Aliens can be prickly

By Phil Plait | March 26, 2010 12:00 pm

There are aliens among us!

Don’t believe me? Then gaze upon this picture, O Foolish Human:

BABloggee Jeremy Theriot sent this picture to me. It looks innocent, doesn’t it? Ah, certainly, until you see it from a different angle…

J’accuse! Obviously, they walk among us! Or, more accurately, they are rooted among us. If prickly pear cacti have roots. I think they do. Yeah, let’s assume they do.

So maybe they’re not a major threat, but have you ever seen one up close? I’m positive I don’t want one probing me, I assure you. There’s a reason they’re prickly…

P.S. This one provides even more evidence that they photosynthesize among us.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Humor, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: aliens, prickly pears, UFOs

Comments (25)

  1. Chris

    I, for one, welcome our new prickly, rooted overlords!

  2. Saguaro you finding these aliens?

  3. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, the Devils probe, just right for Hitler,,,

    What Y’All call a desert is pretty darn green. All those cacti and such. In Saudi Arabia, if you go 15 miles inland(from the Persian Gulf) there are NO plants growing(except at the occasional oasis).

    Now, THAT desert would be a real challenge for our alien overlords.

    ,,,and yes, cacti do have roots but they tend to be shallow,,,and that’s about all I know about cacti.(well, if you cut into one, some will provide you enough water to survive. I forget what movie taught me that).

    Gary 7

  4. Chris

    They are really tasty, too many seeds and even if you are really careful, you still wind up picking thorns out of your fingers/lips!

  5. Nova

    Gary: Sorry to be a prickly pair regarding your cactus water advice, but according to the Survival Topics website:

    “surviving on water from a cactus is generally a very bad idea. First of all, the amount of water you are likely to obtain from a cactus is minimal – its inside is tough and fibrous. Indeed, it is possible to obtain some moisture from the inside of a cactus but it is not pure water. Often cactus water is slimy and highly acidic. The survival fact is that drinking cactus juice like this may only lead to further dehydration.

    But it gets worse. Should you be unlucky enough to obtain and drink plenty of cactus juice you are likely to be further dehydrated by intense vomiting and diarrhea. Cactus juice may burn your mouth, throat, and the lining all the way into your intestines. So much for a cool refreshing drink.”

  6. I love how some things viewed from certain angles can look like completely different things. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen what appeared to be a flying saucer in the sky. Now, I didn’t go running around screaming “ALIENS!!!” I looked at it to figure out what it was. It wasn’t hard. Every time, it turned out to be an airplane. At just the right angle, the wings become the “saucer”, the back gets obscured, and the front becomes the “rounded top.” Take offs/landings seem to be the prime time for this to occur. One of these days I’ll get a photo of an airplane-turned-flying-saucer.

  7. catherine

    Pricklies are some of the most fascinating critters on the planet. And when they bloom – bliss!

    Thanks for the pics. They can be my alien overlords anytime. A damned sight better than those who overlord us now.

  8. jcm

    cacteidolia! Yay!

    I’m positive I don’t want one probing me, I assure you.

    Neither do I!

  9. Patrick Alexander

    To be precise, cacti are spiny, not prickly. Not thorny, either.

  10. !astralProjectile

    I was surprised to discover them (at age 4) off the coast of Southport, Ct, on Cokeenee Island (about an acre of sand and cockleshells). I’d thought that all cacti were dessert plants. I never did harvest the fruits myself, but I like the jelly.

  11. JenniferBurdoo

    Prickly pears aren’t all that prickly — the spines are widely separated. I ran into one as a kid, though, and it still wasn’t fun.

    Jumping cholla, though — THOSE are scary. No, prickly pears can’t move — but cholla can — hence the name. :p

  12. ChH

    Gary,
    I grew up in KSA (Aramco brat), in Abqaiq and Udhailiyah. There were no cacti, but plenty of desert grasses here and there 60+ miles inland.

  13. nancy

    My brother-in-law in Arizona makes the BEST prickly-pear jelly from the fruit.

  14. zamia

    The funniest story in my family’s collection is of the bossy and rotund aunt from green New England who visited in a desert area. She was given a tour of the desert and noticed a small cactus with a beautiful bloom. She bent over to see it better, backing into a large spiny cactus. She had to kneel on the floor of the jeep all the way home. My mother performed the surgery, removing 10s of spines from her rear. I remember her complaining, “It would go much faster if you’d stop laughing!”

