An entry written by Taisha, who scribes:
Today, we have an image of a pleasant arrangement of cacti. In particular, I’ll be writing about the Echinocactus grusonii, or golden barrel cacti, in the foreground. This photo was taken by Mike Bush (aka aviac@FlickrM), and shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated, Mike!
According to The Cactus Family by Edward F. Anderson, Echinocactus grusonii is slow-growing, eventually reaching a height of up to 130cm and a diameter of 80 cm in the oldest individuals (>100 years old). Growth can be relatively fast in the first few decades of life, though, if conditions are ideal. The ribbed column bears yellow spines (modified leaves) that darken with age. Yellow flowers sit atop the cactus in the summer months, with somewhat oblong and greenish fruits appearing later in the year.
Echinocactus grusonii is native to Mexico, with two known populations. The smaller of the two populations (~1000 individuals) is located in a small area of Querétaro near Mesa de Léon on medium to steep slopes of volcanic rock. A recently-discovered population was found in Zacatecas, where up to 10000 mature individuals grow at elevations between 1400 and 1900 meters.
Golden barrel cactus (or mother-in-law’s cushion) is currently listed as globally endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Major threats include illegal collecting for horticultural trade and population destruction for dam construction. This cactus is a desirable addition to any garden and is included in many public and private collections. Although this species is widely propagated and readily available in horticulture worldwide, it does not stop ongoing poaching from wild populations (similar to the Dicksonia from a few days ago, mature specimens are extremely valuable). As a conservation action, the IUCN insists that laws governing imports to other countries must be enforced. They also advise a need for further research in this species’ natural history and ecology, as well as in its collection and harvest.
Botanical / art resource link (by Daniel): Sowing a Garden, One Knit Flower At a Time, an article on Smithsonian.com about what happens when a knitter decides to combine knitting with an appreciation for plants.