Plant Highlights

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Plant Highlight: Echinocactus grusonii

September 2003

Echinocactus grusonii, the Golden Barrel Cactus, is one of the most popular of all cacti in cultivation. It is much admired for its large rotund form, dramatically adorned with neat rows of clustered golden spines. The flowers are also golden yellow in color, emerging from the large patch of wool at the center of the plant. They are produced a few at a time over a long period during the growing season in the warm months of the year. Large plants attain a size of over 2 feet across, and may remain single or produce plantlets at the side to form a clump. They come from Queretaro State in Mexico, but have become very scarce in the wild due to inundation of much of their natural habitat from construction of a dam.

Echinocactus, with 6 species, is one of the 2 genera of cacti commonly known as barrel cacti. The other genus, with considerably more species, is Ferocactus. The two groups are widely distributed in the southwestern US and Mexico.

The Golden Barrel Cactus is one of The Ruth Bancroft Garden’s signature plants, and is a favorite of volunteers and visitors. Each September the Golden Barrel Cactus Award for Philanthropy, named for our prized plant, is presented at the Annual Dinner In The Garden benefit. This year the founder of The Garden Conservancy, Frank and Anne Cabot, will receive the award.