Cactus sticks man

Cactus-Ambush-Tb According to Bits and Pieces, this gentleman was playing golf and fell onto a cactus plant. The paramedics spent three hours removing the cactus pieces from his body before they could take him to the hospital. Gape at the full image here.

In the comments, Osprey101 linked to this video of a man who got stuck with one Teddybear Cholla Cactus ball. Ouch.


  1. That’s intense. But Paramedics? He just needed a few pairs of tweezers and some patient friends.

  2. I’d feel bad for the guy, but I hear he’s kind of a prick.

    (sorry. I’m sure he’s wounded enough, he doesn’t need sticking it to him..)

  3. Actually that looks like cholla – and tweezers are useless. barbed and nasty. I used vice grips to pull one piece that got jammed into my heel through my hiking boots once (got on the toe of one boot and in passing decided to go to the other boot). It took a while. you REALLY don’t want to break off ANY of the spines.

    We called it jumping cactus because it *seemed* like it would leap at you, though it was just very good at catching you when you got close. very very painful.

    Yes, paramedics, you will need drugs with that many spines in you :)


    1. Yep. That looks exactly like Jumping Cholla (aka Teddy Bear Cholla). I’ve seen hikers get branches of this stuck on their hands. They trip, reach out for something to steady themselves and get a fist-full of barbed needles. Like you said, it takes pliers or vise-grips to get them out.

      After seeing how much it hurts to remove a single branch, I feel very sorry for this guy. Just looking at this picture makes me cringe.

      Can we get a unicorn chaser (or maybe a picture of a javelina with wings) here?

  4. I’ve done similar, and have since learned to respect the pencil cholla. Those needles are barbed, and it hurts way more pulling them out, than them going in.

  5. My mom has an awesome story from her childhood in the 1950s US southwest. Somehow she stumbled backwards into a cactus and was covered in spines from head to toe. They had to lay her face down on the back seat of the car to take her home, where grandma spent hours plucking needles out of her. ER, pshaw!

    I learned as a child to never go hiking without a comb, just to pull out the cholla. Of course, I was also taught never to put my hand where I couldn’t see, in case of rattle snakes.

  6. Came in to say what others have said. Cholla is some mean shit. I still have scars on my fingers from a nasty incident. All said, my time in Tucson was still worth every barb and needle.

  7. I have had several branches of a prickly pear break off in my knee and shin, and that was a seriously unpleasant experience. I understand the cholla is even more uncomfortable. I could only get the large spines out – most of the small, hair like spines I had to leave in and they worked their way out over the course of a few weeks.

  8. Gaaaah! Jumping cholla!! Make it go away!

    Sorry. After spending most of my childhood in New Mexico, just seeing that gives me the heebiejeebies.

  9. Ouch, ouch, ouchedy, ouch! I have had a run in with a teddybear cactus. I just brushed up against one and bam, right through my jeans and into my flesh.

    BTW, do not kick them either, they will go through boot leather.

  10. Just east of Tucson there is a spot where the E/W lanes of the I-10 freeway are considerably wider apart than normal. The lanes frame a huge Teddy Bear Cholla garden. Late one afternoon, while driving back home to Bisbee from Tucson, I passed three cars sitting on the side road along with a whole bunch of people standing and staring into the garden. Their object of interest? A bright red canoe that had come loose from one of the cars rooftops and had sailed about 75 feet into the garden. Mind you no part of the canoe was touching the ground as it sitting on top of the 4 or 5 foot tall chollas. There was no way one would enter and exit that garden unscathed. The ground was littered with segments. I remember thinking as I drove by “That is a whole bunch of future ‘Ouch!'”

  11. Duct tape (as if giving a Brazilian), then firmly scrape out the residue with the edge of a credit card.

  12. Paramedics? Yeah, you bet. I’ve seen people go into shock after falling into a cholla patch. Shock can kill you.

    When I lived in Phoenix, I taught desert survival classes and did Search & Rescue. We always carried stainless steel combs and needle nose pliers in our kits (this was back before the invention of the Leatherman).

    Tweezers? Ha. Only for the smaller needles. Most tweezers can’t grip hard enough to get the bigger spines out.

    Not only are the spines barbed (under a microscope, they look like a stack of cones), they also have an irritant chemical that makes your flesh swell – which grips the spine even tighter. They go in a whole lot easier than they come out.

