Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Hazards of Science in the Desert

When you’re working with insects in the desert, there are certain hazards you need to avoid and it’s very important to be aware of your surroundings.  One thing you really don’t want to do is run into one of these:

Jumping cholla

Jumping cholla

Jumping cholla (pronounced CHOY-ah) are meant to break easily when an animal brushes up against them because each “segment” of the cactus can grow into a new plant when it falls off somewhere else.   That means that the tiniest touch can result in your coming away with an arm or a back or a leg full of cactus pieces.  On the other hand, it’s all part of what makes Arizona Arizona – and a sort of right of passage for anyone who lives here as far as I’m concerned!  You’re not a true Arizonan until you’ve pulled cholla bits out of your skin with pliers.  :)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

13 thoughts on “Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Hazards of Science in the Desert

  1. Hello, DW! I have been receiving your posts via e-mail for some time now, and I appreciate your knowledge and enthusiasm.

    I recently moved to the Bisbee area, and currently I’m camping up on Juniper Flats north of town. Plenty of cholla here!

    • SO many people think that they do that, or really jump, because people will run into them and end up covered in cactus with the slightest touch, so slight that they can’t even feel it. It’s amazing how many kids I’ve talked to who have thought that the cactus will actually reach out and grab them when they walk by. Some of them are really scared of these cacti as a result! I stick my hands really close to the cactus and ask if they see it moving or trying to jump on me and that’s usually all it takes to convince them that they really are just an immobile plant.

  2. coiincidentally today we are eating cactus! we just picked some fresh nopales (prickley pear pads) from our yard. i am cleaning them and cutting them into bite size morsels. they will be prepared with chile colorado and carne de puerco. taste delicious, good for you (especially diabetes prone folk) and free for the taking……guess cactus can be our friends too!

    • Ooh, that sounds delicious! I love nopales. Very tasty stuff! There’s a restaurant in my town that serves it with a sour cream based sauce with onions and chiles and it’s phenomenal. Going to miss nopales if I ever move away from the desert!

    • Yikes! Those look nasty. The photos show a lot of people with them stuck in their feet and I’m sure that’s no fun at all. We’ve got some plants that make thorny bits like that here too. There was a whole mess of them in an area near the lake where I used to work and they would stab my feet right through the bottom of my lake shoes (Crocs – excellent water shoes!) every time. Hated those things… I think I’d actually prefer to run into a cholla honestly, though tripping and falling on a cholla is an entirely different experience that’s much, much worse.

      • I can assure you, getting sandspur in any part of you is a pain, but they are especially evil in the feet. The really annoying part of sandspur is that it is just a grass, so it looks like grass! Who worries about grass? Who looks at the grass close enough to see if there’s little spikey balls of pain hiding in it?

        I’m a big fan of nature. I have a kind of hands-off policy when it comes to my yard. I like to see what is going to pop up, so I don’t do a lot of weeding, a lot of judging what is worthy and what needs to go. The two major exceptions to this are Smilax vines and Sandspur, both because of the amount of pain they cause, and the fact that they’re hard to spot if you aren’t looking for them.

  3. Now, that’s not entirely true. I’m a native, and I’ve never made friends with a cholla. When you grow up hearing about the time your grandmother sat down on a fence and got up with a butt full of cholla, you tend to be extra careful…

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