What is a Barrel Cactus
Below is a transcription of the above sign found at the Valley of Fire Visitor Center.
Barrel Cactus or Bisnaga – Ferocactus acanthodes
Mixed Cliff Semi-Scrub and Creosote Bush Scrub
Rocky slopes, limestone cliffs
2180 to 3000 feet (700 to 1000 m)
TYPE OF SOIL
SOURCE OF WATER
Up to 6 feet (2 m)
ADAPTATION FOR SURVIVAL
Barrel stem stores moisture.
Large, shallow root system quickly absorbs water from infrequent rain and snowfall.
In novel and films, barrel cactus is shown as the answer to desert thirst but the slimy alkaline juice made by mashing the pulpy flesh really is not drinkable, except in extreme emergencies.
Woodrats sometimes live in the base, gnawing at the soft tissue while protected from enemies.
Indians used needles of this cactus as awls, and to apply tattoos.