The majority of the cactus in the Sonoran Desert are stunning to look at, but one variety can be dangerous to people if they come into contact with it.
It is the chain fruit cholla, sometimes referred to as the jumping cholla due its “jumping onto the skin or clothing of a bystander from a parent plant or the ground.
Of course, the barbed cactus spines don’t actually jump. But when individuals come too close, they quickly separate from the main plant and hook tenaciously, sometimes painfully.
“According to John Wiens of the botany section at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum west of Tucson, I don’t believe there is a person who enjoys being outside who hasn’t experienced that experience at least a few times.
As to why cacti jump,
The leaping cholla, or Cylindropuntia fulgida, is a perennial shrub that is a member of the cactus family. It is indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in North America, which stretches from Arizona in the United States to Baja California in Mexico. They can be found in Australia, South Africa, and the Pacific Islands in addition to their native area.
These cacti range in size from smaller trees that are almost 10 feet tall to lower branching cacti. Due to the deserts’ severe water shortage, the leaves have been reduced to spines. Additionally, they open in the late afternoon and have tiny flowers that are typically pink or magenta.
The surface of these cacti is covered in barbed spines, or glochidia, which can be uncomfortable to touch and are difficult to remove when attached to human or animal skin. The name “jumping cholla” comes from these spines, which are white or golden in color and quickly detach when the plant comes into touch with someone.
Does the Jumping Cactus Actually Jump?
You must be curious in the jumping cholla after hearing rumors or misconceptions about it “The cactus that jumps actually jumps, right? The answer is no, and this ostensible fact is in no way true.
When people imagined that the thorns pounced on their bodies and stung them, the tale was born. But over time, the misunderstanding was dispelled. It was found that the passerby was being reproduced vegetatively via the stalk and thorns.
Jumping cacti have a lovely appearance and give off an off-white shimmer, but after being stung once, you will know to stay away from them. The plant’s stings can be quite painful and can result in itching, inflammation, and even deep cuts.
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The primary explanation for these plants’ alleged “Jump is the term for the loosely connected stems and thorns that affix to onlookers or passing animals as they approach the cacti. Even while you won’t feel the thorns cling to your body, they can be quite painful when they make contact with your skin.
Surprisingly, the cactus’s loose joints aid in both self-defense and the growth of new cactus plants. This occurs when the adult plant’s dead stalks fall to the ground around it, forming roots that sink far into the sand in quest of a water supply. It becomes one of the most dreadful and hazardous cactus accessible in the world when additional new cacti sprout from the area around the original plant, establishing a cacti colony.
Are poisonous jumping cacti common?
There are many people who enjoy cacti, but the majority avoid handling them frequently because to their thorns. So, are the spines of cacti poisonous? Are the spines of cacti harmful? You may learn more about different varieties of cactus spines, whether they are poisonous or harmful, and other information in this post.
The spines of cacti are not toxic. However, some cactus spines (such as Cholla or hairlike spines) can be harmful if they penetrate deeply into tissues and can result in bruising, bleeding, and even dead tissues.
How can a leaping cactus be removed?
Cactus spines can be easily removed with a pair of tweezers if you manage to get one or two stuck in the flesh. But what if you end up being one of the unfortunate people who gets stuck with a hand, foot, or butt full of needles? Elmer’s Glue works well for this, just spread a thin layer of it over the surface.
Once the glue has had time to dry completely, allow it to sit for a while before peeling it off. Your skin-piercing needles will rise to the surface and be pulled out by the glue. If you get a good foot- or handful, you might need to repeat a number more times.
Using duct tape is a different choice that I haven’t personally tested but that has received excellent recommendations (should you be out of glue.) However, since you’ll have to apply pressure in order to trap the needles, this seems uncomfortable.
In either case, when you remove the spines, make sure to thoroughly cleanse the area with antibacterial soap. You don’t want the injury to contract an infection.
If portion of the needle does not stick out above the skin, you can find it more challenging. You could want to leave it in your skin for a few days if it isn’t hurting you. The needles are pushed to the top by the body, which makes them simpler to catch.
Call an ambulance if you experience a serious fall and become coated in needles, but in reality, it would be best to stay clear of the cacti altogether.
Cactus needles do they jump?
