Cactus and their relatives have been popular with many plant advocates for quite some time. As time moves forward, many new varieties are discovered and shared around the world. As the new varieties become known, more questions arise about these interesting plants. We’ve gathered specific information on the cactus plants we grow.
Different Types of Spines
When it comes to cactus, there are five different types of spines the plant may grow. Provided below features information about each type of spine.
The most common spine in the cactus world. This spine is straight without any addition of barbs or hooks. If you were ever to be poked, this needle is the easiest to extract.
This spine is easy to identify as it is very small. Most fiber spines group together on the cacti, as shown in the picture. These fiber spines are very thin which makes removing from skin or clothing very difficult. If stuck with fiber spines, placing a piece of tape of the affected area should help remove them.
Although barbed spines look very similar to normal spines, once touched they are very different. Barbed spines have a straight spine that has small spines going opposite direction of the large one. This ensures that the spine sticks to the predator, causing pain. Removing this spine is relatively painful and uneasy. Using small tweezers will help ease the spine out.
Fishhook spines are easy to identify with the plain eye. These spines are curved at the end and resemble a fishing hook. They are shaped this way so the cacti can grab onto the predator, making it hard to escape the hook. Using tweezers will be beneficial in removing this needle.
Majority of cactus variations are actually not toxic to humans or pets. Irritation of the skin can occur if you were to come in contact with the needles.
These plants may not be toxic but can they can cause further symptoms if ingested. Most cacti have very acidic flesh. This is because they produce alkaloids throughout the plant. Alkaloids are a chemical that can be found in morphine and nicotine. This chemical is harsh on the kidneys when trying to process it. If ingested, watch for symptoms or discomfort and contact poison control. If symptoms worsen, visit your local emergency room.
The most important feature to look out for in a cactus is if it produces sap (milk). The two most common varieties that produce sap are Euphorbias and Echinopsis plants. Sap is described as a white milky substance that is extracted from certain varieties upon breakage. This substance should be handled very carefully as it has a wide range of symptoms. Cactus sap can be harmful if it comes into contact with your eyes, skin, or is ingested.
Cactus produce this sap for defence from predators. It helps the plant heal when broken or damaged. To humans and pets, this sap can cause skin irritation and if ingested - nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Euphorbia sap can cause blindness as well. When handling these plants, always where gloves and eye protection. If you are to come into contact with this sap rise the affected area immediately and visit your local emergency room/urgent care.
This sap is quite different than Euphorbia sap as it is not toxic or poisonous. Although they look similar, this sap is found primarily in Mammillaria plants. It is also used in healing the plant and is less used as a defense mechanism.