    Those things are *nasty*.

    The most common cause of falling-in-a-cholla-patch accidents, by the way, was people taking snapshots of their friends, backing up to get everyone in frame without looking where they were going, and tripping and falling backward into a patch of cholla.

    The segments are so loosely attached that the ground around the plants is usually covered with piles of detached joints, living and dead. Fall into a pile of those, and you’re in real trouble.

    The dead ones are a lot easier to remove, though.

  13. Oh crap, I retract my original comment. I had no idea the spines were covered with micro hooks! I’m used to more benign cacti that pretty much just pull out. This cactus is vicious.

  14. Jumping Cholla sucks! Oh wow!
    I used to race mountain bikes. I was racing the Cactus Cup in 1995. Aptly named. It took place in North Scottsdale, AZ. The main event was at Westworld, the giant horse facility there. The cross-country races left from Westworld and went north into the desert. It’s all developed now :(

    On the CC race in ’95, I came around a narrow corner and brushed a Jumping Cholla with my right arm. 3 potato sized branches stuck. And since there was nothing supporting them other than their spines (stuck in my arm), they were then hanging off my arm. I go to a clear spot on the trail a few feet ahead and stopped. I was wearing motocross gloves-full fingered. The palm/finger leather is very soft. With my left hand, I reached over and grabbed a cholla ‘potato’, intending to rip it out, and bleed back to the finish line. Nope. The needle went right through the glove into my left hand. Fortunately, they didn’t stick very hard into my hand, and I was able to undo the velcroclsure on the gove with my teeth and pull my hand out of my glove. Now I had 3 cholla branches and my glove stuck to my right arm. I was carrying 2 spare tubes with me. One was in my back jersey pocket. I grabbed in, and with it doubled and tripled over on itself (so, like 6-8 lays of the ‘thorn proof’ rubber), I got ahold good enough to rip them out of my arm. I can only guess that they were not in deep enough to need pliers, but it tore up my arm good, and I was a righteous muder scen when I crossed the finish line (banged my knee in a wreck, too, so the leg was bloody also.
    Finished the race. yeah me.

  15. And if you break them as you pull them out, the remaining parts work themselves farther into you. I finally got the last one out of my knee about a week afterward.

  16. Yup. Nasty. We used to use hot dog tongs to pull them out, when I lived in the middle of the desert outside Tucson*. The little spines are poisonous like palm fronds – painful for a long time, even after you remove them.

    *Now I live in the middle of Tucson, and cringe when my neighbors from Back East plant these things around their houses.

  17. It takes a sort of aggravated cluelessness to impale yourself on a bit of live cholla. They’re brightly colored and look like nothing else in the solar system. It’s the dead bits that are a problem. If a chunk falls off and doesn’t root, it turns brown, gets covered with leaves, breaks into little bits and otherwise camouflages itself. But those recurved spines are still there.

  18. Anyone who spends much time hiking in the desert knows to carry a cheap plastic hair comb (or 2). Especially if you are pulling the clusters off of a very agitated dog, you will quickly find that even heavy leather work gloves can be of little use compared to the swift flick of a comb, or using 2 in concert.

  19. I know this guy and have hiked with him many times. I know about cholla cactus and all I can say is that it was an act of courage to video this entire episode, especially the removal part.

    FYI — When hiking in cholla areas it’s smart to bring an ordinary metal dinner fork — good tool for getting under the cholla and lifting it away. Fishing plyers also a good idea. without tools, removal is almost impossible.

    P.S. — Kids and dogs aren’t a good idea for hikes anywhere near cholla cactus.

  20. oof! When helping a buddy move out to LA in the early 90s, we stopped along I-10 near the AZ/CA border to do a little scrambling, and I managed to get a branch of one on my right calf. Had to take off my shoes and use them as makeshift gloves to pull it off, then the trusty SwissChamp pocket knife pliers to remove the spines. When I finally got done 15 minutes later, I stood up and walked into the same @$#%@&$ plant.

    Older and a little wiser now, I hope.

  21. Years ago I brushed past a chaparral bush that had a dormant cholla intertwined within it. The dead spines are easier to remove, but it still hurt like hell. It’s amazing how such little contact will leave you with dozens and dozens of spines.

  22. This happened to me when I was a kid in Montana. I fell into a Hugh cactus pile. You can never get them all out and I still had some impeded under my skin years later.

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