Fishhook Barrel Cactus: Fun Facts & Caring Guide For The Edible Cactus

Fishhook Barrel Cactus also known as the Ferocactus wislizenii is a ball-shaped cactus plant with an attractive cylindrical shape, and hooked central spine. The fishhook barrel cactus is a flowering plant in the cactus family that belongs to northern Mexico and the southern United States. In their natural habitat, the fishhook barrel cactus tends to grow along desert washes and they are less likely to be seen on rocky slopes or valley floors.

fishhook barrel cactus

Fishhook barrel cactus blooms in springs till early fall when a person can witness beautiful flowers along with oblong-shaped fruits. The red-orange colored flowers can be seen at top of the fruit during the bloom period. The fruit looks green till the time it is unripe, and once the flower dries up, the fruit color changes to yellow. During adulthood, the fishhook barrel cactus tends to bend southward, and thus is known as the “compass barrel cactus”.  

Characteristics of Fishhook Barrel Cactus

  • Scientific Name: Ferocactus wislizenii
  • Common Names: Arizona barrel cactus, Southwestern barrel cactus, candy barrel cactus, and Fishhook barrel cactus
  • Family: Cactaceae
  • Genus: Ferocactus
  • Native Place: Southwest United States, Mexico, Texas, Arizona
  • Plant Type: Succulent/Cactus
  • Bloom Season: Spring and Summers
  • Flower Color: Red to Yellow
  • Hardiness Zone: 9-11
  • Toxicity: Mild Toxic
  • Mature Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide
  • Propagation Method: Seeds, Cuttings
  • Suitable For: Outdoors

How to Care for Fishhook Barrel Cactus?

The fishhook barrel cactus is extremely easy to maintain all around the year as it is drought, heat, and frost tolerant. The fishhook barrel cactus is a good choice for people who love cacti but have very little time to provide their special attention. Read more about the fishhook barrel cactus care tips below. 

  • Soil: The fishhook barrel cactus likes well-drained soil. You can get the already prepared cactus mix soil from the market for growing fishhook barrel cactus. Also, you can make the required soil by adding mostly sand with a little topsoil, compost, and perlite. In addition to the soil, you would need unglazed pots for your cactus as it allows easy evaporation of the excess water. Fishhook barrel cactus roots are extremely sensitive to low oxygen levels. Root rot may develop if the soil is not sufficiently permeable to air and water.
  • Water: Although the fishhook barrel cactus is drought tolerant, for good growth you should water the plant regularly, especially during the growing phase. Make sure that the soil dries out before you water the plant once again. The top layer of the soil must be dried out and no water should be allowed to sit at the roots. Its growing seasons are spring, summer, and autumn. Once or twice a week, water the soil to keep it moist. Watering should only be done once a week in the winter to prevent the soil from drying up too much. Additionally, use water that is distilled or made using rainwater rather than tap water.
  • Light: The fishhook barrel cactus likes to be in the full sunshade. If you are living in an urban area and you have potted this plant inside your house, make sure you choose the warmest spot of the house. The plant prefers to be in bright direct sunlight, so choosing a south-facing window with good sunlight is the best spot for your cactus. However, during blazing hot summers, direct sunlight for long periods must be avoided and provide a little shade for protection against damage.
  • Temperature: The fishhook barrel cactus is found in tropical, subtropical, and semi-arid areas that experience little precipitation, strong sunlight, and scorching temperatures. 20 to 35 °C is the ideal temperature for growth. Temperatures below 10 °C or above 35 °C cause development to stall and dormancy to start. The surroundings should be well-ventilated and the air humidity shouldn’t be too high. Avoid accumulating water and high humidity.
  • Fertilizer: For the optimum growth of your cactus, provide a balanced liquid-based fertilizer 2 to 3 times during the growing season. Low nitrogen fertilizer is a well-balanced fertilizer for your fishhook barrel cactus. Use phosphate-potassium fertilizer before and after blooming and nitrogen fertilizer during seedling. Wintertime doesn’t require any fertilizer.

Fun Facts about Fishhook Barrel Cactus

  • The average lifespan of the fishhook barrel cactus is said to be between 50-100 years.
  • Besides being a cactus, the fishhook barrel cactus has many edible plants which include, fruits, seeds, inner flesh, and flower buds.
  • The skin of the cactus grows thicker as the cactus ages, making it more resistant to fire. The average mortality rate within the first two years following a fire is 50 to 67 per cent.
  • The plant is drought tolerant, it can handle the high heat of the sun, and the cactus is also frost tolerant to -15 degrees celsius.
  • Water is present in this cactus, however, it contains oxalic acid and may result in diarrhoea if consumed while the stomach is empty.
  • The fishhook barrel cactus fruit is best used as a natural sweetener and you can make jam, jelly, sour, or sweet barrel cactus chutney out of the fruit.
  • The fruit fishhook barrel cactus is a foraging desert fruit and it should be taken care of and treated with respect as many of the barrel cactus species are endangered or protected.

The fishhook barrel cactus gives people an all-around interest. These cactus species are slow growers but live around 50-100 years on average. The cactus forms an interesting ring at the top that looks smart paired with flowers and pineapple-shaped fruits that stays atop throughout the cool months. The beautiful ring also attracts birds and several small mammals in the desert. 

Overall, these barrel cactus species are interesting and in urban areas, they are used as ornamental cactus plants. However, they are tolerant to extreme conditions which makes them a very good option for outside gardens. Also, keep in mind that you are not pouring water on the body of the plant in sunlight as it may cause fungal infections, sunburn, or death. 


Q1: What are the most common problems or diseases with fishhook barrel cactus?

The most common problem includes Anthracnose, Stem rot, and different types of viruses. Some common pests that cause problems are mealy bugs, spider mites, and aphids.

Q2: Why does the fishhook barrel cactus turn yellow?

You may see your fishhook barrel cactus turning yellow due to overwatering, insufficient sunlight, and pests.

Q3: How to tackle the problem of root rot or stem rot?

Excess water in the roots may lead to rot or stem rot. Prune the rotten stem or roots and transplant the cactus to a new pot with good ventilation.

By Greenkosh