Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sneaky Jumping Ninja Cactus

We went home to Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving and stayed over a day to do their yard decorating for Christmas.
Yesterday, alone and on a shopping errand for Mom, I got distracted and found myself at a pull over at the base of the 206 bridge on the intracoastal waterway.

I had driven down to the water on a whim ... just to reconnect a little and survey an old stomping ground.
A few families were parked at the dirt track's edge. They were fishing or launching kayaks on a gorgeous, sunny, cool day.

There were mound upon mound of gaillardia growing along the edge of the high ground. I love this flower for it's toughness, beauty, and insectyness ... the native bees love it too.

About half of the gaillardia clumps were done for this season. They sat, grey and withered, among the more recent generation's green floweryness.

They also sported a gazzillion ...(two z's in gazzillion or one? hmm...) ... dried seed heads.

So I waded into the calf-high ( my calf ,not a real bovine calf) grass, and started picking with the intent to start a few back at PFHQ. 

That's when it STRUCK!

JUMPING CACTUS ATTACK!

RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY!

I suppose ... scientifically speaking ... they don't REALLY jump up on to your legs,
but ...

In my heart (and in my calf) ... I KNOW they dang sure DO!


What makes them SNEAKY as well as JUMPY, is their habit of growing in a prone position instead of upright like a normal, self-respecting prickly pear cactus.

You can see those coming.

These are more like ninja cactus ... sneaky, jumping, ninja cactus.

To make matters worse, their spines are long, barbed, sharp as a flounder's tooth, and woody-tough.
But no, they have one more trick up their sleeve.
At the base of each spine are tiny, soft, barbed spines called "glochids".
They are maddening when they enter the skin and are hard to find much less pull out due to their tiny ... 5mm ... size.

Each Sneakyjumpyninja Cactus is segmented like a tape worm so they break apart easily.

That characteristic along with their sneaky,jumpy, ninja traits allows them to spread new cactus plants over a wide area.
Each piece can become a whole new colony of SJN cactus.

When you google "jumping cactus", a western, and very different species of upright cactus comes up.
The only use of "jumping cactus" that matched the plant (or is it an alien?) in this post was an old one I did a few years back.

Maybe I should google "SNEAKY JUMPING NINJA CACTUS" ...

I'm betting it is just a form of our native prickly pear.
Input is welcome.

In the end, I escaped the clutches of the SJN cactus and foraged a handfull of gaillardia seeds to start here at PFHQ.

Since I was so very close to the beach, I cruised over in the JEEP and parked just long enough to savor a home grown Satsuma (aka "tree candy") while watching the few tourists braving a chilly, breezy, sunny November day.

Best citrus fruit ever... and even better at the beach.


(Yes, I did eventually get those errands done.)

These things take time.

17 comments:

Caroline said...

I have a sneaky, jumping, ninja cactus (aka brittle pricklypear) in my backyard. It never seems to be in exactly the same place twice, I ALWAYS find it with my bare feet. Mean little devils.

tai haku said...

A fingerfull, anklefull or calffull of glochids is no laughing matter. No laughing matter at all. A lucky escape.

Miz S said...

Nothing like that ninja cactus up here in Mary-Land. But no Satsuma trees either.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, FC.

Pablo said...

Yikes! Would those cactus needles go through the soles of your sneakers?

Floridacracker said...

Caroline,
Brittle prickly pear plantdevil seems like an appropriate alias.

Tai,
I see you've been there, done that.

Miz S !!
Well, hello stranger. I hope all is well with your crew. Yes, Thanksgiving was very nice.

Pablo,
Short of flipflops or barefeet, I am wearing the worst possible shoe for an encounter with this plant. It wasn't on my to do list that day, so I was unprepared.
Yes and I actually was very careful about where I parked the JEEP after noting their presence.

Sayre said...

I was wondering if somehow cholla had managed to survive in Florida... It is, however, a more upright version of that.

Sandcastle Momma said...

Yes! I thought I was alone in experiencing this phenomenon. They live here too, hiding flat on the ground and then out of nowhere jumping up to more than a foot sometimes. And you NEVER see them coming. You might see them on the ground but you never see the actual jump. Florida is filled with excellent natural booby traps and I think these might win the "never see them coming" category lol

edifice rex said...

When we were on our way home from honeymoonin' in your lovely state we bought a bag of satsumas. They were SO good! and they didn't last very long either. Wish we could find them up here.

threecollie said...

It is unimaginably beautiful to contemplate fruit like that, which didn't originate in the grocery aisle. Wow! But you can keep the cactus.

robin andrea said...

Love gaillardia! We have a few plants that have grown quite nicely over the past few years. Oh yes, the bees love them here too!

That's some scary cactus you have there, fc.

Anonymous said...

What beautiful flowers! My potted outdoors prickly pear cactus, which grew from a cutting from a friend, has lovely yellow rose-like flowers. And nasty mean spines.
People do grow it in the ground here in our area but I'll keep mine potted for now so the dog doesn't nose around in it. Ouchy!
Momadness

Island Rider said...

I thought about you on Saturday and wondered if you were around. We were in the throes of setting up youngest son's apartment. He is just off A1A north of Arnolds bar! Right on the marsh that leads to the Intercoastal. If you squint, you can see the St. Augustine lighthouse from his apartment. If you ever need help getting those cactus needles out, he will be working in the ER at Flagler Hospital!

Marilyn Kircus said...

Sorry about that %$#% cactus. But five thumbs up for blanket flower and satsumas. I'm currently visiting a friend in Galveston and enjoying the blanket flowers that cope with mowers by blooming at a hight of three inches. And I picked a satsuma off my friend's tree tonight and ate it over the back porch railing. My favorite fruit.

tai haku said...

FC there is a cute little prickly pear called Opuntia microdasys which has no sharp spines just little red, yellow or white polka dots of glochids. A young TH may have stroked one cos they look so soft.

Mark P said...

You know, there is a cactus found in Texas and maybe elsewhere that is called a horse crippler. Just so you know.

Floridacracker said...

So, I think have a consensus that cactus can be uncooperative, even if they have many other excellent qualities.
Personally, I am a fan of creative defensive strategies.
I cringe when I picture a dog like my Bear getting into these though.
Shudder.

We also have some joint satsuma love going on. They are the highest achievement of the citrus clan.
AND they are cold hardy for a citrus, so we can grow them even here in North Florida.

Thank you all for the great input!

Wayne Atkinson said...

Many moons ago, those cactus would shoot thru my tennis shoes. Man that would hurt. Enjoyed reading this, brought back a lot of memories.