Although my Ferocactus emoryi (Emory’s Barrel or Coville Barrel) is still too young to produce flowers, I look forward to the day of its first large, yellow-red blooms. It will probably be several more years before that happens—some species of barrels take up to 20 years before producing flowers.
As this cactus matures, the tubercles (the pointy areas where the spines are located) will combine to form about 25 ribs. At this young age, it’s hard to tell that it will first obtain a barrel shape, and then at maturity, it will be cylindrical and stand about five feet tall. As with all barrels, it needs full sun.
F. emoryi, native to Arizona and Mexico, is one of the 25 species of Ferocactus found in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. In Mexico, this species is used to manufacture cactus candy. The pulp is also used there as livestock feed.
Although flowers in the Ferocactus species can be quite spectacular, most collectors value them for their large colorful spines, which, depending on species, range from off-white to red. The spine charactistics also vary from straight, hooked or curved. The spines can be sparse or numerous.
I like them because they are easy to attain in Arizona cactus nurseries and their variations provide some interest in my garden. As far as candy, I’ll stick to Snickers®.