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Scientific: Echinocactus grusonii
Common: golden barrel cactus
Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Mexico

Pronounciation: E-ki-no-CAC-tus gru-so-NEE-i

Hardiness zones
USDA 9-11

Landscape Use: Textural and color accent, mass plantings in desert gardens, very interesting when planted in groups of three or more underneath the light canopy shade of desert trees, nice for use in patio containers

Form & Character: Rounded, bright, yellow, cute and cheerful...but don't touch me!

Growth Habit: Evergreen, succulent perennial, rounded barrel shaped stem very slowly expanding to 3-feet tall by 2.5-feet wide, ribs 21 to 37, occasionally branching.

Foliage/Texture: Stiff, yellow spines on ridges in clusters, epidermis medium to light green; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Terminal yellow flowers, not showy because they are the same color as the apical meristem and areole spines, fruits 3/4-inch long, light brown, inconspicuous.

Seasonal Color: Not much, except yellow spines all year and small, terminal yellow flowers in May.

Temperature: Protect from hard freezes. And as the torrid summers of 2020 and 2023 revealed, golden barrel cacti can melt like "the wicked witch of the west" when in full sun and daily maximum air temperatures are in excess of 115oF (for days on end).

Light: Full sun to light shade, but avoid highly reflected light environments and western building exposures.

Soil: All soil types, as long as well drained.

Watering: Very infrequent.

Pruning: None

Propagation: Seed, tissue culture, or rarely division of branched segments.

Disease and Pests: Root rot in poorly drained soils.

Additional comments: Because of their unique, rounded symmetry, golden barrel cacti make excellent, small landscape elements of texture, form and color! They transplant easily (wear thick leather gloves when doing so). Golden barrel cacti are great for small- to medium-sized rock gardens with filtered western shade, e.g. a palo verde tree. There is a crested form of golden barrel cactus that looks like brains.

Horticultural musings: Are golden barrel cacti the only indestructible landscape element? It's hard to not answer "yes" to that question after the 'Horticultural clods of Phoenix' (aka 'Hort clods') have paid a visit to your yard.