The chain-fruit, also known as the jumping cholla, is known for having the ability to “jump from the ground or from a parent cactus to a person’s clothing or skin.” The “cactus that shoots needles” does not truly jump or shoot needles, so don’t panic.
It just rapidly and easily separates from the parent plant and latches obstinately onto (and occasionally into) anyone who approaches too closely or happens to be in the vicinity when a strong breeze blows. It is likely because of its ease of attachment that people refer to it as “jumping” or “shooting needles.”
To survive, the cholla detaches readily. A joint roots when it separates and subsequently drops to the ground. The plant thus grows rapidly. The spines root when they fall to the ground, establishing a new location for the cactus, if a person or animal is able to remove them after the joint has traveled on fur or skin.
Because of the mature plants’ close-growing barbed spines and lengthy “chains of fruit sans spines that hang from the trunk,” it is frequently simple for the chain-fruit cholla to catch individuals passing by. These chains can get rather long in certain places.
People can easily come into contact with the thorny spines that appear to nearly jump at them when they pause to inspect the fruit. The jumping cholla’s spines are also rather springy or bouncy, which increases their capacity to ride along with you.
Jumping chollas are among the prettiest and largest in the desert, despite their repulsive propensity to stick to people. With lengthy chains attached, they can reach heights of up to 15 feet, and from late May through June, they bloom with exquisite pink and lavender flowers.
Is there a moving cactus here?
To emphasize the beauty, diversity, and extraordinary qualities of our common planet Earth, One Earth’s “Creature of the Week series” features a relatively obscure and unique species every Wednesday.
If you came across a creeping monster in the desert, you could have thought someone had used a machete to cut through a field of cacti. No, instead of seeming like a thorny snakes’ nest, this unique variety of cactus rests horizontally on the ground in colonies with only its tip pointed upward toward the sun. The crawling devil may also move across the desert on its belly, somewhat like snakes.
The creeping devil, also known by its scientific name Stenocereus eruca, is the only known moving cactus in the world and is an endemic to the state of Baja California Sur in northwest Mexico. The plant’s prostrate position aids in both its ability to move across the desert for extended periods of time as well as its ability to survive in solitude. It accomplishes this by spreading out horizontally from its stem while also eliminating its tail. It develops new roots as it gently creeps across the desert floor in order to attach itself and to take in water and nutrients. The plant receives nutrients back through the roots as a result of its back end disintegrating and assimilating with the soil. The creeping demon must, in a sense, kill off a portion of itself in order to travel, but this dead portion then feeds the newly formed living portion.
The climate where a creeping devil grows determines the pace of growth and the speed at which it moves. It moves at a speed of two feet each year in its natural region, where the climate is humid and marine.
This cactus can reproduce sexually, but due to its isolation and the dearth of pollinators in its natural habitat, it can also do so by cloning individual sections of itself, which separate from their bases, die, and then grow into new plants on their own.
Unfortunately, this enigmatic and unusual cactus is officially listed as an endangered plant in Mexico, mostly because of illegal trade. Cactus collectors will spend a lot of money to include it in their personal succulent gardens due to its uniqueness. On the illegal market, a single creeping devil stem can fetch between $4000 and $5000.
However, the agricultural sector poses a threat to this amazing cactus as well. To make room for their grazing cattle, for which the creeping devil is both an annoyance and a barrier to grazing, farmers will decimate entire colonies.
How do cactus spines function?
The prickly pear cactus found in Mexico has the potential to become a fantastic energy source in the future.
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Cacti are among my favorite plant species, and their needles undoubtedly make them distinctive. In many respects, the needles that cover cactus are essential to their survival. Since many cacti are found in dry environments, these plants need to store a lot of water in order to thrive. In fact, according to scientists, water makes up between 90 and 94 percent of a cactus plant. Cacti are ideal treats for thirsty species due to their high water content. Animals that consume cactus in the wild include quail, kangaroo rats, sheep, desert tortoises, as well as a variety of insects. In order to stop thirsty or hungry animals from eating or harming the plant, cacti contain needles.
