How to Deal With Cactus Glochids

Love prickly pear but hate those pesky tiny glochids?  Here is how to deal with glochids when you harvest your prickly pear fruit.   Harvesting and processing the prickly pear fruit is covered – here.

What are Glochids?

Wikipedia tells us that: “Glochids or glochidia (singular “glochidium”) are hair-like spines or short prickles, generally barbed, found on the areoles of cacti in the sub-family Opuntioideae. Cactus glochids easily detach from the plant and lodge in the skin, causing irritation upon contact. The tufts of glochids in the areoles nearly cover the stem surfaces of some cactus species, each tuft containing hundreds of glochids; this may be in addition to, or instead of, the larger, more conspicuous cactus spines, which do not readily detach.”


Glochids are “Retro!”

Many plants and animals grow hairs of various sorts that are very “retro,” but not in a good way for the recipient. Porcupines and cacti grow specialized hairs that are “retrorsely barbed.” This means that the barbs point backwards. Which means once they contact skin they can go in only one direction – further in!

savor-language-geek-shares-informationWord Nerd

You know retro means backwards – so when we say the glochids are retrorsely barbed you should get the idea that those little barbs on the glochids all point backwards.

retrorse adj

(Botany) (esp. of plant parts) pointing backwards or in a direction opposite to normal. From Latin retrōrsus, shortened form of retrōversus turned back, from retro- + vertere to turn]. retrorsely adv.

Pesky One-Way Barbs

This means that when the glochid gets into your skin, the little barbs spread out, and then they do not want to come out. Just like porcupine quills, they want to keep going in the direction they are pointed and do not want to be pulled out. Instead they just keep going further in. Ouch!


Glochid Solution! Desert Life Hack

This is a very simple desert life hack for glochids. Learned it years ago.

Do This to Remove Glochids

Get a bottle of good “white” glue. Get the good stuff that’s American made. The cheap Chinese knock-off ”school glue” will not work. Yes, I tried the cheap stuff. And when I tried to give the bottle to a school teacher because it was of no use to me she said basically, ‘thanks but no thanks.’

savor-the-southwest-prickly-pear-spine removal

Apply thick patch of white glue to the affected area.

Let it dry.

Peel it off.

Glochids stick in the glue and come out of your skin.

How it works. All those microscopic barbs swell up due to the moisture in the glue and then get stuck in the glue.

Yes, we carry a little bottle of white glue in our first aid kit under the truck seat. For harvest mishaps.


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Beekeeper?  We offer volume discounts – because if you sell honey in local markets you might want to offer some of these books as well.

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2 thoughts on “How to Deal With Cactus Glochids

  1. Am I supposed to remove these and the spikes from my pear cactus? I notice the ones in the store have them removed.

    How do I do it safely? Thanks

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