Cacti (or cactuses, singular cactus) are members of the plant family Cactaceae, which can occur in a wide range of shapes and sizes and often live in extremely dry environments, thanks to their many adaptations to conserve water. They can be a lifesaver in places where they are found (and luckily, All Deserts Have Cacti in Fictionland), but not without grave risk — most have lost true leaves, and what leaves they do have are modified into spines. Lots and lots of spines.
Whenever a cactus shows up in a fictional work, there's a very good chance that it's going to hurt someone at least once. This is more common in comedic works, especially cartoons, where a character will find themselves landing on one — almost always butt-first — and end up leaping sky-high and later having to pull the spines out. Cacti have caused injury in more serious works as well, however, and the results are often a good deal bloodier and much less funny. There is even at least one case where a cactus bought about someone's death, as Snopes explains here.
The Sea Hurtchin is the underwater version of this trope, and the Prickly Porcupine is the animal version. All of these are Sub-Tropes of The Spiny (and Spikes of Doom in turn), and are Truth in Television examples of those tropes in Real Life.
See also All Deserts Have Cacti, which may overlap with this trope sometimes.
- This Carling lager ad has a bandito bump into a cactus.
- Digimon Adventure: Palmon's Champion form is Togemon, a giant walking cactus with boxing gloves. Her first attack demonstrated in the anime is Needle Spray, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, Joseph is attacked by a German agent, Donovan, while in Mexico. Joseph tries to punch him, but Donovan uses a cactus hidden in his cloak to block the attack, causing him to hurt his hand. Joseph does manage to turn the tables, however, by using his Hamon to make a cactus explode right into Donovan's face, turning him into a Human Pincushion. After defeating him, Joseph leaves Donovan tied to the cactus.
- Pokémon: In the Hoenn arc, Team Rocket's James had a Cacnea, a cactus Pokemon that had a habit of hugging James painfully with its spiky arms every time he brought it out.
- Suske en Wiske: In De Gouden Locomotief (The Golden Locomotive), when Professor Barabas sends Suske, Wiske and Lambik to The Wild West with his Time Machine, Lambik ends up landing on a cactus.
- Tintin: In Prisoners of the Sun, Captain Haddock jumps off the Runaway Train carriage and barrels out of control down the rocky slope to land in clump of prickly pear.
- Garfield once made an attempt on a houseplant that Jon bought home, as is tradition. He found out only too late that it was a cactus, with the last panel having him giving Jon a Death Glare and with spines in his fur.
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: While lost in the desert, Fievel sees a mirage of his family. As he goes to give them a hug, they turn into cacti and he jumps back in pain.
- In Cars, Lightning McQueen isn't used to racing on a dirt track, so he fails a hard turn and ends up crashing into a cactus patch and getting stuck. Mater has to tow him out. Later, Lightning tries that turn again, but because he blew off Doc Hudson's advice, he crashes into a cactus patch again, this time clipping a large saguaro that falls on top of him and makes him scream in pain.
- In The Jungle Book (1967), the famous song "Bear Necessities" at one point warns against using your bare hands — or in Baloo's case, bear hands — to gather the fruit of the prickly pear, a type of cactus which was introduced to India.
Now when you pick a pawpaw
Or a prickly pear
And you prick a raw paw
Well, next time beware!
- The titular chameleon of Rango tries to escape a red-tailed hawk early in the film by hiding behind a cactus. He ends up having some of its spines sticking in him, and tries (and fails) to disguise himself as a cactus because of this.
- In Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico, the gang get chased around by the Chupacabra. Velma manages to evade it at one point by dressing up a cactus to look like her; the monster grabs the cactus and gets injured by the needles, and then backs up into another one.
- The Bride Came C.O.D.: In this Screwball Comedy Steve and Joan's plane winds up crash-landing in the Nevada desert. Joan tries to run away from Steve but falls butt-first into a cactus. Steve is forced to withdraw cactus needles one by one from Joan's hindquarters.
