Barrel tree

Fouquieria fasciculata

Other Names: Arbol del barril

Family: Fouquieriaceae

Natural Range: Mexico

IUCN Conservation Status

Vulnerable (VU)

The Vulnerable Fouquieria fasciculata is a member of the Fouquieriaceae family, one of only 11 species. This species is a small tree, reaching heights from about 4m up to, in some cases, 50m. Fouquieria fasciculata and the whole Fouquieriaceae family are found mainly in the Sonora desert that spreads from the southwest of the USA to north Mexico. Fouquieria fasciculata resides within the high altitude canyons of the Metztitlán area in Mexico.

The appearance of the species is unusual, it’s appearance resembles a cross between a cactai and a bonsai tree. The plant grows in similar conditions to cacti, requiring dry arid soils with plenty of sun and needs only small amounts of water. The species can survive great climatic pressures being able to function with limited water resources and substantial heat with a surprising resistance to the cold (-7°C).


Fouquieria fasciculata c Grootscholten

Fouquieria fasciculata Credit: Grootscholten, B. (Available at:

The unique appearance of the plant can be attributed to the swollen caudex – the ‘barrell which gives it it’s common name –  which can grow up to 60cm in diameter. From the caudex grows woody branches that taper to sharp red spines. The plant can be distinguished from others within its family by its rounded leaves, red spines and white flowers.

F. fasciculata, like many plant species, is suffering due to changes in climatic conditions and habitat. Furthermore, like many in the Fouquieriaceae family, the species is subject to over-exploitation; due to the unique appearance of the plant and its hardiness, it is a popular species for horticulture both in professional and amateur collections. It is this popularity and a limited geographic range that has seen the species be categorised as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as well as being listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning a licence is needed to trade the species internationally.

This species is reported as held in 35 ex-situ collections.


CITES, 2015. Checklist of CITES Species: Fouquieria fasciculata. [online]

Nash, G.V., 1903. A Revision of the Family Fouquieriaceae. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 30(8), pp.449-459.



Photo credit: © Stan Shebs, Distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0/ CC BY-SA 2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know?

The giant redwood is the biggest tree in the world. The biggest individual tree is named ‘General Sherman’ and has a circumference near the ground of 31.1m.