The Good, The Bad, And The Super-Prickly

Desert plants are tough hombres. Virtually every plant not only has a rugged outer skin, the better to retain scarce water, but also a strong defensive system consisting primarily of thorns and needles. The prickliness of desert plants not only sends obvious danger signals to animals that might otherwise be tempted to take a bite, but also discourages picking blooms or taking desert selfies. I know from first-hand experience that thoughtlessly blundering into the needles on the plant above is a painful experience.

Of all of the deserts plants I’ve seen on my walks, however, the most impressive needle array is found on the plant pictured below. Its arsenal is so thick there would be no way to get to the plant itself without making agonizing contact with dozens of needles. It makes you wonder what evolutionary impulse and hungry animal led this particular plant to develop such a dense and bristling protective coating of needles.

If you see one of these bad boys on the desert trail, you automatically give it wide berth.