Why Are Cactus Prickly

The cactus family is known for its prickly spines, which are actually altered leaves. The kind of leaves that a maple or oak tree has are not present on cacti. But in the distant past, they might have had leaves that were at least somewhat more similar. Due to the fact that they aid the plants in surviving in hot, dry situations, those leaves eventually changed into the prickly spines we see on cactuses today.

“They could serve as a defensive strategy to prevent herbivores, or animals that consume plants, from consuming the cactus. But spines also produce shade! “Kimberlie McCue says.

“When you are covered with spines, those spines are throwing shadows on the cactus’ body as the sun moves across the sky. They are tiny umbrellas for shade.”

All cacti are native to arid regions, and some can even survive in dry climates. How do they acquire water to exist, then? Kimberlie informs us that these plants can be found close to the water.

“There will be fog coming off the ocean in the morning. Water condenses on those spines, forming tiny droplets, which then flow down the spine, to the plant’s body, to the soil, and to the roots.”

As they hold the soil in place and offer shelter to birds and other creatures, cactuses are also crucial components of their desert ecosystems. In exchange, such animals and birds assist in pollinating the cactus flowers. Cacti are a significant local source of food for people.

Cactuses are unfortunately threatened by people who illegally steal natural plants from their surroundings. According to Kimberlie McCue, being cautious when purchasing cactus plants is one method to ensure that cacti remain healthy and numerous. Before you buy, find out where the cactus came from and confirm that the vendor is being a responsible steward of these plants.

What happens if you get poked by a cactus?

Cactus spines are modified leaves that resemble needles. Cactus may lose less water in hot and arid environments because of its needle-like adaptability. Additionally, they give out some shade and are a fantastic deterrent to animals that might try to eat them.

Some cactus feature camouflage-producing spines, which further helps to defend them from predators who could try to consume them. Less light reaches the stem of the plant because the cactus spines reflect light (reducing water loss).

What types of cactus spines are there?

Various cactus plants may have one of a few different types of cactus spines. Some spine types could be more difficult to remove and hurt more when pricked. Types of cactus spines include:

  • tiny, hair-like spines (such as in genus of Cephalocereus)
  • Stiffened spines (such as in Mammillaria gracilis)
  • rounded spines (such as in Sclerocactus papyracanthus)
  • Glochids (such as in Opuntia rufida)
  • bent spines (most cacti)

One of the sorts of cactus spines that causes the most discomfort is the glochid. This is due to the glochids’ brittleness and easy skin-breaking. This makes removing them from the skin extremely difficult.

This also applies to cholla or barbed spines. They are extremely painful and easily penetrate skin and soft tissues. These cacti belong to the Opuntioideae subfamily, which also includes Chollas and Cylindropuntia.

Because they adhere to flesh, clothing, and fur with ease, cholla cacti are sometimes known as jumping chollas. They must be carefully removed from the skin since if done by hand, they would cling to the fingers.

Why do cacti lack leaves in favor of thorns?

Why do cacti differ from other plants in having thorns instead of leaves and a thick, meaty stem?

The appropriate choices are A The cacti can hold more water as a result. Water would be lost because of broad leaves. In the desert, you can find thorny shrubs and cactus. Their thick, fleshy stems allow them to hold more water for a longer period of time. In addition, plants in the desert have thorns rather than leaves because big, broad leaves would make water evaporate quickly. Water moves through a plant during transpiration, and it evaporates from aerial parts including leaves, stems, and flowers.

Why are cactus’ sharp spines present?

I had always thought cacti had spines for defense, but it turns out they serve a variety of other purposes and are quite extraordinary adaptations. In a variety of intriguing ways, they aid cacti in surviving the challenges of desert life.

The purpose of cacti’s spines By serving a variety of purposes, spines enable cactus to survive and even thrive in arid settings. They shield the plant from predators, offer shade, aid in temperature control, lessen water loss, and even encourage the plant to spread and procreate.

Continue reading to learn more about how cactus use their spines to help them survive and grow in the harsh environments where they reside.

What happens if you remove a cactus’ spikes?

While removing the spines makes a cactus less thorny, it can also make the plant look unattractive. The different types of spines include hair-like, flattened and ridged, hooked, straight, bristly, comb-shaped, papery, feathery, or twisted ones. Black, tan, orange, red, pink, gray, yellow, golden, or white are some of the available hues. The majority of cacti contain two different kinds of spines: a thicker central spine that faces the center of the areole and thinner radial spines that encircle it. Glochids, the tiny, barbed spines at the base of the bigger spines of prickly pears (Opuntia spp. ), are among the most hated spines. Depending on the species, prickly pears can grow in USDA zones 3b through 11.

Cactus Spines Overview

The Southwest features a cactus with those thorny spines that carry a sharp punch, which is your enemy when hiking there.

I adore cacti and am frequently spotted on the trail taking pictures of them, especially young barrel cacti.

However, despite how “cute and “beautiful they are, a slip or a brush against one can result in some discomfort. Or the severe discomfort a woman had in Sedona after falling into a large area of cacti that lodged their “needles all over her body Four of us were using tweezers to assist her in getting rid of them.

The two different kinds of “thorns” or “needles” on cacti are called glochids and spines.

Cactus Spines

The enormous spines are “cactus needles that can be easily seen with the naked eye from a distance of a few feet.

