I was given permission to collect cactus at a ranch in the Marfa, Texas, area a few years ago and was delighted to find these chubby little blue barrels that I thought were just a fatter version of the horse cripplers I had gathered in Muleshoe and in the Texas Hill Country.
Later I learned that while they are related, they are not the same. Echinocactus horizonthalonius, aka blue barrel, devils head, turk’s head, eagle’s claw, and yes, sometimes horse crippler, is found in West Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. It’s just a neat little cactus, reaching up to 12 inches in height and 4-6 inches across and has lovely pink blooms with yellow centers. When not in bloom, the crown is covered with white wool. The blooms peak out of that wooly top when they are ready to open.
There will be variation from plant to plant as to how close together the spines occur, and some spines are tinted pink, as you can see on this specimen.
The wad of black in this flower is a honey bee. I watched him dig around and work, well, like a busy little bee gathering pollen and nectar to take back to the hive. They will completely disappear into the flower and then back themselves out when their little pollen sacs are full. I was so engrossed watching I didn’t think to get a picture as he pulled out and flew away, so you will have to take my word for it-it was a bee.
These are lovely little cactus, and while they would grow in a pot, I think they are much happier outside in the ground. Consider adding one to your collection.