The Attack of The Jumping Cactus!
Joshua Tree National Park. A desert oasis filled with blue skies, large rocks, and ruthless cacti. I visited the park over the past weekend and was assaulted by the prettiest cacti I have ever seen, the Cholla Cacti (pronounced Cho-ya). It never occured to me that there are cacti out there that are known to jump on anyone or anything that gets close to them without touching them. Sadly, I became one of their victims. Ha! I have to admit, in hindsight, it was a learning experience that was both painful and hilarious. Luckily, I lived to tell the tale.
Joshua Tree National Park has been on my Wonder List for a long time, being that I live in Southern California, it was time I paid a visit to this beautiful park. I originally came here to see the Wildflowers in bloom but sadly, due to the clear and dry weather, it was a light blooming season this year. Driving around the desert basin, I came upon an exhibit called "The Cholla Cactus Garden" which was the highlight of the day. Up until now, I had only seen this place in magazines so to say I was excited was an understatement.
While walking around these beautiful plants, I came close to one in particular that caught my eye. As I neared it's prickly limbs while snapping a photo, one of the limbs dismembered from the stem and lunged into my elbow, piercing me with it's spikes. OUCH! The pain felt like a thousand little knives thrown directly into my arm. Needless to say, I was in a state of shock and horror and the tears started falling. The first thought that went through my head was "Are these plants poisonous?" It was my own fault for not doing any prior research on them but clearly I had no intention of getting pricked by them either. To be frank, at the moment it struck me, I didn't even know what happened or what exactly was stuck in my arm, considering I did not even touch the cactus. At this point, the pain was excruciating and the only thing I felt I could do was to stay frozen until someone pulled it out of me. Fortunately, I was in good company, as my dear friend was there trying to pluck the the spikes out of my elbow. I read a few articles after the incident and I learned that these plants are known to be the most painful in the desert. They are even more painful than getting pricked by a porcupine. The only problem with these cacti, however, is that they are stubborn. They will stick to anyone or anything that gets near them, so naturally, it was trying to stick to my friend as well. My husband came running over and grabbed a towel, wrapped it up 5 times so that the cactus couldn't penetrate the towel, and was able to pry the piece out of my arm with a huge pull. I literally thought he was going to pull my skin off, exposing the bone. What you have to understand about these plants is that they love moisture so when they get attached to skin, they don't just attach themselves, they bury themselves underneath the top layer. They're spikes curve under the skin as if to say they are hooking themselves into you. Absolutely Insane!
After he finally pulled it out my skin, a few of it's spikes remained wedged into my arm and my friend was able to uproot it with some handy dandy tweezers(I'm still counting my lucky stars that we had those with us). After my nerves settled and the disinfectant started working, I pulled up Youtube videos and pictures of people who have been attacked by these so-called "Jumping Chollas" around the US. There was a guy on there who had about 10 of them stuck to him (See below). These cacti are mainly located in the desert of the Southwest United States and they have become such a nuisance, that people have cut them down and ripped them out, particularly in Arizona. It's such a shame because they are so beautiful, especially when the sun rises and sets in the desert. They light up a golden color and it's spectacular sight. My wild story of the infamous Jumping Cholla Cactus confirms the old adage, "Looks can truly be deceiving".