Teddy Bear Cactus: The Desert Dweller with Jumping Terror

What comes to your mind when you hear the name teddy bear cactus? Most people will imagine a fluffy and adorable little plant. Well, you are wrong!

Unlike its name, this plant that can reach 3 meters in height is a terror in the middle of the desert. From a distance, it looks adorable, but this cactus will throw sharp thorns if you get too close.

Therefore, people name it the flying cacti.

What kind of plant and how dangerous is it to humans and animals? Find out all about this sophisticated succulent in the review below!


What is Teddy Bear Cactus?

Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) is an upright cactus with a stout, upright trunk and many short, cylindrical branches that are very densely covered with yellowish spines.
Teddy Bear Cactus

This plant has several names, one of which is the teddy bear cholla. The species comes from northwestern Mexico.

However, they are also in the United States.

Cholla cactus is a part of the Cactaceae family with the characteristic of thorns that break easily but then easily stick firmly to the surrounding objects.

They can reach victims from 3 feet away.

Due to its stickiness to clothes and skin, despite not-so-near interaction, many people call it the jumping teddy bear cactus.

Once exposed to living things, the thorns will be difficult to remove. Also, they are very painful.

Their purpose of attaching is none other than to breed. After traveling with a walker, they will fall elsewhere and begin to breed.


An attractive but rather odd-looking cactus with dense masses of spines that give the cactus a teddy bear appearance, hence the cuddly nickname.
Teddy Bear Characteristics

The teddy bear cactus is one of the cholla groups, which has stems like chocolate color. It has many gold-colored arms.

At first glance, it does not look scary because the thorns at first glance seem harmless.

These plants live in groups as if building a village on the sand. They looked lush and lush under the scorching sun.

Pedestrians who do not know the situation will think they are a beautiful sight in the middle of the desert, not realizing that the teddy bear cactus is waiting for prey.

When you get close, the thorns that break easily will shoot straight away, stick to clothes, and are difficult to remove.

They can move to distant places before finally growing into new plants elsewhere.

All chollas have the same way of finding new places. However, the teddy bear cactus seems to have spines that are easier to remove, and their sharpness will attack the skin of innocent creatures that pass by.

Reproduction System

These cacti can be propagated by division of its stems, which is accomplished naturally by dropping them from the limbs of the plant.
Teddy Bear Reproduction

This plant reproduces asexually. Teddy bear cactus clones itself by removing the segments that will grow roots when in the right environment.

Assistance and passing carriers play a critical role.

The actual teddy bear cactus also produces flowers. While other plants use flowers are the key to reproduction, these succulent plants produce sterile seeds instead.

However, because this plant has many spines, the cloning system is rarely a problem. The spreading spines grow rapidly and often form large clusters.

Are They Really Jumping?

The teddy bear cactus, more commonly known as the jumping cholla, received that nickname because if you get too close a segment will break off and fly at your body.
Teddy Bear

When you get too close, the teddy bear cactus seems to get a signal to detach a segment from the body. The attack was fast before a small ball full of thorns stuck to your skin.

Because it is so light, the segment looks like it is flying. When stuck, the thorn will bend, making it harder to remove, accompanied by pain and panic.

This plant is dangerous if close to children or pets. Thereupon, keep a distance of at least 3 feet or approach it with safety.

Why Does the Teddy Bear Cactus Have Spines?

These spines are an adaptation to the desert sun; they create shade for the cholla itself, reducing its exposure to the sun.
Teddy Bear Spines Function

The chollas have a cylindrical stem consisting of many segments. Due to various stimuli, the spines will easily detach and attach as if flying.

As mentioned above, spiny segments that easily detach from the stem are part of the reproductive system. The spines are a collection of glochids that will turn into roots when they get the right host.

The cylindrical stem shape itself also has a function.

With such a structure, the chollas, including the teddy bear cactus, easily adapt to lack of water, photosynthesis, and flowering.

How Dangerous?

Beware the teddy bear cholla cactus, the most dangerous plant in the desert. Even thick, elbow-length protective gloves could not stop Sir David Attenborough's hand being stabbed by the vicious cactus spikes, which are as sharp as glass and barbed like a fishhook.
Beware of Teddy Bear Cactus

The spines on the teddy bear cactus are known as glochids which vary in size. One stuck in might not seem like a big deal. However, these plants live in groups.

On getting attacked, you might get some glochids on your skin. The problem is that even when you do manage to pull it out, there are fine residues that may be on your skin.

It will make you temporarily feel discomfort, especially if it is accidentally touched or pressured.

Glocids left behind can also spread if you stick them on other body parts. It will be fatal if it gets into the mouth or eyes.

