Barrel Cactus

YouTube Video

By: Morgan Black

Why did the barrel cactus cross the road? Because he was stuck to the chicken's back!!! Hahaha! Oh! Well hello friends! I hope that my joke gave you a few laughs!! I am Bob the Barrel Cactus and I'm here to tell you a little bit about myself and my family that lives out here in the Sonoran Desert! Next time that you're out in the car, see if you can spot me or any of my family members! We are all over the desert in Arizona. We come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps you even have me as a pet plant in your house already! If you explore this page you will find lots of fun facts about me. Take a look at my beautiful self portraits, and don't forget to take the quiz about me at the bottom of this page. 





I am a barrel cactus or 'cacti'  if we are talking about more than one of me. My friends call me a late bloomer. That is because I grow very slowly and am the last out of all the cacti in the desert to bloom my flowers in the summer. But when I do bloom, it is quite the sight to see! My teachers say that I grow through the process of 'photosynthesis'. That's a pretty big word so I like to say that I grow from the beautiful sun and the desert rain. I have very short roots. This makes it really easy to scoop me out of the ground and take me home! I have really long thorns and my ribs stick out for everyone to see.  
 I only live in the Southwest deserts of North America. I can survive in hot desert land with very little water. My favorite hang out spots are in canyons and washes .Out here in Arizona, it is easy to spot me in my natural habitat or even in your backyard! As I grow older and get larger, I start shaping my barrel to point to the South. Some people think that its so cool that they nicknamed me "Compass Cactus".
What eats me is far more exciting than what I eat! I am a nice dessert for my animal friends. Birds and rodents really like the seeds and nectar that I supply from my bright yellow fruits! Like other plants, I get my nourishment and food from two of earths natural resources, sunlight and water. I am short and stubby with a big belly filled of water! Since there is not a lot of water in the desert I use my barrel belly to store water so that I don't need to wait for rain to quench my thirst! 

By the time i am four years old I can already be about four inches tall! This is about as long as a pen or pencil. When I am all grown up, I can reach all the way up to five feet tall and two feet wide! When I bloom i show off my pretty flowers that can be yellow, orange or red. 

My mother told me that I came from a seed!!! How cool! See what happens is when barrel cacti get older they start growing their fruits and flowers. Then, every once in a while the cacti drops a seed or two on the ground. With a little water and sunlight these seeds can grow into more barrel cactus! I usually live between 50-100 years. The longest living barrel cactus lived to 130 years! Wow that is OLD!

A long time ago, my grandpa Billy the Barrel Cactus got lifted out of the desert and got put in some kind of science lab! Researchers studied him for 6 years and he was able to survive just by living off of the 24 pounds of water that he had stored in his stomach!
The Native Americans made fish hooks from my spines and "cactus candy" from my pulp.  
My water contains an acid which will give you diarrhea if you drink it.

Desert Museum for Kids Fact Sheet: Site has fun facts and activities for kids.
Kids Encyclopedia- Barrel Cactus Facts and its Habitat
Crazy Monkey-Barrel Cactus Facts and Pictures

Remember that all pets are tough work to take care of! Even a cactus! 
As a class, brainstorm how you could create a home for your barrel cactus in the classroom!
How much space would it need?
How much food and water would you need to supply your pet everyday?
What type of weather would your pet need to be comfortable?
Would your pet be OK if you left it in the classroom over the weekends or would the class need to take turns babysitting your barrel cactus when there is no school?
What would the class name your pet?

Make a Barrel Cactus Pot
Each member of the classroom can paint a ceramic pot! 
When your pots are complete, add the soil!
Then with your teachers help, plant your barrel cactus!

First Graders-
Make a Barrel Cactus Pot
Then write a story about your barrel cactus.
What will you name your cactus?
How will you take care of your cactus?
What do you know now about the barrel cactus?

Second Graders-
Make a Barrel Cactus Pot 
Explain in 5 sentences how you will take care of your cactus. 
Predict how your cactus will grow 
Keep a chart and record when
- you feed and water your cactus
-the growth and changes of your cactus 

Barrel Cactus Information: University of Arizona This site is made by a college in Tucson, Arizona. It has lots of fun facts and pictures of the barrel cactus.
Especially for Kids:Barrel Cactus This site contains worksheets and simple information that you can use to learn more about the barrel cactus, or even color your own barrel cactus for the classroom.
Cactus Facts: This site has facts and definitions about the barrel cactus.
Wikipedia: This site was used to find the habitat and pictures of the barrel cactus.
IMAGE CREDIT: This site was used for pictures that are on this page.