Golden Barrel Cactus

Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
Image of Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
Scientific name: Echinocactus grusonii
Common names: Golden Barrel Cactus, Mother-in-Law’s Cushion, Golden Ball, Compass Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus
Synonyms:
  • Echinocactus corynacanthus
  • Echinocactus galette
  • Ehinocereus grusonii
  • Echinocerus grusonii var. azureus
Did you know? The Golden Barrel cactus has been awarded an ‘Award of Garden Merit’ by the United Kingdom’s Royal Horticultural Society. An AGM is a truly prestigious award!
Uses: Over time the Golden Barrel Cactus will tend to lean towards the sun. Desert travellers use the plant as a natural compass.

The fruit of the Golden Barrel cactus is considered to be one of the better tasting cactus fruits.

The flower buds, pulp, fruit and seeds of many types of Barrel Cactus were eaten by native tribes with the fruits being a particularly good source of Vitamins A & C.

The Golden Barrel Cactus is one of the most popular Cacti in cultivation. It is seen in Botanical Gardens, homes and offices the world over. Its golden spines contrast beautifully with the spherical green body and this pincushion effect gives it a wonderfully exotic appearance. It is commonly used by landscapers in modern planting schemes as its curves nicely offset what are often harsh architectural designs.

The Golden Barrel Cactus is incredibly robust and considered as being a care-free addition to Xeriscapes, Mediterranean or rock gardens. It is also a popular house or office plant throughout the world. Relatively drought resistant and generally pest and disease free, The Golden Barrel Cactus will grow in any soil as long as it is free draining – the only problems associated with this spectacular plant tend to come from lack of drainage which can bring about root-rot.

Reportedly hardy, for brief periods down to -8C, it grows best in areas with a  minimum winter temperatures no lower than 10C. It will happily grow in gardens as far south as Melbourne without the need for any particular winter care but, it does not thrive in the tropical and sub-tropical climates of the north due to the higher rainfall and humidity levels.

We have a wide range of sizes, and ages, of Golden Barrel Cactus in stock and we are always happy to help you choose the perfect specimen for your site.  They look wonderful when planted next to contrasting blue plants and always look great planted singly as a feature plant, providing a focal point or anchor within the garden design. But, in the wild it has clustering habit which can be recreated to spectacular effect by closely planting multiple specimens, bringing a soft, rolling texture to your landscape.

On a final but amusing note, the Golden Barrel’s nickname is the “mother-in-law’s cushion”, and it’s easy to assume why although the exact origin of the nickname is not known.

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Golden Barrel Cactus: Frequently Asked Questions

Golden Barrel Cactus: What climate suits it best?

The Golden Barrel Cactus grows best in areas with a minimum winter temperatures no lower than 10C. It will happily grow in gardens as far south as Melbourne. The Golden Barrel Cactus does not thrive in the tropical and sub-tropical climates due to the higher rainfall and humidity levels.

Continue reading about Golden Barrel Cactus care.

Where can I buy a Golden Barrel Cactus?

We are one of the leading suppliers of Golden Barrel Cactus in Australia. We are fully licensed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to sustainably harvest several species and we are proud to say that we have one of the largest ranges of Golden Barrel Cactus.

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Golden Barrel Cactus: Does it have any uses?

Although all cactus fruit are edible, not all are palatable. The fruit of the Golden Barrel cactus is considered to be one of the better tasting cactus fruits.

Continue reading about Golden Barrel Cactus care.

Golden Barrel Cactus: What kind of maintenance do they need?

Generally pest and disease free and requiring no pruning at all, a Golden Barrel Cactus requires very little, if any, ongoing care and maintenance.

Continue reading about Golden Barrel Cactus care.

Golden Barrel Cactus: Planting

When choosing a site for your Golden Barrel Cactus there are only a couple of elements to take into consideration.

Although it prefers a bright sunny site, it is reported that only older specimens can tolerate direct midday sun. It likes good airflow and needs even lighting to develop a perfect spherical shape so allow plenty of space around it.

Also, this plant hates to have it roots sat in water so good drainage is essential.

The Golden Barrel Cactus can be planted in any soil as long as the drainage requirements are met. Its natural conditions are dry, rocky landscapes and as long as you bear this in mind when planting you should have no problems with your cactus at all. When planting directly into the ground, the addition of sand or gravel to the planting hole is all that is needed to ensure excellent drainage.

