About me

About me
🌿 I've been gardening ever since a child, when I spent time with my father in his vegetable garden. But my fascination with Echeverias started in the 1980's, when my father gave me a pot with five Echeverias, which turned out to be E. imbricata. At first I wasn't much interested in them and planted them in some obscure corner of the garden and completely forgot about them. How great was my surprise when, a couple of months later, I noticed that they had spread and made a beautiful display - I was hooked!
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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Camera : Fuji FinePix 2800Zoom 
Taken in my garden – Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa 2005

According to Wikipedia, Barrel cacti are classified into the two genera Echinocactus and Ferocactus, both of which are found in the Southwest Desert of North America. Echinocactus grusonii, popularly known as the Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Ball or, amusingly, Mother-in-Law’s Cushion, is a well known species of cactus, and is endemic to east-central Mexico. Ferocactus is a genus of large barrel-shaped cacti, mostly with large spines and small flowers. There are about 30 species included in this genus alone, so it is very diffucult to put an identification on a Barrel, but I think mine is Echinocactus Golden Barrel and he is about fourteen years old now.

One should approach a barrel cactus with extreme caution. A puncture to human skin from one of the spines is considered a ‘dirty wound’. If the puncture is deep enough to draw blood, antibiotics may be needed; and could take several months for the wound to heal properly.


The Barrel Cactus does not take very kindly to shade. When I originally planted my barrel in my new garden in 2005 (brought him with me when we moved from our previous property), he was in full sun and doing beautifully, but over the years the trees grew bigger and after a while he was in dappled shade. By 2010 he was grey on his crown and it looked like he was dying. In a panic I lifted him (with great difficulty!) and transplanted him to a sunny spot, just hoping for the best. The next year he was sporting new growth, which I thought was flowers, but it turned out that he was now producing new pups on his crown, to my utmost dismay. This means my barrel is never going to be one big, huge plant. Which I would never have seen anyway, a four year old barrel can be 3 inches high and 2.5 inches wide and they can live up to 130 years old, The barrel cactus easily reaches over a meter in height at maturity, and have been known to reach 10 feet in some regions.

 My Golden Barrel in 2013

Water is a very important component to caring for barrel cactus. The plants are native to arid desert regions and usually have only rainfall to supply their moisture needs. Water your barrel cactus once per week in summer. The barrel cactus doesn’t need much water in winter when it is dormant.

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