AZ Arboretums

Ferocactus wislizenii

Arizona barrel cactusCommon: Arizona barrel cactus, candy barrel cactus, fishhook barrel, visnaga, compass barrel, Wislizenus's barrel, biznaga, bisnagre
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Range includes southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southwestern Texas, and Sonora, Sinaloa and Chihuahua, Mexico. Sandy desert and gravelly slopes in desert or grasslands, elevations 1,000 to 4500 ft.
Temperature: Hardy to near 0 degrees F.
Sun: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained soil
Water: Very drought-tolerant, it can survive on rainfall alone.

There's much more danger of it dying from overwatering than from drought.

Use to lend a desert feeling to the landscape. Combines well with other cacti such as Prickly-pear or Cholla. Gives tropical effect if it is mixed with aloe species.

Slow growing to 6 feet, usually much less. Up to 2 feet in diameter. Single, massive and cylindrical stem, with 20 to 28 ribs. Occasionally multiple heads will occur near the base of the main plant.

Spines grayish to reddish, in dense clusters along ribs. Large, sharply hooked, flattened central spine to 2 inches long, surrounded by slender hairlike spines.

Flowers are shades of orange to yellow to reddish, cup- or funnel-shaped, and day-blooming, 2-1/2" wide. Blooms appear in crown at top of stem, followed by yellow, barrel-shaped, scaly fruit to 1-3/4" long. Blooms July-September. Drawn toward direct sunlight.

Slower growth on shady side causes barrels to lean in a southerly direction, hence the name "compass cactus." Instead of water, cactus is filled with slimy alkaline juice.

Yellow fruits persist all year, and are eaten by deer and rodents. Flowers attract bees. Pulp used as basis for cactus candy. Native American used hook spines as fishhooks. Three species of Ferocactus in Arizona.