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Sir David Attenborough spiked by ‘vicious spines’ of aggressive cactus in The Green Planet: ‘It’s quite painful’

Sir David Attenborough may have experienced his fair share of treacherous conditions in the wild, but his new series The Green Planet saw him suffer a prickly injury courtesy of a cactus.

While filming an episode of the BBC documentary in the Sonoran desert in Arizona, with this particular instalment focusing on deserts around the world, the nature historian was investigating a certain cactus called the teddy bear cholla.

On the show, it was explained that despite its cuddly name, the cholla is surrounded by a ‘fuzzy coating of vicious spines’ to ward off predators, providing it with the ‘ultimate protection’.

However, Sir David ended up experiencing the pain of the cholla firsthand when a spine pierced his hand, despite wearing a protective glove.

To make matters worse, it was explained that the spines on the cactus have backwards-facing barbs that can easily penetrate the skin, which is why it’s avoided by animals.

On the episode, the 95-year-old described the cholla as ‘a real physical danger’, stating: ‘If you walked into a cholla cactus, it has very dense spines in rosettes, so they point in all directions.

Even with protective gear, a spine pierced through (Picture: BBC)

‘And if you just brush against it, the spines are like spicules of glass, I mean they are that sharp.’

In a video clip, Sir David said that he ‘wouldn’t dream’ of putting his hand near the cactus without adequate protection, putting on a large glove that reached his elbow as a safeguarding measure.

That looked painful! (Picture: BBC)

Once he had the glove on, the broadcaster plunged his hand directly into the plant, under the impression that he would be protected from the spines.

However, the cactus did manage to pierce his skin through the material, as he exclaimed in pain in the clip.

‘This can happen even with this glove on. One of them has just gone through, I can feel it,’ he said, as he smoothly continued speaking to the camera.

‘It’s quite painful. This is not pleasant at all,’ he remarked, as he struggled to open his gloved hand, which was covered with spines from the cactus.

Speaking in a separate VT, the broadcaster said that the cholla is an ‘active aggressor’, adding: ‘You feel you are having a bad time, you better watch out.’

In the episode of The Green Planet, a packrat is able to climb the cholla and pick up the joints, which it can use to defend its nest.

The animal also uses its impressive chewing skills to bite off the spines, so that it can get to the watery flesh inside.

The Green Planet continues this Sunday at 7pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.


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