California Barrel Cactus, Compass Barrel Cactus

Ferocactus cylindraceus

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ferocactus (fer-oh-KAK-tus) (Info)
Species: cylindraceus (sil-in-DRAK-ee-us) (Info)
Synonym:Echinocactus acanthodes
Synonym:Echinocactus cylindraceus
Synonym:Echinocactus leopoldii
Synonym:Echinocactus rostii
Synonym:Ferocactus acanthodes


Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



This plant is resistant to deer

Foliage Color:



36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


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)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Pale Yellow

Bright Yellow

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Summer/Early Fall

Other details:

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:

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

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


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

Ajo, Arizona

Green Valley, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Queen Creek, Arizona

Salome, Arizona

Bostonia, California

Hesperia, California

Ontario, California

Redlands, California

Reseda, California

Ridgecrest, California

San Marino, California

Henderson, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

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Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 16, 2015, Max64 from Las Vegas, NV (Zone 9a) wrote:

I own 4 of them and they do extremely well in Vegas. Little to no water expect a sprinkle every 2 weeks during the hot summers when we are in the triple digits. One in particular is fully red and is close to 2 feet.


On Oct 16, 2013, DaylilySLP from Dearborn Heights, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

Not confusing enough?:
Echinocactus acanthodes
Echinocactus cylindraceus
Echinocactus johnstonianus
Echinocactus leopoldii
Echinocactus rostii

**these no room for above:

MORE Synonyms:
Ferocactus cylindraceus
Ferocactus johnstonianus
Ferocactus rostii
Echinocactus acanthodes var. rostii
Echinocactus viridescens var. cylindraceus
Ferocactus acanthodes var. johnstonianus
Ferocactus acanthodes var. rostii
Ferocactus cylindraceus var. greenwoodiae


On Apr 12, 2005, Xenomorf from Phoenix, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

The International Cactaceae Systematics Group (ICSG) lists in the 2001 book, 'The Cactus Family' by Anderson, that Ferocactus acanthodes to be a synonym of Ferocactus cylindraceus.
Other common names are: Biznaga, California Barrel Cactus, Cliff Barrel Cactus, Compass Cactus, Desert Barrel Cactus, Golden-spined Barrel Cactus & Spiney Barrel Cactus.
The flowers on all subspecies are yellow occasionally with a red tint.
The subspecies 'cylindraceus' can grow up to 10 ft tall. The spines are yellow, red & brown & twisted, some more than others.
The subspecies 'lecontei' has central spines that are not twisted and Never hooked which often lay closer to the body.
The subspecies 'tortulispinus' is much shorter and the gray spines are twisted.

I... read more


On Apr 9, 2005, cacti_lover from Henderson, NV (Zone 9b) wrote:

This cactus is now under the new name Ferocactus cylindraceus and can still be found under F. acanthodes. Can be 15" across and up to 6' tall. Tend to lean south as it ages hence the common name 'compass barrel'. Another common name is 'fire barrel' due to it's red spines, which actually ranges from tan to bright red in color. Grown wild here in southern Nevada. It is a protected plant and it is illegal to obtain wild plants without permits.


On Feb 24, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Very pretty cactus as youngster- lots of color in the spines. Eventually (in maybe a hundred years or so) grows up to 8' tall. Native of most western states. Needs full sun and careful not to overwater. Can rot easily. This species is highly variable and has numerous synonyms, as mentioned below.