Cholla Cactus: How Dangerous Are They?

Cholla cactus, also called jumping cactus, are dangerous. These spines are slender and jointed. When the spine hits you, it breaks off, remaining embedded in your skin. If you have ever been hit by one of these spines, you know they can be painful to remove.

The cholla cactus is a spiny plant found in the southwestern United States. It is often called the “jumping cactus.” Cholla cactus are not dangerous plants but can cause irritation and discomfort. We will discuss their truth and dispel some myths about this spiky succulent.

So, are Cholla Cactus Dangerous? Not really. As much as their spines can cause irritation and discomfort, this can only happen if you come into contact with them. If you do happen to get poked by one of these cacti, just make sure to clean the wound and seek medical attention if necessary. It is always best to avoid getting too close to these spiny plants to be safe. But overall, Cholla Cactus are not considered dangerous plants.

Cholla cactus are often feared because of their spines, but are they that dangerous? This blog post will explore the truth about these spiny plants. We will discuss what makes them so dangerous and how to avoid getting hurt by them. 

Fun Facts About the Cholla Cactus

  •  Cholla cactus is a spiny succulent found in the southwestern United States
  • The name “cholla” comes from the Spanish word for “thorny”
  • Cholla cactus have sharp spines that can easily detach from the plant and attach themselves to passersby
  • Cholla cactus can also produce a small, spiny, edible fruit
  • This succulent can grow up to 12 feet tall and has a thick, woody stem
  • Its fruits hang down from the stem a like chain of grapes

Potential  Dangers When Handling Cholla Cactus

Sharp spines

Cholla cactus have sharp spines that can easily detach from the plant and attach themselves to passersby. These spines can cause irritation and discomfort if you come into contact with them. Usually, the spines will detach from the plant and fall to the ground, but there is always a chance that they will stick in your skin. When this happens, it is important to clean the wound and seek medical attention if necessary.

Close up image of cholla cactus with spines.
These spines can cause irritation and discomfort if you come into contact with them.

However, you can easily avoid getting hurt by these spiny plants by staying away from them. If you find yourself close to a cholla cactus, be sure to take caution and avoid getting too close.

Irritating Glochids

Cholla cactus are also known for their irritating glochids. Glochids are tiny, spiny bristles that can easily detach from the plant and attach themselves to your skin. These bristles are very difficult to remove and can cause a great deal of irritation.

Avoid cholla cactus altogether. If you come into contact with them, the best thing to do is remove them as quickly as possible. You can use a pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers to remove the bristles. Be careful not to get poked by the spines.

Why do Cholla cactus ‘jump’ on passersby?

The cholla cactus is often referred to as the “jumping cactus” because of the way its spines can easily detach from the plant and attach themselves to passersby. This is a unique mechanism that the plant uses to spread its seeds. 

Cholla cactus.
It is a unique mechanism that the plant uses to spread its seeds. 

As soon as the plant’s spines come into contact with something, they will detach from the plant and attach themselves to the new surface. This is made possible by the plant’s sticky sap and the sharpness of its spines. It is a very effective way to spread its seeds, and the plant has evolved to take advantage of this.

Do Cholla Cactus Cause Wounds

When cholla cactus spines or glochids get in contact with the skin, the effects are majorly some irritation and discomfort. However, some extreme cases have been reported where the spines and bristles of cholla cactus have caused wounds that take weeks to heal. In some cases, medical attention is inevitable to remove the spines or bristles from the skin.

In case of serious injury from the cholla spines or glochids, the best course of action is to clean the wound and seek medical attention. Do not try to remove the spines or bristles stuck on the skin by yourself, as you might end up making the injury worse.

How to treat cholla cactus wounds at home

If you happen to get poked by a cholla cactus spine, the best way to treat the wound is to clean it and apply some antibiotic ointment. You may then cover it with a bandage to keep the area clean and protected.  If the wound starts to show signs of infection, such as redness or swelling, then you might need to seek medical attention.

The best way to prevent any injuries while dealing with cholla cacti is by wearing gloves and long sleeves when handling them. This will help to protect your skin from the spines and bristles of the plant. If you are going to be in an area where cholla cacti are present, it is always a good idea to take the necessary precautions. 

Are cholla cactus edible?

Yes, the fruits and buds of the cholla cactus are edible. They are not very palatable, but they are safe to eat. You can use the fruits and buds to make jams, jellies, and syrups.

A cholla cactus plant with fruits.
Chollas Cactus fruits can be eaten fresh or dried for long-term storage.

The best way to harvest the fruit or bud of the cholla cactus is to use a pair of scissors or clippers. Avoid getting your hands too close to the plant’s spines. Chollas Cactus fruits can be eaten fresh or dried for long-term storage.

How to harvest cholla cactus fruits and buds

  • Harvesting a cholla cactus fruit or bud can be tricky, but it is doable. The following steps will help you to harvest the fruit or bud safely and without getting injured:
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your skin from the spines.
  • Using a pair of scissors or clippers, cut the fruit or bud from the plant
  • Be sure to avoid getting your hands too close to the spines of the plant
  • Remove any spines or bristles that might be sticking to the fruit or bud
  • Wash the fruit or bud before eating it
  • For buds, you may want to hydrate them before eating them

How to care for jumping cholla cactus at home

Cholla cactus has recently gained popularity as a houseplant. This is because they are very low maintenance and easy to care for.

Propagation

Either stem cuttings or seedlings can do the propagation of the cholla cactus. The best time to propagate the cholla cactus is spring or summer. This is when the plant is most active and will grow new roots quickly.

How to propagate jumping cholla cactus

Stem Cuttings

-Take a stem cutting from an actively growing cholla cactus plant

-Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle

-Remove the leaves from the bottom of the stem

-Place the stem cutting in a pot of moist soil

-Keep the soil moist but not wet

-The stem cutting will root and grow new plants in a few weeks

Seedlings

-Collect cholla cactus seeds from a ripe fruit

-Sow the seeds in a pot of soil

-Keep the soil moist but not wet

-The seeds will germinate and grow new plants in a few weeks

Watering

Cholla cactus does not need a lot of water, but it does need regular watering. The best way to water cholla cactus is by using a gentle spray from a garden hose. Be sure to avoid getting the leaves wet as this can cause them to rot.

Water Can and cactus.
Be sure to avoid getting the leaves wet as this can cause them to rot.

Fertilization

Cholla cactus does not need a lot of fertilizer, but a little will help the plant grow healthy and strong. Fertilize cholla cactus once every month with a balanced fertilizer.

Flowering and harvesting

Jumping cholla cactus can flower at any time of the year, but they are more likely to flower during the spring or summer. The flowers will last for a few days and then will wither away. Once the flowers have died, the fruits will begin to form. The fruit of the jumping cholla cactus is edible and can be used in recipes. You can harvest both the fruit and the buds of the cholla cactus. 

Cholla cactus with flowers.
Once the flowers have died, the fruits will begin to form.

Conclusion

The jumping cholla cactus is a unique desert plant that uses ingenious methods to propagate. This plant is easy to care for and can be grown in a variety of climates. As much as it may be perceived as dangerous, jumping cholla cactus is harmless to humans if handled correctly. You can eat the fruit of this cactus and use it in You can also eat the buds be eaten, but they are best hydrated first. Cholla cactus is a great addition to any garden or landscape. 

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