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Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Ordo: Caryophyllales

Familia: Cactaceae
Subfamilia: Cactoideae
Tribus: Cacteae
Genus: Ferocactus
Sectiones: F. sect. Bisnaga – F. sect. Ferocactus

Species: F. alamosanus – F. chrysacanthus – F. cylindraceus – F. diguetii – F. echidne – F. emoryi – F. flavovirens – F. fordii – F. glaucescens – F. gracilis – F. haematacanthus – F. hamatacanthus – F. herrerae – F. histrix – F. johnstonianus – F. latispinus – F. lindsayi – F. macrodiscus – F. mathssonii – F. peninsulae – F. pilosus – F. pottsii – F. robustus – F. santa-maria – F. schwarzii – F. tiburonensis – F. townsendianus – F. uncinatus – F. viridescens – F. wislizeni
Source(s) of checklist:

Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Ferocactus in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Mar 14. Reference page.


Ferocactus Britton & Rose, Cactaceae 3: 123. 1922.
Type species: Ferocactus wislizeni (Engelm.) Britton & Rose


Bisnaga Orcutt, Cactography 1: 1. 1926.
Type species: Bisnaga cornigera (DC.) Orcutt
Parrycactus Doweld, Novosti Sist. Vyssh. Rast. 32: 117. 2000.
Type species: Parrycactus glaucescens (DC.) Doweld
Brittonia C.A.Armstr.


Britton, N.L. & Rose, J.N. 1922. The Cactaceae. Descriptions and Illustrations of Plants of the Cactus Family. Vol. 3. 255 pp. + 23 pl. Carnegie Institution of Washington. BHL PDF Reference page. : 3: 123.

Additional references

Govaerts, R.H.A. 2001. World Checklist of Seed Plants Database in ACCESS E-F: 1-50919. [unavailable to the public] Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Ferocactus in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Mar 14. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Ferocactus. Published online. Accessed: Mar 14 2021. 2021. Ferocactus. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Mar 14.
Hassler, M. 2021. Ferocactus. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2021. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 Mar 14. Reference page.

Vernacular names
español: Cactus de Barril
suomi: Rautakaktukset
magyar: Hordókaktusz
polski: Ferokaktus
svenska: Djävulstungesläktet

Ferocactus is a genus of large barrel-shaped cacti, mostly with large spines and small flowers. There are about 30 species included in the genus. They are found in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.


The young specimens are columnar but as they grow older ribs form and they take on a barrel form. Most of the species are solitary but some, such as Ferocactus robustus and F. glaucescens, have clustering habits. The flowers are pink, yellow, red or purple depending on the species, and the petals sometimes have a stripe of a darker colour.

They are desert dwellers and can cope with some frost and intense heat. The typical habitat is hot and very arid, and the plants have adapted to exploit water movement to concentrate their biomass in areas where water is likely to be present. Like Sclerocactus, Ferocactus typically grow in areas where water flows irregularly or depressions where water can accumulate for short periods of time. They are most often found growing along arroyos (washes) where their seeds have been subjected to scarification due to water movement, but they oddly also tend to grow along ridges in spots where depressions have formed and can hold water for some period of time.

Ferocactus have very shallow root systems and are easily uprooted during flash floods. The "fishhook" spines and the armored web of spines enclosing the cactus body in many species of this genus are adaptations which allow the plant to move to more favorable locations. The seeds germinate in areas where water movement occurs or in areas where standing water accumulates for some period of time, and during flash floods, the hooked spines allow the plants to be caught on waterborne debris, uprooted and carried to areas where water tends to accumulate.

In cultivation Ferocactus require full sun, little water, and good drainage. They are popular as houseplants. They cannot tolerate freezing temperatures for extended periods, which typically cause them to yellow, bleach, then slowly die. Propagation is usually from seeds, but clustering species such as Ferocactus robustus and F. glaucescens can be propagated by removing a rooted offset and planting it.

Many ferocactus species are ant plants, exuding nectar along the upper meristem from extrafloral nectaries above each areole, and hosting ant colonies.
Selected species