    To this day, 60 years later, gales of laughter erupt when someone says “Oh, what a pretty little cactus!”

  15. George Martin

    Jennifer @ 11 mentioned jumping cholla. While it looks like Jennifer knows what they are, for those not familiar with jumping cholla, they don’t really jump. Their spines are somewhat fine, dense, and barbed. You can brush against several spines without realizing it. The barbs stick into you and you pull a segment of the cactus off. Hence, it jumped on to you. Jumping cholla are especially bad for pets.

    George

  16. Pi-needles

    That alien is cactus! ;-)

    (My fellow Aussies will know what I mean .. )

    PS. Oh alright then, cactus = Aussie slang for dead, broken or stuffed.

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    In Australia this pricky pear cactus is indeed an alien! ;-)

    ‘Alien’ that is in being an introduced pest species. :-(

    (In fact all cacti are only native to the Americas – North & South – and are, strictly speaking “alien” everywhere else.)

    Infestations of pricky pear as an invasive weed was a major problem here for some time & still is in certain areas although good biological control for it has now been found via a moth species (Cactoblastis cactorum) that eats it & keeps it under control these days.

    Humans too can eat pricky pear fruit -I’ve eaten prickly pear fruit once myself brought from a Fruit & Veg shop & didn’t really enjoy it – a bit tasteless and tough – but that might’ve just been the one I had. We can also use them for medicines and apparently even a Mexican alcholic drink Colonche & we can apparently even use the sap as a hair-conditioner.

    See wikipedia :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prickly_pear

    & via northwest weeds website :

    http://www.northwestweeds.nsw.gov.au/common_pear.htm

    (despite the link “title” this is about prickly pear NOT pear trees complete with tips on how to eradicate them.

    Cool pareidolia here through. (Or should that be “alien-dolia?” Is there a word for this “seeing aliens in things” phenomena?) Just goes to show how you see things always depends on what angle it is that you’re coming from! ;-)

    @ 15. George Martin Says:

    Jennifer @ 11 mentioned jumping cholla. While it looks like Jennifer knows what they are, for those not familiar with jumping cholla, they don’t really jump. Their spines are somewhat fine, dense, and barbed. You can brush against several spines without realizing it. The barbs stick into you and you pull a segment of the cactus off. Hence, it jumped on to you. Jumping cholla are especially bad for pets.

    If folks are curious for more info. on the jumping cholla see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylindropuntia_fulgida

    &

    http://www.delange.org/JumpingCactus/JumpingCactus.htm

  18. Stuart van Onselen

    Prickly Pears are also an “illegal alien” in South Africa and AFAIK it’s illegal to deliberately cultivate them, and yet the fruit is a popular local delicacy. I haven’t had any in years, though, as they don’t grow in the area I currently live. Although now of course I have a hankering…

  19. Buzz Parsec

    Summer before last I saw several patches of prickly pears in the big field in front of the British defenses at Yorktown, about 100 feet from the Atlantic (actually, the York River estuary, but it’s salt water there…) I had often wondered how far west you had to go before encountering cacti, and whether there were any east of the Mississippi. I guess !astralProjectile has me beat, though!

  20. Nopalitos! Delicious! Now, I am hungry.

  21. Alaskana

    And I thought all Greys were gray. ;-)

  22. Gary Ansorge

    12. ChH

    I was in Abqaiq in 1950-1952 and then again from 1960 to 1964. I don’t recall anything other than sand in that area. I was in Ras Tanura from ’78 to 84. There was SOME greenery there, but where I was working, at Berri GAs plant(about 50 km into the desert, west of Jubail), there were nothing but sand dunes.

    I did notice, the last time I was there(1990) there was a LOT more green stuff growing all over the Eastern province( near the Gulf), but on trips to the power substations, it was the same old KSA.

    GAry 7

  23. MadScientist

    Yup, prickly pears have roots. In fact I can’t think of a single type of cactus which doesn’t have roots. Those fruits are getting close to ripe … with a few nice green ones to ripes later. Just remember to torch those horrible fine needles with a lighter before attempting to pick the fruit …

  24. The immature pads are edible too. That’s what nopalitos are.

  25. Nebogipfel
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