Jump, Jump Jump Around

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What plant jumps more than a basketball player and is more painful than a shot?

Arizona, more specifically the Sonoran Desert, is home to a special plant nicknamed the “jumping cactus” and is feared by Arizona dwellers for a very good reason.  Its real name is the Cholla Cactus and it comes in many varieties.  

Ever seen a teddy bear?  Well, believe it or not, one of the more common cholla cactus species is called the Teddy Bear Cholla.  Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure of this cactus and a teddy bear for your comparison.

Hmmm, doesn’t connect with me… What about you?

Why do you think this cactus would be called a Teddy Bear Cactus?  Support your answer using the pictures provided and what you have learned about this cactus.

So, the Cactus isn’t all bad.  How is that, you say?  It’s full of poisonous barbs that are painful!   Here are a couple of stories about our classes run-in with a cholla cactus:

“My friends and I were playing in a desert wash by my house.  I went down to the bottom of the wash and landed in a pile of cholla cactus segments.  They were stuck all over my hand and forearm.  It was very painful.  My dad was trying to get them out but it was hard.  I was screaming and crying because they stung.  Finally, we got them out using a comb.”  by Kyle

“I was at my cousin’s baby shower and my grandma asked me if I could help her pulled down some tablecloths.  Near the tablecloth were some cholla cactus needles.  They stuck into the back of my arm.  They felt very bad and because it was just a few of them I was able to grab the needle and pull it out.” by Brooke

How can it not be all that bad?!

Well, the Cactus Wren, Desert Pack Rat, and various other species of desert animals use this cactus for their homes.  It provides a natural barrier for the javelina from predators.  People use it as a barrier so trespassers won’t go onto their property, and the skeleton of the cholla cactus is used for lamps, jewelry, and other household decorative items.

Cholla Cactus Video

What have you learned about the cholla cactus that you didn’t know before?