Dealing with Teddy Bear Cactus’ Attack

Once you have the needles out, clean the area, apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage, which you should keep clean and dry. If you are in pain, try an over-the-counter analgesic like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Dealing with Teddy Bear Spines

Teddy bear cactus attacks can be painful. If you do not know how to treat it, the wound will be an infection. Importantly, do not panic.

Spines that are stuck will generally develop into roots so that you need to remove them immediately. It is not easy, but please don’t use body parts to remove it.

Using your hands, mouth, or other body parts will hurt you again because the spines will stick to those parts of the body.

It is best to use pliers or another object to pull out spines.

The removal process may be painful, but you have to endure it. Once removed, immediately treat the wound. Use clean water for washing and give medicine to prevent infection.

In addition, after removing, you should cover the wound. Do not attach it to other body parts to avoid residual glochids that may be left behind.

Jumping Cholla vs Teddy Bear Cactus

Hikers must understand why many of these plants are commonly called
Difference Jumping Cholla and Teddy Bear Cactus

People frequently mistakenly recognize them because of their similar looks at first glance. However, jumping cholla and teddy bear cactus are two different species.

The first has silverfish gold spines when young and then turns dark brown when mature. The second one has a brown color with gold arms.

Jumping cholla has a better flying ability than teddy bear cactus and can reach passers-by from a considerable distance.

The teddy bear cholla may look friendlier because it will only attack from close range. But please be careful because this species lives in groups, making their attacks can be more dangerous.


There are plenty of benefits when it comes to teddy bear cholla. The cholla cactus can help soothe burns or wounds and is also filled with high protein.
Benefit of Teddy Bear Cactus

Although scary and dangerous, many people take advantage of the teddy bear cactus. Its existence turns out to be quite beneficial for some living things.

Desert rats will place the falling stems or balls at the door of their nest to ward off enemies. They had a way of moving it without getting hurt.

In addition, wild birds also use the stem to make nests.

In dry conditions, many people use it to make crafts. However, you need to ensure that they are safe enough to use.

In addition, although dangerous, the teddy bear cholla can be a good protector for the home. With adequate security, you can repel intruders or uninvited guests.

Growing and Caring Teddy Bear Cactus

Teddy bear cactus requires very little supplemental water. Too little moisture is always preferable than too much. Feed teddy bear cactus occasionally using a granular fertilizer formulated for cacti and succulents, or a diluted solution of any good quality water-soluble fertilizer.
Grow Teddy Bear Cactus

As explained above, this scary plant is still beneficial for other living things. If you want to make it one of the cultivation collections, here are some things you need to note:

  • Before cultivating, make sure you have prepared an environment similar to a desert. Chollas like dry soil and intense sunlight.
  • To thrive, this plant requires intense sunlight for at least 6 hours each day.
  • This plant likes a normal pH of 6-7.5. If it’s too acidic, try using lime to neutralize the planting media.
  • When planting and transplanting, you must use adequate safeguards to avoid spines.
  • Give the right fertilizer as needed.

Like other cacti, the teddy bear cholla does not require intense maintenance. However, because they tend to live in groups, you have to be diligent in pruning to keep their development under control.

Incredible Teddy Bear Cholla Facts to Know

The teddy bear cholla is named for its furry
Teddy Bear Cholla Facts

We have discussed many things about the characteristics and how to deal with the teddy bear cactus. Although many people consider it dangerous, this grower has some unique facts as follows:

  • The thorns sticking out are indeed a threat. However, this feature has a thin sheath with a variety of colors that make the appearance of chollas look beautiful.
  • The main source of its food is sunlight and water.
  • The stems of this plant are modified branches that adjust to water content, sunlight, and other environmental factors.
  • The spines are modified leaves. This part appears before flowering and then changes shape into needle-like features.
  • Spines themselves appear in cholla, which managed to survive in hot weather. Its function is as a temperature stabilizer so that plants can still feel happy.
  • The Teddy bear cactus has its name because it looks hairy from a distance. All of the stems are full of spines and provide a unique view from a certain distance.
  • This cholla is a reliable traveler. The spines will last a great distance before finding a suitable place to grow roots.

Despite all the reputation and controversy, this plant is indeed unique. No wonder many parties are trying to preserve it.


With their chocolate-brown stems and fuzzy golden arms, the teddy-bear chollas really do seem friendlier than other desert dwellers.
Cylindropuntia Bigelovii

The teddy bear cactus is a cholla species that grows in desert areas and reproduces by spreading spines. Pedestrians must be careful because the thorns that stick out can leave excruciating pain.

However, despite its fearsome reputation, the teddy bear cactus has benefits for some animals, such as the desert rat. They use the spines to guard the nest against predators.

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