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Growing Succulents in the Desert Column

(List of Growing Succulents in the Desert columns)

Ferocactus of the Month
"Ferocactus cylindraceus" by Chris Monrad

Photos by Chris Monrad

(This article may only be reprinted with the author's permission.)

Ferocactus cylindraceus occurs throughout many regions of the Mohave desert and in the more arid regions of the Sonoran desert. Its extensive range includes Baja California, north through the Anza-Borrego area and the Mohave desert up to the Utah/Nevada/Arizona border confluence along the Colorado River, and also easterly to Phoenix as well as the Marana/Tortolita mountain complex. Flowering is generally in May and June and usually consists of yellow blossoms, although red flowers are seen in some populations. Spine colors seem to vary regionally from straw / pale to pink, red and a dark maroon color. The red spination gives the plant the common name of 'Fire Barrel'. The plants occurring in areas of 'more' rainfall (approx. 6 inches of rain per year) such as those in the Sonoran desert seem to have wider spines but in a slightly less dense pattern (Fig. 1 and 2), while the Mohave Desert plants survive on 2 inches or less of rain per year. These specimens often have thinner spines in a very dense clusters, as if to provide the plant with its own built in shading systems (Fig. 3 and 4). The blossom size is often constricted by the density of the spines of the respective plant. This species is known to rot in local cultivation if overwatered, as it is quite well adapted to small amounts rainfall in its native ranges. (Local rainfall of 12 inches on average per year is well above that experienced in its normal habitat.) In any case, this species is a striking and care-free addition to local landscapes (Fig 5) and is readily available from many of our member nurseries.


List of Growing Succulents in the Desert columns