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Ferocactus alamosanus (Jardin des Plantes de Paris).jpg Ferocactus alamosanus Mexican state of Sonora, in northwestern Mexico
Ferocactus chrysacanthus 2.jpg Ferocactus chrysacanthus Mexico.
Ferocactus cylindraceus 1.jpg Ferocactus cylindraceus (Engelm.) Orcutt California Barrel Cactus, Biznaga-barril cilíndrica eastern Mojave Desert and western Sonoran Desert Ecoregions in: Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah in the Southwestern United States; and Baja California, and Sonora state in Northwestern Mexico.
Ferocactus diguetii pm.jpg Ferocactus diguetii Mexico.
Ferocactus echidne 01.jpg Ferocactus echidne Sonora Barrel Cactus, Coville's Barrel Cactus, Emory's Barrel Cactus, Traveler's Friend Mexico
Ferocactus rectispinus - 2.jpg Ferocactus emoryi (Engelm.) Orcutt Emory's Barrel Cactus, Biznaga-barril de Emory Mexico (Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur) and in the United States (Arizona).
Ferocactus flavovirens (5753683467).jpg Ferocactus flavovirens Mexico.
Ferocactus fordii.JPG Ferocactus fordii Baja California in Mexico.
Ferocactus glaucescens.jpg Ferocactus glaucescens Hidalgo, Mexico.
Ferocactus gracilis 01.JPG Ferocactus gracilis H.E.Gates Fire Barrel Cactus Mexico.
Ferocactus haematacanthus 2.jpg Ferocactus haematacanthus (Salm-Dyck) Bravo ex Backeb. & F.M.Knuth[2] Mexico.
Ferocactus hamatacanthus pm.JPG Ferocactus hamatacanthus (Muehlenpf.) Britton & Rose Turk's-Head Barrel Cactus, Biznaga-barril Costillona Chihuahuan Desert of north-western Mexico, New Mexico, and south-western Texas.
Ferocactus herrerae (26704873710).jpg Ferocactus herrerae Twisted Barrel Cactus Mexico (Sinaloa, Sonora)
Ferocactus histrix (5761384470).jpg Ferocactus histrix (DC.) G.E.Linds. Electrode Cactus Mexico.
仙人掌-巨鷲玉 Ferocactus horridus -深圳仙湖植物園 Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, China- (9255178354).jpg Ferocactus horridus Mexico (Southern Baja California)
Biznaga Barrel Cactus Ferocactus johnstonianus (25291273487).jpg Ferocactus johnstonianus Britton & Rose Johnston's Barrel Cactus Angel de la Guardia Island, Baja California, Mexico.
Ferocactus recurvus, a Devil's Tongue Barrel Cactus (9330444754).jpg Ferocactus latispinus (Haw.) Britton & Rose southeastern Durango, through Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, east to the western parts of San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and Puebla, as well as to eastern Jalisco, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Mexico State.
Ferocactus macrodiscus.jpg Ferocactus macrodiscus Mexico.
Ferocactus peninsulae HabitusFlowers Bln0906a.jpg Ferocactus peninsulae (F.A.C.Weber) Britton & Rose Mexican state of Baja California Sur.
Ferocactus pilosus (5699776889).jpg Ferocactus pilosus Mexican Lime Cactus, Viznaga de Lima Méxican states of Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosí, and Tamaulipas
Ferocactus pottsii pottsii BotGardBln07122011E.jpg Ferocactus pottsii Mexico.
Ferocactusrobustus.jpg Ferocactus robustus Puebla and Veracruz in Mexico.
Ferocactus santa-maria-IMG 1931.jpg Ferocactus santa-maria Santa-Maria Barrel Cactus Mexico.
Ferocactus schwarzii (19446536634).jpg Ferocactus schwarzii Schwarz's Barrel Cactus Mexico.
Ferocactus Townsendianus in Jardin de Cactus on Lanzarote, June 2013 (2).jpg Ferocactus townsendianus Townsend Barrel Cactus Mexico.
Ferocactus viridescens 2.jpg Ferocactus viridescens (Torr. & A.Gray) Britton & Rose San Diego Barrel Cactus, Biznaga-barril Verdosa northern Baja California, Mexico and California
Ferocactus wislizeni338980330.jpg Ferocactus wislizeni (Engelm.) Britton & Rose Fishhook Barrel Cactus, Candy Barrel Cactus, Biznaga-barril de Nuevo México[2][3] southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Formerly placed here

Sclerocactus brevihamatus tobuschii (W.T.Marshall) N.P.Taylor (as F. tobuschii (W.T.Marshall) N.P.Taylor)
Sclerocactus glaucus (K.Schum.) L.D.Benson (as F. glaucus (K.Schum.) N.P.Taylor)
Sclerocactus mesae-verdae (Boissev. & C. Davidson) L.D.Benson (as F. mesae-verdae (Boissev. & C.Davidson) N.P.Taylor)
Sclerocactus pubispinus (Engelm.) L.D.Benson (as F. pubispinus (Engelm.) N.P.Taylor)[2]


"Genus: Ferocactus Britton & Rose". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2004-02-13. Archived from the original on 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
"GRIN Species Records of Ferocactus". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2010-11-14.

"Ferocactus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2010-11-14.

The species list is referenced in part from which is in turn referenced from several books which are listed on that site. The principal book listed there is The Cactus Family by Edward F. Anderson, (2001).

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