- Fanchon the Cricket: Fanchon, being a "wild girl of the woods", rolls around in the grass, hugely enjoying herself. Until she rolls over onto a cactus.
- The Right Stuff has a scene where a man rides face-first into a cactus.
- Police Story: Kevin Chan is guarding Selina, who's an important witness for a trial. Noticing a small potted cactus in Kevin's house, Selina picks it up and makes some suggestive comments. Embarrassed, Kevin grabs the cactus and sets it down on a chair—then forgets and sits down on that same chair himself. To literally add insult to injury, the entire exchange gets recorded, and the audio gets played back at the trial, where lack of context makes it sound much dirtier than it actually is.
- In one of The Berenstain Bears books where they go on a nature walk, the part that teaches about cacti says, "If animals try to eat it, ouch! Too bad for them!".
- In Hop On Pop, a guy named Pat sits on things and then he's about to sit on a cactus so the narrator goes, "No, pat, no! Don't sit on that!".
- In Red Square (a sequel to Gorky Park), Renko is staying at Stas' apartment, and Stas keeps several cacti on his balcony. In the middle of the night, Renko and Stas hear a loud scream from the balcony, and find Stas' upstairs neighbor Rikki on the balcony (he climbed down to avoid his materialistic wife and daughter; It Makes Sense in Context). Rikki notes that everyone else in the building keeps geraniums on their balconies as Stas uses tweezers to remove some spikes from Rikki's hand.
- In City Slickers II Phil thinks he got bitten by a rattlesnake while trying to take a dump, but when Mitch goes to suck out the poison he finds cactus needles instead.
- In the book Teeny Tiny about how to crochet small stuffies, the description for the toy cacti is "They're thinking somebody needs a hug".
- In the Friends episode "The One With The Sharks", Joey dates a girl named Hayley. When they adjourn to her apartment, he recognizes the place and is offended that she doesn't remember sleeping with him. When she's out of the room, he wanders around, pointing out to himself the places he and she had sex. He gets to one of the couches and says, "We didn't have sex here." As he wonders why, he backs up into a cactus and says, "That's why".
- House of Anubis: In an attempt to win Amber over, Alfie starts getting her a bunch of gifts. Foolishly leaving Jerome to choose the flowers for her, she ends up with two cacti- both of which end up injuring her, as she grabs the first one directly not knowing it's a cactus, and accidentally sits on the second on. This, following an allergic reaction to Alfie's cupcakes, was the last straw when it came to his gifts.
- Married... with Children: In the Pilot Episode, Peg puts a small cactus plant on Al's nightstand where his alarm clock usually is. When the alarm clock goes off he slams his hand down on the cactus.
- The page quote comes from 1000 Ways to Die, specifically the ending of "Succu-Offed". In this segment, two stoners stole a Saguaro cactus and celebrate with peyote in the desert, but get a shared hallucination where the Saguaro tells them they will be punished for their crime. As they run for their lives, one stoner falls on an agave plant (a succulent or thick-stemmed plant unrelated to cacti, but just as deadly) and is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, while the other stoner runs into another Saguaro cactus and gets speared in the eye.
- At the beginning of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Genesis", Riker is in Sickbay after falling into a cactus.
- One idiot on World's Dumbest... decides to investigate why he's never seen anyone jump onto a cactus. He discovers the very painful reason in short order.
- The Goodies' song "Cactus in My Y-Fronts" (from the Nothing to Do With Us album, and performed on "The Goodies Almost Live" episode of the TV show) tells the tragic tale of a cowpoke who relives himself behind a cactus and receives a nasty shock when he pulls his trousers up:
I was down in Cripple Creek
I was dying for a leak
So I dropped my pants behind a cactus there
When I fastened up my belt
I can't tell ya how I felt
But I knew the meaning of a prickly pear ... ouch!!
