Do Jumping Cactus Really Jump?

The world of cactus and succulents never fails to surprise us. One name stands out among the many exotic plants you may discover in this category: the jumping cactus. 

As the name implies, this cactus “attacks” any person or animal that comes too close to it by latching onto them or “shooting needles” at them.

Well, it doesn’t really jump onto people; however, the jumping cactus has spines that look like fishhooks, can cling to anything from exposed skin to clothing and equipment, and can be very painful; which is why victims claim that the cactus literally jumped and attacked them. 

The jumping cactus is also known as the Jumping Cholla cactus, but it’s pronounced as the jumping ‘Choy-a’ cactus.

Another name for this scary cactus is the needle-spitting cactus. Continue reading to know more about this fascinating cactus.

Characteristics of the Jumping Cactus

There are more than 20 genera of cholla cactus, which are also known as 

  • Teddy bear cholla
  • Walking stick cholla
  • Arizona pencil cholla
  • Buckhorn cholla

They are notorious for having sharp spines that stick to human clothing and skin, as well as to the fur of animals, and they flourish in the southwestern desert regions of northern Mexico and North America.

The term “cholla” describes a group of cacti with shrub-like appearances and cylindrical stems constructed of segmented joints.

These stems are actually branches that serve a number of purposes, including photosynthesis, flower production, and water storage.

The many cholla cacti species are highly adaptable and have learned to thrive in high altitudes and terrains of the southern deserts. They can grow in several places, including:

  • Forests 
  • Steep foothill slopes
  • Rocky areas
  • Elevated 
  • Mountainous regions

The majority of the species require well-drained rocky soil. 

What Does a Jumping Cactus Look Like?

Jumping Cholla can reach heights of six to fifteen feet and circumferences of eight feet. The Jumping Cholla is shaped like a tree.

It features a single trunk and numerous sagging branches. Less short spines are present on older or slowly developing branches. Older stems are dark brown in color and feature rough, scaly bark.

This plant that resembles a tree has a low-branching base and can reach a height of 13 feet. The light green stem of the leaping cactus has a few tiny protrusions.

An areole has six to twelve spines, which make up the leaves. Approximately inch-long spines of the cactus that are initially colored silvery-yellow turn gray as the plant matures. 

It should be noted that this particular species of cacti also produces fruit. As a result, fruits that resemble pears will often begin to appear on them.

But beware of touching these fruits as you’ll only end up harming yourself and won’t even be able to eat these fruits as they aren’t edible. 

The Jumping Chollas not only bear fruit but also produce a wide variety of flowers. These blooms primarily have a yellow tint with a greenish undertone.

Additionally, you can frequently locate these at the ends of the Jumping Cholla’s branches.

Do Jumping Cactus Really Jump?

The Jumping Cholla, also known as the chain fruit, is notorious for having the ability to literally jump from the parent cactus or the ground onto a person’s skin or clothing. 

However, this is only a myth. The cactus does not literally jump or fire needles. 

It just rapidly and easily separates from the mother plant and latches obstinately onto (and occasionally into) anyone who approaches too closely or happens to be in the vicinity whenever a strong wind blows.

It is likely because of its ease of attachment that people refer to it as “jumping” or “shooting needles.”

The detaching of its spines is basically an act of self-defense. The fundamental issue is that even a gentle touch might leave needles on your skin or clothing.

The cacti’s spines are readily separated from the main plant and tumble to the ground. The fundamental reason for this is how slackly the spines are joined to the parent stem.

They effortlessly fall off, landing on the ground where they are ready to latch onto anything approaching them.

It’s not like the Jumping Cholla sprayed you with needles. Instead, the cacti’s needles will envelop you even if you only briefly brush against them, or they will latch on you with a gust of wind.

Frequently, people don’t even realize they’ve touched the plant until it’s too late. It can be exceedingly challenging to remove the needles once they have gotten embedded in your skin and clothing.

