Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Ferocactus wislizenii


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Matthews, Robin F. 1994. Ferocactus wislizenii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : FERWIS SYNONYMS : Echinocactus wislizenii Engelm. [1,17,36] SCS PLANT CODE : FEWI COMMON NAMES : barrel cactus southwestern barrel cactus bisnaga visnaga TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of barrel cactus is Ferocactus wislizenii (Engelm.) Britt. & Rose (Cactaceae) [1,36,38]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms. LIFE FORM : Cactus FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Barrel cactus is distributed in southeastern Arizona from Maricopa and Pima to Greenlee and Cochise counties, east to southern New Mexico from Hidalgo County to southwestern Lincoln County, and in El Paso County, Texas. Barrel cactus is also found in Mexico to Sinaloa and Chihuahua [1,17,36,38]. It is cultivated in Hawaii [40]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES30 Desert shrub FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon - juniper FRES40 Desert grasslands STATES : AZ HI NM TX MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 7 Lower Basin and Range 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland K027 Mesquite bosque K031 Oak - juniper woodlands K040 Saltbush - greasewood K041 Creosotebush K042 Creosotebush - bursage K043 Paloverde - cactus shrub K044 Creosotebush - tarbush K046 Desert: vegetation largely lacking K053 Grama - galleta steppe K054 Grama - tobosa prairie K058 Grama - tobosa shrubsteppe SAF COVER TYPES : 68 Mesquite 239 Pinyon - juniper 241 Western live oak 242 Mesquite SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Barrel cactus is primarily found in desert grassland and desert shrub habitats in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts [1,5,14,27]. It also extends into communities at higher elevations in interior chaparral and is found in the Madrean evergreen woodland in encinal woodlands with a mixture of evergreen oaks (Quercus spp.) and junipers (Juniperus spp.) [5,14]. Barrel cactus is not listed as a dominant or codominant species in available publications. Some species generally associated with barrel cactus include prickly pear or cholla (Opuntia spp.), acacia (Acacia spp.), ocotillo (Fouqueria splendens), yucca (Yucca spp.), saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), grama (Bouteloua spp.), and threeawn (Aristida spp.) [3,4,18,21].


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Barrel cactus is often consumed by cattle and rabbits if the spines are removed by a disturbance such as fire [10,14,34]. Mule deer in the Sonoran Desert readily consume barrel cactus fruits. Mule deer diets consisted of 35.6, 42.5, 5.4, and 1.9 percent barrel cactus fruits in the fall, winter, spring, and summer, respectively [24,25]. Collared peccary also consume barrel cactus fruits when they are available [39]. Barrel cactus seeds are eaten by many birds [38]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Barrel cactus fruits are reported to be highly digestible (greater than 50% of dry matter) by mule deer. The following in vitro dry matter digestibility (DMD) and nutrient values (%) were reported for barrel cactus fruits in different seasons on the Santa Rita Experimental Range in southern Arizona [24]: Spring Summer Fall Winter ___________________________________________________________________ DMD 59.5 78.1 60.9 73.5 Protein 7.8 8.6 6.2 10.8 Phosphorous 0.20 0.21 0.18 0.23 P/Ca 0.65 0.48 0.47 0.61 COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Native Americans have used barrel cactus pulp for making jelly and cactus candy [19,36]. Barrel cactus is extensively collected and used in landscaping themes and cactus gardens [38]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Glendening [10] and Brown [4] reported that barrel cactus increased over 17- or 18-year periods, respectively, on desert grasslands of Arizona. Both studies included treatments that excluded cattle and rabbits (no grazing), excluded cattle only (light grazing), and contained areas open to grazing. The following average numbers of barrel cactus plants under each treatment were reported by Glendening [10] on the Santa Rita Experimental Range: No grazing Light grazing Open ________________________________________________________ 1932 0 0.5 0.5 1949 30.5 24.0 5.0 Blydenstein [3] stated that there was no significant difference in frequency of barrel cactus between lightly grazed desert shrub communities and communities that had been protected from grazing for 50 years. Barrel cactus populations are negatively affected by urban development and cactus collection [27].