This is the “Good ones are the ones that are the simplest to get rid of. In some cases, you can remove the spines by yourself rather than using your cactus first aid kit.

If you decide to remove a spine by hand, proceed with extreme caution to avoid pushing it in or breaking the spine, both of which will make the process more difficult.

Cactus Glochids

Glochids are the needles that resemble hair and that you can see when you are close to a cactus. Because they are so small, they may be difficult to see, and they may enter in groups, these are the ones that can be the most difficult to remove “Normally, needles include a barb, which makes it challenging to remove them.

DO NOT attempt to manually remove glochids! Tweezers or a combination of tweezers and a pair of tweezers should be used to remove this “putty patch

A microscopic focal stack of 21 images of a cholla cactus spine reveals the barbs that make removal agonizingly painful.

How Do You Treat Cactus Wounds

Once all of the spines or glochids have been taken out, clean the wound well and apply an antibiotic ointment. Try to wrap the places with a bandage, gauze, and tape if you have them, especially if you’re in a “dirty location.”

If your wound(s) are itching or in discomfort, use your best judgment when choosing a medication and think about utilizing a topical solution and/or an over-the-counter choice like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

What Happens if You Leave a Cactus Needle In

What goes in must eventually come out. If that tiny pimple appears at the site of the cut, it might unfortunately be a painful process. Typically, that indicates that it has reached the surface of the skin, and you should be able to get rid of it by carefully pressing the pimple out with your fingers after emptying it.

Are Cactus Needles Dangerous

Although cactus spines are not toxic to people or animals, if they are left in or are not properly cared for, there is a potential that the wound area will become infected.

There is a possibility that something on the spine, such germs, might possibly result in an infection.

How to Remove Cactus Spines

Use a pair of needle-nose tweezers to remove as many spines and glochids as you can if you are unable to remove them by hand. If there is any Elmer’s Glue remaining, spread it over the affected area and cover it with gauze while it dries, which takes around 30 minutes.

Duct Tape

Because it can be used for so many different things, like fixing malfunctioning equipment temporarily and mending torn clothes, duct tape is a particularly useful tool to bring in your backpack. I keep a little roll in my rucksack and a small quantity attached to my hiking poles.

Forcep Tweezer With Pointed Tips

When you need to remove spines and glochids precisely, tweezers with pointy tips are more useful than those with slant tips.

You can purchase them online or in the beauty section of your preferred retail establishment.

Finding a “combo kit with sharp tip tweezers and a magnification is something I advise.

Tweezer With Magnifier from Amazon, REI, and Walmart can be seen in the combo set from these online merchants.

Lighter or Matches to “Disinfect the Items

It’s advised to keep a tiny lighter on hand at all times in case you need to start a fire or clean the tools you’ll be using to remove the spines in an emergency.

Learn more about the 10 Essentials for the Southwest Hiker to bring in case of emergencies.

Elmer’s Glue-All

This is one of the most frequently advised methods for removing cactus spines and glochids when used in conjunction with gauze.

Because it’s so difficult to locate little bottles, I always take a 4-ounce bottle about with me, even though it’s bigger than I need. Amazon is the only place I could discover to buy them. View the Elmer’s Glue-All 1.25 ounce container.

I’ve only used Elmer’s Glue-All, the “all-purpose kind,” not the kid-friendly washable variety.

Wound Wash

This is a hard one on the trail as we normally don’t carry soap and water to keep our hands clean.

We will rinse the area with water from our hydration bladders to get rid of any debris.

Disinfecting Items With Fire

Heat your instruments with a lighter until the metal becomes red for the quickest and most effective way to “disinfect” them. Once it gets red, let it cool and then begin the removal process of the intrusive object (s).

If you don’t have a lighter, see if you have alcohol wipes in your first aid box.

Antibiotics and Antihistamines

Most people advise keeping antibiotics in your cactus first aid kit, but we go a step further and recommend including an over-the-counter antihistamine to help with any reactions you might have to the unpleasant skin invader.

Can you jump at a cactus?

The leaping cholla, also known as the teddy bear cactus, gets its common name because if you come too close, a section will break off and fly towards your body. A flying cactus, indeed. See the jumping cholla in action by watching the video up top! Avoid being a victim!

How could a plant have so many thorns?

A cactus’ spines are significantly altered leaves. Since cactus plants are located in desert areas, their numerous spines serve a variety of purposes. The plants’ leaves have been changed to become spines. Consequently, the cactus plant has a great deal of thorns or spines.

Why do desert plants have spines?

The thorny plants, like cactus, are attractive to look at but difficult to manage because most people are reluctant to admit they would enjoy having one because of the potential for intense discomfort. Cactus, agave, and mesquite are examples of desert plants that must endure in areas with little water. To live, these desert plants must contend with a variety of strange situations.

Other plants lose moisture through the pores on their leaves and stems, which they have. Therefore, in order to lock in the meager amounts of moisture they have, these desert plants must avoid those pores. As a result, these leaves lack pores and develop hard, dry spines or thorns. By not releasing any moisture at all, these thorns save water. The lower, greener portion of a leaf has the least amount of activity, assisting the plant’s survival. To protect themselves from being nibbled on, the spikes also cover the pores.

  • They are short because of a slower development mechanism.
  • Desert plants must make efficient use of their limited water supply.
  • Even still, they develop much more slowly than typical plants do.

As a result, these clever prickly bushes develop slowly while protecting themselves and preserving resources.