Why Do Cactus Have Thorns?

Cacti are some of the most popular plants in the world right now. Their popularity has much to do with how convenient they are. They are all the rage in the world right now.

Everyone from broke college kids to cool suburban dads will invest in these plants. Most people find that these plants are generally easy to take care of.

They’re hardy and don’t require a lot of effort to be sustained. There are countless benefits to people adopting cactus plants into their households.

However, it’s difficult for many people to decide whether cactus plants will be all they want.

Cactus plants didn’t start extremely popular, and much of that has to do with how they look. Some believe that the prickly spines sprinkled around the cactus plant create a degree of hostility that emanates from the plant.

People also believe that much of the reason cactus plants remained unpopular until recently has to do with the misconception surrounding these thorns.

People in Chinese culture who are believers in the art of Feng shui think that these spines tend to add a lot of negative energy into the atmosphere.

Hence, they tend to stay away from these plants on the whole. However, due to the increasing aesthetic appeal of these plants, the Chinese have also started to find ways to place them in their houses.

Still, Cactus thorns can be difficult to navigate as many aspects could potentially go wrong with them. The article below will discuss some common misconceptions about cactus thorns and provide some unusual solutions.

Are Cactus Spines or Cactus Thorns Poisonous?

The simple answer is no, and they aren’t poisonous. The notion behind cactus spines being poisonous is that they tend to secrete some liquid when they’re disturbed.

These spines are also very sharp, so people generally find that they can easily get pricked by them. Even when you’re just passing by cactus plants, it’s very easy for you to rub your hand against them and receive some damage accidentally.

However, it’s unlikely that the cactus thorns themselves are poisonous.

To be poisonous, you have to ingest them or have them in your body somehow. This might happen because you accidentally ingest a cactus plant by not being prepared for it.

You could have also done this when you didn’t correctly tweeze out a thorn that has gone all the way in. However, it’s necessary to note that the cactus thorns themselves aren’t poisonous or even harmful.

The presence of these thorns in your digestive system or your epidermal system can cause lacerations and sometimes even infections. The infections may result in an immune response that will have you sick for a great number of days.

When you find yourself pricked by a cactus pine, the best thing to do is to look for the entry wound and remove the spine from your skin.

Once you’ve done that, you can get a sanitizer or a disinfectant and apply it to the wound so the wound can heal uniformly. The healed wound will no longer be a danger to your health.

These misconceptions about cactus spines are also many in variety. The cactus spines that you’re likely to encounter are two main types.

The most common spines are those that are long to medium in length. The only way to get rid of these spines is by breaking them off midway. The other type of spines is those that seem less problematic. These spines are short, hair-like structures that easily go off with a little touch.

People tend not to think that these spines have much effect on whether the person will buy the cactus plant. However, you have to recognize that a brush with these spines means that you’re going to get pricked by many spines all at once.

If you contact such spines, you will have to find a remedy as soon as possible as it could cause some real damage.

If you have an open wound, you should disinfect it and protect it from further damage. Sometimes, you will find that you don’t want to take up this task alone.

In which case, you can go into an emergency room and ask the medic to remove the spines. This method is probably safer as you don’t have to worry about the spines persisting in your skin and causing you any further harm.

Why Are Spines Present in Cactus?

One of the most prominent, if not the most prominent, features of a cactus is its body having many small or large pines, depending on the type of cactus plant you have.

The spines are such a poignant descriptor that many people find it easy to draw them and represent them in cartoons.

Cactus plants tend to stand out because they have spines instead of leaves like the other plants. The cactus spines aren’t an aesthetic feature that nature has transformed into. But rather, the spines in a cactus plant serve a purpose.

They have come about due to the adaptations which the cactus plant had to go through to stand out. An attribute that most people know about is that cactus plants tend to thrive in hot and arid weathers of the desert.

They are hardy plants and thus are part of the desert’s flora. Cactus spines occur in a variety of forms. Sometimes they are short and curved, and other times they are straight and long.

The different spines come from different cactus plants, so you don’t have to worry about many of them. There are many reasons why a cactus plant is adapted to have spines. We have listed these reasons below:

They Can Trap Air

For desert plants like cacti, the most imperative feature they must take care of is limiting their water loss methods. Desert conditions are not favorable for plants that require a lot of water.

Cactus plants have adapted by ensuring that no evaporation occurs due to the wind. Cactus spines reduce water loss from plants by changing up the rules of airflow dynamics.

