Kelly Vaughn

If you’ve ever been hiking on a desert trail, odds are you’ve encountered a spine field of teddy bear chollas (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). These fluffy-looking cactuses are abundant across the Southwest, from northwestern Mexico into Arizona, California and Nevada. But they’re not actually fluffy. The spines of teddy bear chollas are loaded with microscopic barbs that cling passionately to clothing and skin. Interestingly, those scary puffballs are also responsible for the easy propagation of the species. Cholla balls are often found on the ground beneath mature plants, and those balls root easily and join their parents to create a spiny forest. Should you happen to brush up against one of these bristly desert barbarians, your best bet is to gently remove the barbs with a fine-toothed comb.