Therefore, the most effective strategy is to avoid being injured by these in the first place.

How Do the Jumping Cactus Multiply?

A joint root when it detaches and subsequently drops to the ground. The plant thus grows rapidly.

The entire process of the spines falling off so easily is so that they can grow, propagate, and multiply in a variety of places. 

These spines are carried far along with the wind and by latching themselves to animals’ fur and clothing and the skin of people.

The mature plants’ sharp spines that develop near the protracted “chains” of fruit lacking barbs that dangle from the stem make it simple for the Jumping Cholla to trap passersby.

When people stop to examine the fruit, the sharp spines seem to be almost jumping at them and can easily come in direct contact with individuals.

The Jumping Cholla’s barbs are also extremely bouncy or springy, which increases their capacity to ride along with you.

How To Remove Cactus Needles from the Skin?

Whenever you are out hiking or trailing in arid areas or places you know are home to the jumping cacti, make sure you are prepared beforehand to remove these needles from the skin in case they latch on to you. 

Being jabbed by this cactus is unique in that you’re dealt with a full spherical pod rather than just a spine. This makes removing the jumping cactus difficult and rather painful. 

Holding the thorns and struggling after a jumping cactus attack just makes things worse.

Therefore, do not try to remove it in any way due to the spines in the pods having tiny thorns that function like barbed wire in the flesh.

There are a few ways in which you can get rid of the embedded needles from your skin.

Attack by Spines

First, clip the spines that are attached to the stem using a set of pliers or scissors, leaving about a half-inch of the spine inside the epidermis.

If there are no readily available tools for removing Jumping Cholla, try stooping, pressing on the stem connection, and pulling your hand free.

Due to the fact that you are tugging the spines apart, this technique may result in slightly more bleeding.

The type of spine determines the next step in the removal of jumping cacti:


  • Always keep a pair of tweezers on hand if you want to ensure that you can remove the spines from your skin while you’re on the go.
  • Without much difficulty, you can swiftly move back and pluck the spines out.
  • Remember that you will need to exercise caution in this situation in order to prevent breaking the cactus spine.


  • You can also use glue to remove the spines from your skin.
  • All you need to do is apply adhesive and gauze over the areas where the needles have embedded in your flesh.
  • Let the glue dry and carefully remove the gauze from your body.
  • This will get rid of any spines that might be embedded in your flesh.
  • If you believe there are still some, go back and remove them using a magnifier and a tweezer.

Never attempt to remove these spines using your exposed hands or mouth. Or else, you could suffer serious side effects.

Attack by Glochids

Getting rid of glochids is a bit more complex. Additionally, it is possible to get more than a dozen of these latched on to you.

In this situation, you might want to run the region that was stung under hot water to soften the small barbs before removing the barbs using a knife.

This may result in some of the tips still remaining inside your skin and could cause some discomfort for a while. 

Glochids can easily be removed with tiny tweezers, such as those found on a Swiss Army Knife. So, refrain from grabbing little prickles with that bigger tweezer in your restrooms.

Using duct tape can also help eliminate the tiny tips of the glochids.

Do not become frightened if you are unable to remove all of the spines or barbs. Usually, they break down inside your body and are quickly ejected out.

How To Keep Safe from the Jumping Cholla?

Avoiding direct contact with the cactus is the only thing that will protect you from being attached. It isn’t hard to do this and will help you stay out of trouble.

Just be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are out on a hike since these dangerous beauties won’t be there in your usual neighborhoods. 

They are mostly found in specific regions, predominantly in southwestern regions of America.

Furthermore, they aren’t hard to notice considering their enormous size, which will help you maintain a safe distance from them. 

Wrap Up

Jumping Chollas are among the best-looking and biggest in the desert, despite their repulsive tendency to latch 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 lavender and pink flowers.

The cholla cactus may thrive in a variety of environments and love warm sunny days. With a little care and some love, the Jumping Cholla blossoms into a beautiful, albeit dangerous cactus.