They limit the airflow around the cactus plant so that only a few drops of the water on the cactus plant are evaporated. The rest of them are absorbed right back into the plant.

Plants tend to lose a lot of water from their surface, so there should be spines on a cactus plant.

They Accumulate Water

If you live in an area that gets foggy, then the cactus spines act as collectors of dew. This mechanism works because the dew tends to condense on the spines and then fall into the soil surrounding the plant.

The cactus plant can then later collect the water from the surrounding soil when this happens. All desserts don’t have heavy cactus fog, but there are times that some deserts do.

Even if there’s not enough or any rain, cactus plants can use their spines to find the best possible alternative for water collection.

These spines are especially grated in a way that allows them to be great collectors of water. The water needs to come from cactus plants, and these spines help do just that.

They Protect the Planet From the Sun

These plants don’t have any of the wide coverage you think other plants would have. However, they provide a tiny amount of shade, which helps protect the cactus plant.

Many cactus plants also have ridges and grooves, which provide them with protection from the sun.

They Keep Predators at Bay

To survive in such a harsh climate, a cactus plant has to undergo many trials and tribulations. Thus, it makes sense that once it has reached a certain level of growth, it would want to preserve itself.

Desert animals like camels tend to feed on the little vegetation present in the geography to survive. However, after all of that effort.

The presence of these spines means that any predatory species will not come close to the plant. Even if they try to eat it, they will be perturbed by the hundreds of spines that will lodge themselves into the skin of the animals.

This feature of the cactus plant is also laudable because one in every three cactus species is endangered. Hence, the evolutionary mechanism we see here works great.

How to Remove the Thorns/Spines Before Heating or Cooking

We know that cactus plants are now used as a superfood to help people feel healthier. While the health kick and trend are recent, cactus plants have been used as vegetables and edibles for a very long time in places where they are common.

There are regions of Mexico that specifically make dishes involving the cactus plant. You can prepare these cactus plants very simple manner, and you can also cook them easily.

The cactus plant that people use more often to eat is the Nopal cactus. The Nopal Cactus pads and fruit are both edible and have thorns. We find that the best way to remove these spines involves being extremely careful.

The first thing that you must do is isolate a cactus pad that you want to prepare. Isolating would involve looking for a pad that’s already loose on the edge so that you can cut it off easily.

To inspect the plant, you will have to wear thick gloves to handle spines. You’re going to isolate the cactus pad then and cut it off.

Once you have cut off the cactus pad, you can rinse it with some water and then get a pair of tweezers to remove all the spines.

You have to run your fingers over the cactus and remove the spines from the areoles. You can remove these spines from the little buds and then clean or rinse the cactus pad once again.

Once you do that, you can cut up the cactus pad and chop it up into pieces or leave them as you would like to, depending on the way you want to cook your cactus plant.

What Happens If You Leave The Cactus Needle In Your Body?

We have mentioned before that leaving a cactus needle within your body can have complications. The way your body will react to a cactus needle is similar to how it will react to anything foreign inside the body.

The immune system will fire up and start a response for infection against the little spine. There’s also the fact that if the spine remains in the skin, it may cause lacerations over time.

You may also find that a little spine may result in a wound or swelling that becomes painful and septic. Thus, to avoid all of these probable occurrences, you should remove a needle from your skin as soon as it digs itself in.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the notion of cactus thorns and their contact with humans.

These thorns are not poisonous, but you should try to maintain that these thorns should not be present in your body for a long time.

The persistence of these thorns may cause a degree of inflammation in your body that can be painful for you to bear.

Instead, it’s better that you’re careful at the beginning of the process so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally ingesting a spine ad causing yourself further problems.

Thus, you should have all of this information about cactus thorns before you get pricked by one.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Cactus bad luck?

Cacti aren’t bad luck, but they don’t bring good fortune either. It depends on how you view them. Some people think they’re beautiful; others find them creepy. Either way, some believe they represent death or danger, while others consider them sacred.

What is Nopal Cactus?

Nopales are dried pods from the stems of prickly pear cacti. They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and potassium. These nutritious pads may be used for salads or cooked like vegetables.

What is Zygo Cactus?

Zygo Cacti are long-lived plants with spiny stems that grow up to 30 feet tall. They grow well in dry climates and require very little water once they reach maturity. Zygos, or the genus name for Zygo cacti, comes from the Greek word “zygon,” meaning spine.