If planting into a container, a specialist cactus compost is recommended as this is designed especially to retain moisture, but also to allow the excess water to drain away from the roots. You can recreate this effect yourself by adding plenty of sand or gravel to a general potting mix. Always raise the planter off the ground so that any excess water can run freely away from the base of the pot.

The Golden Barrel Cactus can handle part-shade and cooler conditions but this may cause irregular growth, leading to a more cylindrical than rounded shape. It is happiest growing in areas with an average minimum winter temperature of around 10-12C.  It actually needs these low temperatures to bring on winter dormancy – it is this period of cold and rest that stimulates flowering in summer.

The need for winter dormancy is the reason that the Golden Barrel Cactus, when grown indoors as a houseplant does not usually flower.

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Golden Barrel Cactus: Ongoing Care and Maintenance

Generally pest and disease free and requiring no pruning at all, a Golden Barrel Cactus requires very little, if any, ongoing care and maintenance.

Plants grown in the ground will need watering only for the first few months after planting, just until the root system becomes established.  After that, due to it being fairly drought tolerant, it will not need watering unless there is a really prolonged dry spell.

For pot grown plants, water during summer, only when the compost becomes dry. Watering should be reduced during the autumn; then in winter, when it becomes dormant, it needs none. Basically, the cooler the weather the less water is needed.

Care must always be taken not to splash water onto the body of the plant as this can cause scorching when grown in full sunlight and it can encourage fungal infections.

Container grown plants can be re-potted in spring if necessary, just as growth is re-starting, and fed once a month during summer with a specialist cactus fertiliser.

The best soil composition is sand, a bit of topsoil, compost and perlite, or prepared cactus soil mixes from nurseries. A suitable garden position to plant a Golden Barrel is in a well-drained area with full sun to maintain the spine’s lustre and flower longevity. Inadequate exposure to sunlight and too much water are the main reasons that will cause damage and plant rot; however, light watering when the soil dries will encourage the plant to flourish. If planting the Golden Barrel in a container, use an unglazed pot to allow excess water to evaporate. A potting mixture will suffice with gravel or pebbles added to promote drainage.

Whether planted in containers or in the garden, the cactus needs enough space for offsets to grow, known as pups. They develop from a well-established root base and will naturally fill the garden bed. The pups can be gently removed to propagate new plants. After prying the cactus pups off, they should be left in shade to dry the open wound. This Mexican native does not require fertilization, as they naturally occur in low fertile areas. However, using a low nitrogen fertilizer once a year may help stimulate unusual flowering.

Any gardener handling the plant must take care around the long dangerous spines using bunched up newspapers or double gloves to prune or transplant. Because of its spiky cover, the position of the plant in the garden must be carefully considered if children and pets are around. Although the Golden Barrel is not poisonous, the spines can inflict a painful puncture, and in severe cases, antibiotics may be required. While its spines could be a hazard, they can also come in useful if wanting to create a defensive area to deter access to a specific garden spot.

The mature cactus is hardy and not affected by disease, but the younger cacti are susceptible to red spider mite and mealy bug. Spraying the succulent with undiluted 70% alcohol can help get rid of unwanted pests. It won’t damage the plant because the alcohol quickly evaporates.

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Golden Barrel Cactus: Propagation

The Golden Barrel Cactus can be propagated from seed in Spring. The plants are usually self-fertile but more seed is produced when cross-pol

Sow the seed shallowly into a free-draining compost or specialist cacti mix and cover with a fine layer of sand or grit. Place into a heated propagated or secure a clear plastic bag around, and over the top of the pot. This will help to retain heat and moisture and therefore increase humidity.

Position in a bright place away from direct sunlight and maintain a consistent temperature of around 25C. The pot should not require much watering but do check regularly to ensure the soil is kept consistently moist.

Germination usually takes around 4-6 weeks after which you can remove the plastic bag or propagator lid.

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Golden Barrel Cactus: Taxonomy and Naming

Family: Cactaceae

Genus: Echinocactus (From Greek ‘echinos’, meaning hedgehog; and ‘kaktos’, meaning a prickly plant)

Species: grusonii (After Gruso)

 

Synonyms:

Echinocactus corynacanthus, Echinocactus galette, Ehinocereus grusonii, Echinocerus grusonii var. azureus

 

Common names: Golden Barrel Cactus, Mother-in-Law’s Cushion, Golden Ball, Compass Cactus, Hedgehog Cactus

Golden Barrel Cactus: History

The Golden Barrel Cactus was first described by German Plantsman Heinrich Hildmann in 1891.

