It’s always a little awe-inspiring to come across a place where the conditions align perfectly to support a specific kind of plant. It’s a great example of the sensitivity and specificity of life on earth. One of these places is the Cholla Cactus Garden in JTNP (that’s Joshua Tree National Park). The soil is perfect, the slope is perfect, the amount of water is perfect. Perfect for a grove of horrific-pain-inducing teddy bear cacti.
They really can't emphasize this enough, but the effect is like when you're handed a dish by a waitress who cautions you to be careful, it's hot. What's the first thing you do? Touch the dish to see how hot it is, of course.
Zoom lens, naturally. Here's a quote from the brochure: "at the slightest touch, the spines will penetrate your flesh and are extracted only with difficulty and pain."
Paul is no 7' guy, but these were the biggest chollas we've seen.
Chollas reproduce by shedding pieces of themselves in the hopes that they will adhere to the ground and grow. These little balls remind me of the fuzzy gremlins.
Guess what happened next? OK, it didn't jump at Paul's face. But one got pretty well stuck to his shoe, discouraging any more up-close viewing.