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Ferocactus emoryi
(Syn: Ferocactus covillei)

Cultivation and Mail Sale
of Cacti and Succulents.

Ferocactus emoryi

Nice looking tall barrel cactus with colourful spines. Grows up to 2 m tall.

Description: F. emoryi is a solitary barrel cactus except in case of injury to the growing tip, it lacks the lower radial spines of F. wislizenii and F. acanthodes but has similar heavy, ridged, hooked central spines.
Stems: Erect, globular when young to a stout cylinder when older, 30-90(-250) tall × 30-60 (100) cm in diameter; tubercled when young later forming ribs.
Ribs: (15-)21-32, shallowly notched immediately above each areole.
Areoles: oval with brown wool, 2-2.5 cm apart.
Spines: 6-10 per areole, reddish, reddish grey, or horn coloured, all robust and rigid, more than 1 mm diameter.
Central spine: 1, curved slightly to fully hooked, (hooked only on relatively young plants), heavy, roughly cross-ribbed, annulate, thick, adaxially flat, 55-95(-130) long × 2.5-4 mm. in cross section.
Radial spines: 5 to 9 similar to central, spreading, not hooked, 2.5 to 5cm long.
Flowers: Reddish outside, brilliant red inside, 6-7.5 × 5-7.5 cm; inner tepals brilliant red [or occasionally yellow]; stigma lobes brilliant red.
Fruits: Persistent, oblong, scaled, 2,5-5cm long × 25-35 mm long in diameter with the dried remains of the flower atop, ± readily dehiscent through basal pore, bright yellow, 50, leathery or fleshy, locule dry, hollow except for seeds. Often the fruit are broken into and the seed eaten by birds or rodents.
Seeds: 2 mm. in diameter, black.

The 'emoryi' subspecies can reach a height of 2 m and over 80 cm thick. It has 30 or more ribs.
The 'rectispinus' subspecies only grows up to about 150cm high and 50cm thick. It has about 21 ribs and the central spines are more erect and very long.




Family: Cactaceae (Cactus Family) 

Scientific Name: Ferocactus emoryi ssp. emoryi (Engelmann) Orcutt,
Published in: Cactography. 1926(1): 5. 1926.

Basyonim: Echinocactus emoryi Engelmann
Published in: Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts 3: 275. 1856.


  • Echinocactus covillei Berger1829
  • Ferocactus covillei Britton & Rose 1922

Common Names: Emory’s barrel cactus, Coville’s barrel cactus, Traveler's Friend

Origin:  It is native of the lower deserts of Arizona (Yuma, Pima and Maricopa Co.) and Mexico (Sonora).

Habitat: Hillsides, wash margins, alluvial fans, mesas, or flats, gravely rocky or sandy soils, rocky slopes and adjacent bajadas, Sonoran desert scrub, igneous substrates; 0-1200 m; Gravely, sandy, or rocky soils of hillsides, alluvial fans, and wash margins at 450 to 750m elevation.

Conservation status: Listed in CITES appendix 2.

Note: Ferocactus emoryi has a confused taxonomic history. The name is based on Echinocactus emoryi, which was published twice by Engelmann, each involving a different species. Engelmann’s first use of E. emoryi [in W. H. Emory]---applied to a population of Ferocactus wislizeni in eastern Arizona---is rejected as provisional and therefore invalid. However, Engelmann’s second use of E. emoryi was a valid publication, and it unambigously pertains to the species in southwestern Arizona that Britton and Rose unncecessarily re-named as Ferocactus covillei.



The spines sit on prominent nipples when young which will fade into the rib with age.

F. emoryi  produce nectar in the nectaries at the top of the cactus that feed the ants that live around its base. In turn, the ants are very territorial and seem to protect the plants from other insects that might try to walk up the stem and damage the fresh, delicate cells at the growing apex or steal nectar or pollen from the flowers. This strategy is useful to not only to protect the plant from small herbivores but also to promote outcrossing pollination because the only bugs that can successfully visit the flowers without being attacked by the ants are flying pollinator insects like butterflies and bees that carry pollen from other individuals and other populations, in turn increasing the genetic diversity of the species.

Cultivation: Slow growing to start but does well under cultivation.  Use very draining soil, water during the aestival growth cycle (this plant need plenty of water) But needs to be avoided  wetting the bodies of these plants while they are in sunlight. A wet cactus in the sun light can cause sun burning which can lead to scares or even fungal infections and death.
Needs full sun. Keep dry at 10°C in winter, but can tolerate sporadic light frost.

Reproduction: Seeds are the only way of reproducing.

Photo of conspecific taxa, varieties, forms and cultivars of
F. emoryi.

Photo gallery: Alphabetical listing of Cactus and Succulent pictures published in this site.

Photo gallery Ferocactus



Home | E-mail | Plant files | Mail Sale Catalogue | Links | Information | Search

All the information and photos in cactus art file are now available also in the new the Enciclopedia of Cacti. We hope you find this new site informative and useful.