It is often seen among collections of desert plants in Botanical Gardens around the world and was unfortunately dug up by the thousands when it also became a popular addition to homes and gardens. Due to this widespread demand, it is now considered rare within the natural environment.

The Golden Barrel cactus has been awarded an ‘Award of Garden Merit’ by the United Kingdom’s Royal Horticultural Society. The RHS Award of Garden Merit is only given to plants that are – among other criteria – easy to grow; not particularly susceptible to pest and disease; and are of outstanding excellence for garden decoration or use. An AGM is a truly prestigious award.

Golden Barrel Cactus: Distribution and Habitat

The Golden Barrel Cactus is endemic to East and Central Mexico where it grows in clusters, on slopes of volcanic rock, at altitudes of around 1400 metres.

Golden Barrel Cactus: Appearance

The Golden Barrel Cactus was endemic to the semi-desert shrubland of Mexico with various other species found in southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Its prominent golden spikes make it a striking ornamental in garden rockeries, water-saving gardens, conservatories, and indoor glass rooms that get sufficient sunlight. Reaching up to 1.8 m in height and spread, the cactus has a globe-shaped, pale green body with areoles that sprout sharp yellow spines. An established Golden Barrel that is grown outdoors will develop a woolly white patch on the crown, which produces vivid, yellow flowers in the summer. Flowering usually happens once the plant is at least 30+ cm wide.

The lifecycle of the cactus starts with a flower that typically forms more seeds when bees cross-pollinate with another Golden Barrel. After pollination, the flowers close and seed production occurs in an ovary underneath the receded flower. Small fruits resembling smooth tiny pineapples later develop on top, which were foraged by Native American tribes as an important food source during the harsh summer months. When they are not picked, the Golden Barrel fruits will remain in place for years housing oval black seeds.

The Golden Barrel Cactus is a green, spherical plant with long, sharp, golden yellow (sometimes white) spines. Young plants are described as having a ‘knobbly’ appearance, whereas mature plants have very pronounced ribs running vertically around its circumference. It has a pincushion like appearance that gives it the common name of Mother-in-Laws Cushion.

A woolly-looking, white patch will appear on top of older plants and, when exposed to a period of winter dormancy, funnel shaped yellow flowers, will form around this point in summer. These flowers are diurnal, meaning they close up at night.

Fleshy yellow fruits containing small, oval, mahogany coloured seeds follow in Autumn.  These fruits will dry to a brown coloured pod and will remain on the plant unless (carefully!) removed.

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Golden Barrel Cactus: Conservation

Whilst the Golden Barrel Cactus is unlikely to disappear totally due to its popularity with gardeners, it is listed as being ‘Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means that it is considered to be at risk of becoming endangered – the wild population will likely become extinct in near future.

Although the Golden Barrel Cactus is endangered in its native habitat, it is a popular specimen cultivated in landscapes across the world. The Golden Barrel grows quite quickly in its initial stages, but the growth rate slows down taking an estimated 10 years to develop a 25 cm diameter. Being a cactus, it is a low maintenance, easy to grow, drought tolerant and frost sensitive plant. Regions with average temperatures between 10°C and 24°C are ideal and location, water, and soil are key to growing a healthy Golden Barrel.

An intensive conservation effort to re-establish the native population is currently underway in The Rio Moctezuma Valley in Mexico.

Golden Barrel Cactus: Ecology

The Golden Barrel cactus is a useful source of nectar for various pollinating birds and insects. The seeds are also harvested by small mammals.

Golden Barrel Cactus: Uses

Over time the Golden Barrel Cactus will develop a slightly cylindrical growth pattern and will tend to lean towards the sun. This has meant that throughout the ages desert travellers have been able to use the plant as a natural compass.

Although all cactus fruit are edible, not all are palatable. The fruit of the Golden Barrel cactus is considered to be one of the better tasting cactus fruits.

The flower buds, pulp, fruit and seeds of many types of Barrel Cactus were eaten by native tribes with the fruits being a particularly good source of Vitamins A & C.

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Email – hello@bluegrasstree.com.au

Mobile – 0420 552 337
Phone – 1300 220 002
International +61 420 552 337

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