Most people assume deserts are sandy dunes that are devoid of life. But these environments are home to some of the most versatile – and sometimes dangerous – forms of life on the planet.
This did not stop Sir David Attenborough from venturing into the desert to feature the life thriving in these dry ecosystems. At 95 years old, this legendary man was determined to continue teaching new generations about the majesty of nature.
Sir David Attenborough’s expedition brought him to a vicious cactus known as the teddy bear cholla. This name might make the plant sound cute, but it was anything but friendly.
“But don’t be deceived by the name,” said David Attenborough. “There is nothing cuddly about this particular teddy bear. In fact, it is the most dangerous plant in the desert.”
From afar, the cactus looks fluffy, but if you got closer, you would see the plant is covered in thin spines. “Each is like a splinter of glass, sharp enough to splinter flesh,” said Attenborough.
If you zoom in even closer, you will notice that the splinters are even more vicious. The sharp points are covered in backward-facing ridges, making them difficult to pull out with a pair of pliers.
All it takes is brushing against the plant to dislodge the protective barbs. “It’s hard to imagine a more aggressive defense than this,” said Sir David Attenborough. “And it makes the plant and its buds virtually invulnerable.”