Desert Staples: Cholla

If you’ve done any bushwhacking around the Southwest, chances are you’ve had at least a couple unhappy collisions with one of the many species of cholla that thrive out here.

Spine Anatomy

Members of genus Cylindropuntia, cholla are the branchy cactuses with long spines that hurt like the dickens to remove. I’ve shed many a tear yanking these things from my hide out in the Sandias! They provide a strong incentive to stay on established paths.

Why do the spines hurt so much to remove? Well, each one is covered in microscopic, uni-directional barbs that anchor tenaciously into human skin. Another one of evolution’s nasty little horrors that’s been optimized for maximal damage infliction — postlapsarian retrofitting at its very best.

‘Cactus Body Slam’

Since we’re on the topic of pain, I can’t help but point you in the direction of a video I ran into recently called ‘Cactus Body Slam.’ It records someone who, of their own volition, bellyflopped into a large cholla bush.

Given how excruciating a single poke can be, it’s absolutely mind-blowing that anyone would deliberately puncture themselves in this manner, but that’s exactly what this hombre decided to do. It may very well be the bravest act in the entire history of humanity.

Learn More:

(Today’s photo is courtesy of Natalie Rae Good’s Tumblr.)

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