Fishhook Barrel Cactus Spines
Close-up look at the spines of a young fishhook barrel cactus, this one found and photographed in the Alamo Canyon, deep in the Ajo Mountains of Southern Pima County, Arizona near the Mexican border. As this plant grows larger, these spines will turn back inwards, giving them a "fishhook" like appearance. This rather common large barrel cactus found in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of the American Southwest with a range stretching from Arizona through New Mexico to Texas, as well as south of the border into the northern parts of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Bright yellow fruit emerge and develop throughout the year after its bright orange blossoms are pollinated in summer, and by the following spring they will look like this. As with many cacti, it has many regional names such as the Arizona barrel and biznaga-barril de Nuevo México and is found in open rocky ground, shrub-steppe, chaparral and at the base of desert hills and mountains where there is some gathering of water during seasonal rains. Mature plants can reach upwards of 5 feet tall, and live to 50 to 130 years, and as they get larger, they will tend to lean to face south or southwest-ward, which is why come people also call it the compass cactus. Vicious recurved spines (or "fishhooks") protect it from predators such as javelinas, and the fleshy yellow fruits are an important food source for birds, mule deer, and javelinas.
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