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Echinocactus grusonii: Common, yet endangered

It’s not always easy to tell one cactus from another. There are many kinds that look so similar that only experts can tell them apart, and even those may need to rely on DNA sequences.

Some cacti are easy to recognize, however. One of those is the Echinocactus grusonii, or golden barrel cactus, you see before you. Do you remember seeing one in the entrance hall?

Typical characteristics of this cactus are its color, a bright shade of light green, its many ribs and yellow spines, and its broad, golden-furred crown. It blossoms for the first time at an age of about 15 to 20 years. The flowers are a bright, sulfurous yellow, and shine in sunlight like silk.

The golden barrel cactus is widely available commercially, and not very expensive. They are easy to grow from seeds. Unfortunately, despite strict prohibitions, people keep removing them from the wild. This is inexcusable in the case of the widely-cultivated golden barrel cactus and particularly sad, as fewer than 250 examples are still growing in their original natural habitat. A large part of the original population fell victim to dam construction, threatening this species with extinction in the wild, even though it is a part of almost every cactus collector’s garden. To help draw attention to this danger, the German Cactus Society named the golden barrel cactus its Cactus of the Year for 2008.



Audio file download
Echinocactus grusonii: Common, yet endangered (MP3, 640 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Ehrentraud Bayer, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg