Of the 30 species of Ferocactus, globular plants that grow in the southern United States and Mexico, Ferocactus cylindraceus has one of the widest distributions.

Previously known as Ferocactus acanthodes it grows mostly in the American states of California, although its range also extends into Arizona, and the Mexican states of Northern Baja California and northwest Sonora.

Plants are generally solitary, although it is not uncommon for older plants to branch from near the base, and can reach up to 3m in height. Anyone who has visited the Anza Borrego desert or Phoenix regions will likely have encountered these majestic plants (Fig 1).

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Fig. 1   Ferocactus cylindraceus can reach up to 3m in height.

Flowers are typically yellow (Fig 2) although they can have a greener look. Spination is variable, either yellow or red, and the new growth once wetted shows off vivid beautiful reds (Fig 3).

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Fig. 2   Ferocactus cylindraceus in flower.

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Fig. 3   A young plant with new growth.

In habitat plants seem to enjoy rocky terrain, perhaps where there is less competition and when they like an area they can be the dominant cactus species (Fig 4). In cultivation it is one of the easiest to grow. It appreciates regular potting on when young with perhaps a reasonably free draining mineral mix. It is tolerant of the cold if dry (I have seen it snowing on them and the accompanying Joshua Trees in Eastern California) and should flower once it has got to around 20cm, after ten or so years. Some other Ferocacti species will flower at a smaller size, however the relatively undemanding F. cylindraceus is worthy of a place in anyone’s cactus collection.

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Fig. 4   A group of plants dominating this area.

Ian Woolnough


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