Skip to Content

Cactus That Shoot Needles : Know About Jumping Cholla

Cactus That Shoot Needles : Know About Jumping Cholla

You are on a desert trek, and your adrenaline is at an all-time high. You are on your way to explore the desert ecosystem. Suddenly you have a feeling of being hurt by needles onto your legs.

You take a look at your legs and find a prickly round object with sharp spines getting stuck to your skin. You know it’s a cactus, but then you start wondering, is it the cactus that shoots needles?

Since it’s weird for a desert plant to attach to your skin or your clothing or shoes, you eventually assume it either shoots needles or jumps onto any object that comes nearby of this pesky cactus.

In an attempt to unravel the mystery of jumping cactus, let’s get deeper into a few lesser-known facts about the cactus that shoots noodles.

What kind of cactus shoots needles?

Cactus is generally a spiny plant found in desert areas across the globe. Cactus grows in a plethora of shapes and varieties. Cactus do not have leaves.

The leaves are transformed into spines, attributing a needle-like appearance. The prickly plant uses the spines for storing excess food and water.

Yes, we must be aware of all these facts regarding cactus. But here is one interesting point about the cacti (singular of cactus): one specific type of cactus attaches its fish hook onto any object or living being that passes by these plants.

This dangerous and threatening variety of cactus is referred to as Cholla Cacti. Cholla cacti are also known as the jumping Cholla or the hanging chain Cholla.

It is usually grown in the arid desert areas of Sonora and the southern part of the United States of America.

More specifically, they are grown in the Colorado Desert of California and certain drylands of Arizona State in the USA. The Great Basin desert of Southern, Utah, is also home to the cactus that shoots needles.

The usually infamous part for jumping and sticking to your skin and clothing is the chain fruit or the Jumping Cholla. It has acquired the ill reputation of having the ability to jump from its parent plant or the ground to any object that comes near it.

Despite the assumption that it jumps or spits needles and sticks to the thing very stubbornly, the actual story behind its jumping is different. The indisputable fact is that it detaches itself from its parent plant as the joint separates quite quickly.

Once it falls into the ground, it roots and grows into a new plant fast. Due to its fast propagation, it develops and spreads exponentially. If you are crossing by this jumping cactus while it is in its detaching phase, you might just get caught by this deadly spiny Cholla cactus.

Do cactus shoot needles?

Whether you are on a desert trip or simply wandering along a semi-mountainous region, which is also the habitat of different types of cactus, make sure you do a thorough study on that place.

In case your targeted trekking spot is home to Cholla cactus, be aware. Before you get to learn more about jumping cactus, you must make sure you are well covered from top to button as you might get an attack by the spiny succulent any time.

Now the point of underwear the scanner is: do cactus shoot needles? Well, the answer is no, never. It’s those spines (resembling fish hooks) that attach not just to your skin but also bare skin. It’s not trying to attack you. Instead, it’s just searching for a way of survival.

Jumping Cholla characteristics:

Cholla belongs to the Cylindropuntia genus. It is a cylindroid cactus having joints and areolas. The body is covered with spines. Cholla is not just a desert plant.

It usually serves as woods and livestock in the desert. Although not always, certain Cholla fruits are edible. Cholla is also used as fuel in some desert areas. Let’s take a look at the essential characteristics of jumping Cholla:

  • Jumping Cholla is usually grown at an altitude of 300 meters to 1000 meters.
  • It occurs in different shapes and sizes. The height of these cactus goes up to 4 meters. The smallest Cholla could be as small as 12 inches.
  • Jumping Cholla has small flowers of different colors. Most of these flowers look like pink lavender. They also wonder at us by the green, yellow, and green colored flowers. The lavender-pink variety generally blooms from the months of the last week of May to June.
  • These plants have glochidia, tiny barbs emerging from areoles. If these barbs get stuck to your clothing or bare skin, getting rid of the needles becomes challenging.
  • Jumping Cholla grows fast. Its quick propagation is responsible for its massive occurrence in the deserts.
  • When the plant vegetates rapidly, its spiny needle-like p[arts break off from the original plant and fall onto the ground. Detaching of the spines may be caused by any animals that cross by it. They also fail due to heavy storms.
  • Jumping Cholla can survive in extreme weather conditions. No wonder it stays in the harsh climates of the desert areas. Some varieties of Cholla have a reputation of surviving in even -18 degree Celsius.
  • The spines that we try to avoid while we are on the desert trek are nothing but a segment of the plant used to store excess food for the future when, under extremities, it is unable to photosynthesize. It is also used to store surplus water.
  • Most varieties of jumping Cholla grow from April to June, depending upon the fertility and other conditions of the soil. The rearing and propagation of jumping Cholla also rely on certain weather conditions.
  • Chollas have tubercles. Tubercles are nothing but a small projection that looks like warts on the stems of the plants.

Despite its irritating habit of attaching itself with living or non-living beings, it is one of the prettiest cactus in the desert area. The pink lavender flowers that grow on them make this otherwise semi-dangerous plant an adorable one.

But yes, beauty is honestly alluring, and jumping Cholla attracts you too. If you are tempted to this pretty yet pesky succulent, you are inviting more harm than good for you.

As a way of survival, it will attach quite stubbornly onto your clothes, shoes, and skin too. So the cactus that shoots needles is nothing but a pesky succulent trying to connect to any object as a shelter for its future growth and propagation. But unfortunately, yes, they are exclusively grown on the ground (and mountain slopes, too), much like the other varieties of cactus.

How to defend yourself from jumping Cholla?

For an ardent lover of nature or simply a backpacker with a desire to experience the thrill of a desert trek, a semi-dangerous desert plant can never be a hurdle on its way. If you know precisely how to safeguard yourself from these attacking jumping cholla, then your desert trek is going to be an experience of a lifetime.

It would help if you were prepared well in advance to combat the cactus that shoots needles. It would help if you were offensive enough to avoid getting an attack by the jumping cholla.

It is highly recommended that you appreciate the beauty of this spiny cactus from far. Even if you try to go slightly near to this plant, and in case the wind is blowing your way, there is no way you can protect yourself from this prickly cactus even if you are armored with the best clothing and footwear.

Still, if you are an innovative and intelligent traveler, you will always make sure you have a large tooth comb and forceps.

Keep a tube of antiseptic and anti-infection lotion too. These tools will help you pull the needles that get stuck to your bare skin. Keeping a sturdy stick handy will also help you get ready for a problem-free desert trek.


There are potential risks involved with post-attack infections. Those with sensitive skins should do a thorough study on the destination they have set their eyes on.

If your desired trekking spot is a habitat of jumping Cholla, then make a few changes in your itinerary.

So, from the facts mentioned above regarding the cactus that shoots needles, it is crystal clear that these cactus do not shoot needles, neither do they jump onto you. All they do is an innocent attempt to survive on an object as soon as they are detached from their parent plant.