News Link • How To

How to remove cactus spines (including ones stuck in your throat)

•, Kate Baggaley

Raul Puente-Martinez has been pierced by quite a number of cactuses in his time. A research botanist and curator of living collections at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, he's been studying prickly pears and chollas, which are infamous for their barbed spines, for decades. However, the worst cholla attack he's ever witnessed came while he was hiking with several friends in Mexico. As they strolled through a cholla forest, one of the hikers discovered a chunk of cactus stuck to the tip of his shoe. He tried kicking his foot out to dislodge the spiny hitchhiker. Sure enough, most of the cactus flew off—including one piece that shot straight up and became stuck in the man's upper lip.

Luckily, Puente-Martinez has had a lot of practice with removing spines. "You could see that they were really deep inside his lip," he recalls. "Every time I pulled one, there was this little stream of blood coming out of the hole; that was pretty bad."

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