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 the spines of cacti so painful?
Anyone who has come into contact with a jumping cholla cactus can attest to the fact that it is both excruciatingly painful and challenging to resolve because the cactus’ spines are notoriously difficult to remove.
Cactus spines have a variety of purposes, including defense and the storage of essential water in arid regions, although some are considerably more difficult to remove than others. Researchers have now determined the cause.
The function of the spines, particularly their capacity to pierce animal skin, was tested by Stephanie Crofts and Philip Anderson of the University of Illinois on six different cactus species. Their findings, which were reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, demonstrate that the microstructural characteristics that enhance a spine’s capacity to pierce flesh also raise the barrier to removal.
With their shingled, overlapping barbs, cholla and other barbed cactus spines in particular resemble porcupine quills. Compared to non-barbed spines, these barbs more easily pierce and entangle flesh.
According to Anderson in a news statement, “The barbs grab on your muscle fibers, making it tough to remove them.
The two also experimented with golden barrel, brittle prickly pear, and a few other common cactus species in addition to jumping cholla. They pierced skinless chicken breasts, hog shoulders with the skin still on, and a succession of rubbers with various densities to determine the structure of each plant after studying the spines under a scanning electron microscope to learn more about it. According to their experiments, barbed spines function as razor-sharp blades that may readily pierce skin.
According to Anderson, the cholla spine needs to be able to penetrate the target with just a mild brush in order to puncture the target efficiently. ” It must also be quite challenging to remove at the same time.
An up-close look at a Cholla spine reveals its overlapping barbs, which make removing these spines more challenging and unpleasant. (Credit: Wikipedia/Nebarnix)
Stuck On You
Barbed spines, like cholla, emerged out of the chicken breasts with a tissue-coated exterior. The researchers believe that some of the barbs were left behind in the flesh because they did not emerge clean from the pork samples.
The plains prickly pear’s spines checked out took the most effort to remove from chicken breasts. On the other hand, cholla spines proved to be the most difficult to extract from pig tissue; tests revealed that one cholla spine was capable of hooking into flesh with sufficient force to lift half a pound of pork by the skin.
That’s both quite frightening and clever. Cholla spines also have a reproductive function. Chollas have spines that hook onto a person or animal’s muscle fibers so strongly that it frequently tears off a piece of the cactus, which is then moved to a new area and can start growing as a new plant.
What eases the agony from cactus needles?
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.
Are cactus needles poisonous?
The majority of cacti have modified leaves called cactus spines. They can be either sharp or soft, and they are often located on the cactus’ outside margins. Due to the agony they cause when touched, the spines aid in keeping it safe from predators. Cactus spines come in a variety of shapes, including bristles and glochids.
Glochids, which are pronounced “GLAW-kid,” resemble tiny hairs and cover a variety of plants in dry climates, such as prickly pear pads and other desert flora. If you touch glochids with your skin, they will irritate you because their barbs hook onto flesh so firmly that they can be removed without tearing off any tissue.
Although bristles resemble glochids in appearance, they are less abrasive and will not irritate the skin as much.
The needles on some cacti species, like the saguaro or hedgehog varieties, have led to the widespread misconception that cacti spines can be poisonous; however, this is untrue for the majority of other species, including barrel-shaped ones like prickly pear pads, which have soft bristles in their place!
Be careful when touching cacti even though their spines don’t contain any venom or toxic substances because they might irritate the skin.
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.
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.