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Barrel cactus is a native stem succulent that is barrel-shaped or sometimes columnar with rarely more than one stem. It ranges from 2 to 10 feet (3 m) tall, with a diameter of 18 to 33 inches (45-83 cm). Barrel cactus has 20 to 28 ribs. The spines are dense, somewhat obscuring the surface of the stem. There are four central spines per areole, the larger ones 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8-5.0 cm) long, and 12 to 20 radial spines to 1.8 inches (4.5 cm) in length. Flowers form on growth of the current season near the stem apex. The fruit is yellow, barrel-shaped, and fleshy at maturity [1,17,36]. According to Cannon [7], the root system of barrel cactus is shallow and confined to the upper soil layers. At one site a main anchoring root extended down to about 8 inches (20 cm) and had several short laterals. Horizontal roots originated from the root crown and were very shallow. Depth of burial decreased with distance from the plant and ranged from 0.6 to 1.2 inches (1.5-3.0 cm). Roots were often exposed after rain storms. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Stem succulent REGENERATION PROCESSES : Glendening [10] stated that barrel cactus reproduces from seeds only, which are dispersed by birds and rodents [10,38]. No offsets were reported after fires in southern Arizona; growth was from the apical meristem only [31]. Ferocactus species will often branch at the apex following injury to the terminal bud [1]. Limiting factors for germination of barrel cactus seeds are temperature and light. Greatest germination takes place at 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30 deg C) after at least 8 hours of light. Seeds do not germinate in the dark [12]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Barrel cactus is found on rocky, gravelly, or sandy soils of hills, flats, canyons, wash margins, and alluvial fans in desert shrublands and grasslands from 990 to 5,280 feet (300-1,600 m) elevation [1,35,38]. It also extends into woodland communities occurring at elevations below 6,500 feet (1,970 m) [14]. Barrel cactus is frost-sensitive [28], which is a limiting site factor at higher elevations and northern latitudes. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Barrel cactus' life span has been reported to be from 50 [11] to 130 years [26]. It is a climax member of the desert grassland [27]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Barrel cactus flowers sporadically in late spring and profusely in the summer (July to September) [1,17].


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Large succulents such as barrel cactus have a thick cortex that insulates the vascular tissue. The cortex thickens with age, so older individuals may be more resistant to fire than younger ones. Taller individuals are more likely to survive fire because the apical meristem may be above flame height. Cacti escape fire in refugia and in areas with fuels too sparse to carry fire. Cacti do not appear to store seed in soil seedbanks [30]. Although desert vegetation rarely burns completely due to a lack of continuous fuels, unusually heavy winter rains may produce a cover of annual species dense enough to carry a fire when cured. Fires resulting from this situation tend to occur at the desert-desert grassland ecotone [16], a common habitat of barrel cactus. Thomas [30] has cited references suggesting that fire intervals in desert grasslands may be as short as 3 to 40 years. Repeated fires may be disastrous to barrel cactus populations, whose recovery period has been estimated at more than 15 years [37]. Most desert habitat does not produce enough vegetation to support frequent fires. If frequent fires do occur they gradually reduce succulent populations, although a small percentage of individuals may survive in refugia [30]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Barrel cactus plants more than 1 foot (0.3 m) tall are rarely killed by fire since only their spines are combustible. However, plants less than that height may suffer up to 75 percent mortality as a direct result of fire damage to the apical meristem, or a combination of fire damage to the meristem and damage from herbivory [16]. Succculents in general rarely actually burn, but spines may ignite and carry flames to the apex. The cactus body may scorch and blister without pyrolysis, leaving undamaged parts of the plant alive. Mortality results from death of the photosynthetic tissue and underlying cambium and phloem. Cacti may appear completely scorched with no green tissue visible, yet survive fire. However, fire can cause delayed mortality, which may not occur for months or even years [30]. Removal of the spines also increases subsequent herbivory [23,30]. Survival of succulents depends primarily on protection of the apical meristem. If the apical meristem is undamaged, the cactus will resume growth [30]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Average mortalities of 50 to 67 percent have been reported for barrel cactus within the first 2 years following fire in desert grassland and desert shrub communities in southern Arizona [13,15,23,32,37]. Two consecutive winters of heavy rain produced enough fuel to carry a fire in a portion of the Sonoran Desert where fire is usually considered ecologically insignificant. Following the Granite Fire in Arizona in June 1979, large-diameter cacti including barrel cactus had the lowest mortality rate of all cacti. Many severely burned plants survived and produced flowers and seeds. An average of 20 plants per hectare occurred on unburned sites, and 15 plants per hectare occurred on burns in postfire years 1 and 2. Barrel cactus had an overall mortality rate of 59 percent in burned areas within the first 19 postfire months [21]. Barrel cactus had an average of 6 percent and 31 percent mortality on unburned and burned sites, respectively, following fires in semidesert grasslands on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and in the Sierrita Mountains of southern Arizona. Plants were counted within 11 to 14 postfire months. Barrel cactus also had significantly greater (p<.001) fire mortality when under a mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) canopy (53%) than in open grassy areas (19%) [31]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Ferocactus wislizenii
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New Mexico vegetation: Past, present, and future. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press: 179-224. [21102] 28. Steenbergh, Warren F.; Lowe, Charles H. 1969. Critical factors during the first years of the saguaro (Cereus giganteus) at Saguaro National Monument, Arizona. Ecology. 50(5): 825-834. [19692] 29. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 30. Thomas, P. A. 1991. Response of succulents to fire: a review. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 1(1): 11-22. [14991] 31. Thomas, P. A.; Goodson, P. 1992. Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biological Conservation. 60(2): 91-100. [19894] 32. Trabaud, L. 1987. Fire and survival traits of plants. In: Trabaud, L., ed. Role of fire in ecological systems. 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