Additionally, you could see that the color and texture of cactus spines might vary. While some spines are fluffy, others are stiff. The color of the spines can also vary, from white to gray to pink! Because of these variations in spine color and texture, cactus can more effectively blend into their surroundings (i.e. camouflage). Therefore, a second reason cacti have needles is to enable them to conceal from harmful species.
Heat is a significant issue in desert regions where there are many cacti. The needles of a cactus can offer protection from the sun so that it can thrive in these scorching temperatures. Although it may not seem like a single needle may offer much shade, several cacti species have needles that are grouped closely together. The plant is shaded by these spine clusters, which resemble small umbrellas. These spines provide shade for the cactus, which helps keep water from evaporating and causing water loss.
All in all, cactus use their spines as protective and hiding mechanisms against potential predators. Additionally, they give the plant shade, which keeps it cooler and prevents water loss.
How to react if you come across a cactus?
You can be watering or gently removing your cactus from the pot when you suddenly discover that a thorn is lodged in your finger. What should you do in these circumstances? Well, the first step is to try to maintain your composure while grabbing some tweezers or sticky tape (tape) depending on how big or small the object is.
Once you have it, all you need to do is either use tweezers to remove the cactus that has become lodged in your skin or to pass duct tape over the area where it became lodged. I suggest using a sterile needle or one that has already been cleansed with pharmaceutical alcohol to gently poke around until the thorn is removed if it has been fractured and/or has remained entirely inside the skin.
Instructions: Removing cactus stuck in skin
- Find the cactus needle injury by looking over the affected person’s body.
- Make a note of the cactus needles and the location where they enter the body.
- Examine all of the clothing, shoes, and other equipment you were wearing when you came into touch with the cactus plant. Without being physically affixed to the skin, needles can irritate skin by poking through socks and clothing.
- If cactus needles can be seen with the naked eye, pinch and remove them using tweezers. An optical magnifier can be useful.
- Every time you extract a cactus needle, clean the tweezers on a piece of paper. Before pulling out more needles, each one must be taken out of the tweezers because they can become stuck. Keep the paper towel away from any other surfaces. When you’re finished, throw away the paper towel.
- To reduce inflammation in the affected area, use a cooling face toner, such as witch hazel.
The Glue Method
- Apply a thin layer of white craft glue that is water-soluble to the affected region. Any glue needle that has a portion of its surface protruding through the skin should be removed. Dry the adhesive well. White craft glue can be swapped out for rubber cement adhesive, masking tape, or tape.
- Peel one edge of the sticky film slowly up. With your fingertips, lift the edge, and then swiftly peel it away from your flesh. This method of getting rid of cactus hair is comparable to shaving with hot wax.
- Using new tape, repeat the process if you’re using it. Never use the same tape twice since you run the danger of getting thorns again.
- Apply the affected area with a cotton ball dipped in a cool face toner, such as witch hazel.
The Pantyhose Method
- Put some heavy disposable gloves on your hands.
- Old pantyhose can be rolled up and brushed over the affected area in a single direction. The panty will remove needles from the skin with each swipe. It might take a few swipes. As long as you swipe in a single direction, you shouldn’t feel any needles trapped in your underwear.
- Panty should be brushed in the other way. This needs to be done multiple times. To prevent re-injecting needles into your skin, follow a guide.
- Create a fresh plug out of the pantyhose, then brush the afflicted region clockwise. Cactus needles may need to be removed with several swipes, but make sure to turn your hand clockwise to prevent reinserting them into your skin.
- The damaged region should be covered in a counterclockwise motion. If you want to get rid of all the cactus needles, you might need to repeat this instruction. Till all needles are gone, turn counterclockwise.
- Put the tights and gloves in the garbage after use.
The Wait-and-see Method: Do cactus needles dissolve?
Is the cactus needle embedded deeply enough that there is really no way to remove it? The likelihood is that after some time it will emerge on its own. If you do experience a lot of pain, you can use a pumice stone to smooth the needles in your skin in less sensitive areas, such the area beneath your foot. Instead than pulling the needle out of your skin, you sort of grind out the tips.
- Leave the cactus spikes where they are in the injured region.
- Watch for the cactus spines to finally melt or fall to the ground.
- While you wait, keep an eye out for discomfort or infection. Apply witch hazel to the area to clean and cool it if you see any redness. Consult a doctor if irritation lasts a long time.