Many-headed Barrel, Biznaga de Chilitos, Harem Cactus, Cotton Top Cactus, Woolly-headed Barrel Cactu

Echinocactus polycephalus

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Echinocactus (ek-in-oh-KAK-tus) (Info)
Species: polycephalus (pol-ee-SEF-a-lus) (Info)
Synonym:Emorycactus polycephalus
Synonym:Echinocactus polycephalus subsp. polycephalus


Cactus and Succulents

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade


All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:


Pale Yellow

Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From woody stem cuttings

From softwood cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Ajo, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Wellton, Arizona

Bostonia, California

Lucerne Valley, California

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 11, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

Although there are occasional occurances where a standard Ferocactus Barrel will grow multiple heads, this species almost always grows multiple heads.
The subspecies 'polycephalus' is the most widespread and common, growing in clumps of about 20-30 heads, and it's spines are covered with very fine hairs.
The subspecies 'xeranthemoides' usually only has up to about 12 heads, and usually dosen't have the fine hairs. It also grows at higher elevations than the 'polycephalus' subspecies.
All three can also be grown from seeds.

I've seen this growing in the wild on the 'El Camino Del Diablo Trail' (Devils' Highway) that runs between Ajo and Wellton in Arizona through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.