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 are cacti so uncomfortable?
Agaves are a hot topic in garden design right now. Golden barrel cacti are popular among retro-modern individuals. Even in containers of mixed perennials, fire stick euphorbia can be found. While these fresh takes on traditional succulents are reviving our gardens’ aesthetics, there are also serious safety issues with these frequently spiky plants.
Thorns and spines are a market niche for succulents. Large rosettes of leaves with wickedly sharp thorns on the tips are produced by agaves. Smaller agaves are extraordinary leg scratchers that will quickly ruin your thigh’s summertime tan. The risk comes from the larger agaves’ tips, which are at arm or head height.
Give your agaves a trim to make the spines far less sharp without ruining their appearance rather than letting them wither away. To gently trim each leaf’s sharp end, use very sharp shears or clippers. Do not cut the softer, luscious flesh; only the fingernail-hard portion. Once cut, these won’t grow back, but new leaves might require another trim.
You should be aware that not all cacti are made equal if you’re considering growing them this year. One of the most painful is the ever-popular golden barrel, which has spines that are a bright yellow color. They appear to irritate the skin more than other barrel species. The vicinity of playgrounds for children and animals as well as active outdoor living areas should be avoided.
One of the biggest and most popular cultivars of cactus is the prickly pear, often known as paddle cactus. They can grow almost anywhere and endure the harshest heat and drought. These cactus have noticeable, big, sharp spines. Glochids, which resemble tiny hairs, are present around the base of the large spines. These seem like harmless soft fluff, yet they are the most dangerous. It is nearly tough to get them out of the skin once they have done so.
Because even lightly stroking a prickly pear can result in pain and irritation, some cacti specialists forbid them from being planted in gardens. Even gloves cannot protect you. Glochids can infest gloves, unintentionally spreading them to pockets and shoes. Be especially wary of the Mickey Mouse or teddy bear types because they conceal a cruel disposition behind cute appearances. Dogs may be drawn to the brightly colored and extremely sweet prickly pear fruit, leaving them with glochids in their mouths as well.
Firesticks are red-hued variants of the pencil tree euphorbia, which are popular with florists and upscale nurseries. One of the most hazardous species is the pencil tree, which produces a caustic white latex sap. Simply brushing across it causes the milk to begin to pour. A friend’s husband just pruned a sizable pencil tree and made sure to wash his hands and face afterward. He didn’t, however, take off his latex-splattered T-shirt. He removed his shirt that evening, it scraped against his face, and the poisonous sap seeped into his eye. That person was in agonizing discomfort the entire evening in the ER.
Pay attention to how you dispose of all of these plants. A sanitation worker may be troubled for weeks by loose prickly pear cuttings in the trash. similar to newly cut euphorbia Before you bag up these pointed guys, it’s better to wrap them in numerous layers of newspaper or carpet padding.
Think twice before bringing certain varieties of succulents into your yard if you love them but also have children or animals. Remove the tops of sharp thorns wherever you can to make them less harmful without destroying their beauty. Be careful where you plant to avoid creating a dangerous environment for foot traffic. To avoid unintentional infestation, avoid plants that have glochids. Additionally, understand that all euphorbias contain hazardous latex. Fortunately, there are a lot of new and interesting garden plants that aren’t like these few troublemakers.
How do you avoid injuring a cactus?
You should have known better than to step outdoors barefoot, but you still did, and now you have cactus needles in your foot.
What ought you to do? Keep yourself sober and dispose of the needles before trying a shot of tequila. When you know you won’t need to travel to the doctor’s office, you can have the tequila then.
Cactus needle advice is widely available online, however most of it is pretty similar. No matter where you were pricked, the procedures are the same.
First use tweezers to get the biggest needles
Start by carefully removing any needles that aren’t totally buried using tweezers. In a single, straight motion, pull them out.
By pressing bubbles out of a screen protector, you might be able to entice buried needles to the surface by rubbing from the inner point of the needle toward the surface. If the needle was inserted directly into the skin and not along the skin, this is unlikely to work. A specialist could be required for that.
Next take care of the tiny needles
Look after the glochids. Even though they are tougher to notice, these tiny, hair-like needles are nevertheless detectable.
You don’t want the needles to get into your hand while wearing gloves.
Rub the skin with a pair of wadded-up nylon pantyhose. That ought to get rid of most of the glochids.
Try using glue
Spread adhesive where you believe there are still needles or glochids—some people advise rubber cement, others Elmer’s glue or something comparable. Allow the adhesive to cure before covering with gauze.
Pull the gauze and glue off with caution. With the glue, the needles and glochids ought to fall off. It is not advised to use adhesive tape.
Once the needles have been removed, clean the area, apply an antibiotic cream, and cover the wound with a bandage that you should keep dry and clean.
Try taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen, two over-the-counter analgesics, if you’re in pain.
The duration of cactus prick pain
Glochids that become embedded in the skin can cause dermatitis symptoms as well as a stinging, burning, and itching sensation. These may be extremely sensitive and painful welts, pustules, or blisters. If the glochids are not removed, the condition can linger for as long as nine months.
Since cactus glochids are so tiny, tweezers are not much use. However, tweezers work best when used in conjunction with a magnifying lens and a lot of patience. Duct tape that has been placed to the region and removed has some effectiveness as well.
You can also try applying Elmer’s glue or melted wax to the affected region. Peel off the wax or glue only after it has had time to dry. Up to 45% of the spines may be removed in this way.
The spines must be removed or the situation may worsen, necessitating the need for medical attention.
Are cactus thorns dangerous?
The sharp edges and large surface area of cactus needles make them potentially hazardous. They can result in injuries such puncture wounds, skin infections, and other harm. Chemicals in the needles have the potential to irritate the skin or eyes.
The germs from the plant’s needles will very easily infect you if you are allergic to the plant or have an open wound. If this occurs to you, call your doctor right away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since we typically don’t bring soap and water to keep our hands clean, this is a challenging one to undertake while hiking.
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.