to southeast Arizona, to southern Sonora, Mexico. In central and western Arizona it is replaced by the similar Compass Barrel, Ferocactus cylindraceus, which blooms in spring. Distinguishing Characteristics: The stems may sometimes reach nine or more feet tall, but more typically are half that height, as the plants are shallow-rooted and tend to fall over, especially since they tend to lean toward the south. Stems are usually unbranched unless injured. The stem is pleated like an accordion, allowing it to expand and contract with the availability of water. Plants with distorted, lumpy ribs are probably afflicted by a virus. Each areole (spine cluster) possesses up to four sturdy, flattened, usually hooked central spines, plus 12-20 thinner radial spines. The flowers, up to 2 inches wide, may be yellow, orange, or most commonly, red. The fruits are green when unripe, but change to yellow and may remain on the plant for up to year if not eaten. Human Uses: The yellow fruits, when ripe, are edible but very tart, with a lemony flavor. Cactus candy is occasionally made by boiling, sugaring, and flavoring the stem tissue. The Seri cooked the flowers for food and made a gruel from the ground seeds.