First off I want to thank you Cathy for the suggestion on showcasing some of the plant life in the desert southwest. I went out the next day for a little photo safari and you made me look at my surroundings in a different way. I had fun searching for plants meandering about slowly and really looking.
These cacti can live to be a hundred years old. The root system is very long but quite shallow. They have a tendency to lean southward, the direction of the sunlight. One source stated they are a threatened species but on the low end of the scale as “vulnerable”. Common belief is if lost in the desert and very thirsty you can cut into the barrel cactus and get water. Not so as you may think. It is a very fleshy inside and although you could quench your thirst it is very bad tasting and contains oxalic acid which will cause diarrhea and that is moisture you cannot afford to lose from your body.
Here you can see where the name for this species of cactus comes from. The spines are very hard and can penetrate leather gloves or boots. They are sufficient enough to keep javelina and other animals from eating the plant.
They produce a ring of red or orangish red flowers in a ring on top in the summer and after pollination a green fruit. The fruit turns yellow after the flower dies and can remain in place for as long as a year.
The fruit is not tasty.
Barrel cactus are easy to grow and make for a great addition to your desert garden.
Thanks for that John. I’m one of those who (when I can) tries to learn something new each day so really enjoyed your little botany ‘lecture’. How tall would that one be, it has a dangerous look about it - don’t come near me, although I’m sure I’ve seen something similar in on a very much smaller scale in plant nurseries here.
And I also learnt something else….I had no idea what a Javelina was, never heard the name before so off I went to ask Mr G. We have wild pigs/boars here out in the bush but definitely not those strange looking creatures.
When you get the time (and inclination) another of this sort of post would be very welcome
You see some strange purple droppings along the trails. I always thought it was the wild pigs as I called them eating the purple fruit on some of the cactus. It's a tough world out there. Thanks for the info.
Fascinating. I bet you could find a new cactus pretty much ever day you're out there.
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