It is imperative always to use caution when handling or to hike near cacti. Not only is it painful, but cacti spines can also cause infection if you do not remove the spines properly.
Plus, they can carry bacteria or fungus that can also cause infection. Without proper care, cactus spines can even cause a septic infection, which can be deadly.
Not to worry, however, cactus spines themselves are not poisonous anywhere in the world. They just really hurt and can cause infection if not treated properly.
Why Do Cactus Have Spines in the First Place?
Cacti have spines for a couple of reasons.
To conserve water
First and foremost, they have spines to help them conserve water. Cacti are desert plants and thrive in sunny, dry conditions. So this is an imperative characteristic of cactus to keep them from dehydration.
The spines aid in water preservation in 3 ways:
- They block airflow. In blocking airflow, the cactus spines help shield the cactus from the effects of evaporation.
- They collect water. Because spines are often densely packed around the cactus stem, they allow for rainwater to sit on the spines, giving the cactus a chance to absorb the moisture.
- They allow for shade. Cactus spines create some shade, even if it seems minuscule. In the harsh environment in which they live, every bit of shade they can get counts.
To Shield From Predators
Cactus have spines to ensure safety from potential predators. Many desert animals will chomp into a cactus, despite its spines, to reach the water they contain on their insides. The spines will deter certain predators, giving the cactus a better chance for survival.
What Kind of Cactus Shoots Needles?
The jumping cholla cactus shoots needles. It will do so at only the slightest of touches. They can penetrate deep into your skin, sometimes even as deep as muscle tissue.
Why Do Cholla Hurt So Much?
Jumping cholla cactus hurt terribly because of the structure of the spines. Their structure makes them incredibly difficult to remove.
When viewed beneath a scanning electron microscope, scientists discovered jumping cholla spines to be barbed and layered.
In getting a close-up view of the spines, scientists were able to see that the barbs are flat and needle-like, making it easy to puncture the skin.
When you try to pull them out, there are hundreds of little layers of spine pulling against tissue, causing structural and painful damage to the area which has made contact with cholla.
Why Do Cholla “Jump”?
Cholla cacti jump to protect themselves. They also do this because they are trying to reproduce.
Jumping cholla cactus do not have organs to naturally reproduce, which means that they need to “hitchhike” to increase their population.
They can easily root in the ground when they jump onto a predator and eventually make it to the ground.
What is the Best Way to Remove Cholla Spines?
The best way to remove cholla spines is with a wide-tooth comb or forceps. If you are going hiking in an area with cholla, it is good to carry this item with you.
If your animal is stuck with cholla spines, the best practice is to bring them to a veterinarian to ensure each spine is removed to prevent illness in your pet.
We advise you should walk very carefully when hiking in an area with a cholla. Admire them from a distance. They can even puncture through your shoes! So, keep an eye out on the ground for cholla.
Why Do Cactus Have Needles?
Cacti have spines for two reasons. To protect them from predators and to help them preserve the water they are storing. They provide shade, wind protection, and rain to stay on the plant, creating optimal conditions for conserving water.
Whether it is a prickly pear cactus or the formidable cholla cactus, it is best to avoid contact with any cactus. They can prick you and potentially cause infections. Plus, it is just plain painful.
Be sure you remove each part of the spine to avoid further illness or injury. Carry a wide-tooth comb or forceps with you when you know you’ll be near cholla.
Cholla cacti are among the most painful of cacti. Their “jumping” abilities allow cholla to reproduce, but they can also be very painful for humans. It will help if you take caution when hiking in an area with cholla. Look, don’t touch the cacti!