- Sesame Street: In a "Super Grover 2.0" sketch, Super Grover 2.0 tries to make the perfect ball for a sentient cactus that doesn't pop when the cactus' spines touch it. Whenever the cactus gets upset, Super Grover 2.0 tries to calm him down by petting his back, only for the cactus' spines to hurt him as a result.
- In Club Penguin, one of the Card Jitsu cards has the effect of summoning a cactus, which the opponent is tricked into touching.
- Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail!: In the opening sequence, Larry must escape from a burning hotel room, suffering a Humiliation Conga in the form of a series of increasingly severe (though cartoonishly depicted) injuries in the process, all of which he ignores except for the paper cuts. The sequence ends with him landing on a saguaro, straddling one of the branches with its top in his mouth.
- Miitopia: One event involves a Mii mistaking a cactus for a chair and sitting on it. They can either take damage or regain a few HP from "impromptu cactus acupuncture".
- Minecraft starts the player in the overworld, which is relatively peaceful. Few blocks in the environment can cause direct harm. One exception is the humble cactus, which hurts anything that runs into it.
- Plants vs. Zombies: The Cactus is an unlockable plant whose function has varied depending on the different games, but in all cases it uses its spines to attack. The original game has it be able to stretch itself upward and fire thorns at flying zombies, while in Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time it shoots thorns at grounded zombies, and retracts into the ground to serve as a spike hazard if a zombie gets too close. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare has the Cactus act as a Long-Range Fighter, spitting thorns to hit zombies from a distance but being oddly less effective at close quarters.
- The Pokémon Cacnea, Cacturne, and Maractus are based on cacti, and fittingly, they can learn moves like Needle Arm, Spiky Shield, Spikes, and Pin Missile. Ferroseed and Ferrothorn meanwhile are based on the durian, a spiny fruit, rather than cacti, but they still carry the spirit of this trope due to having the Iron Barbs ability, which damages foes that hit them with contact-based attacks.
- Super Mario Bros. gives us the Pokeys, mobile cacti that occur in stacked units which can be taken out with a projectile to the head, but can neither be jumped on due to the spikes on their heads or approached from the sides thanks to their spiny bodies. In more recent games, however, Mario can bounce off of them using a spin-jump, though the same is also true with other instances of The Spiny elsewhere.
- In ASDF Movie 3, there is a joke involving a father who tells his son not to touch a cactus. After his son gets literally attached to the cactus, the father shouts "You're dead to me!".
- Discussed in Asexuality Archive which says that you don't have to try sex to see if you'd like it if you have a strong aversion, just like you don't have to hug a cactus to know that'd be unpleasant.
- The Darwin Awards contains an account of dubious veracity about a group of drunken revelers who went out to the desert and starting letting off illegal fireworks. One man threw an especially powerful one at the base of giant saguaro cactus. The explosion blow out the base of the cactus, which toppled on top of the man, killing him.
- Looney Tunes: A common hazard in the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons, which take place in the southwestern US desert where saguaros are native. For instance:
- "To Beep or Not to Beep" had Wile E. fall off a cliff as usual, only for a cactus to also fall off after him, leading to him flying back UP the cliff while howling in pain.
- "Highway Runnery" has him standing behind a cactus as he prepares to dash off, only for the Road Runner's speed to bend the cactus so it hits his behind. Bonus: we get to hear a real coyote yowl as he does another Pain-Powered Leap.
- "Chariots of Fur" has Wile E. test out a cactus costume, feeling visibly uncomfortable as he puts it on. He mistimes his attempt to grab the Road Runner and ends up wrapping his arms around himself with painful results, and promptly decides that the costume isn't worth the trouble.
- A Bernard short had the titular polar bear going skydiving, which eventually led to him flying into a field of cacti. This ended with him slamming into a large cactus, with painful results, which was followed by said cactus falling on top of him for good measure.
- Donald Duck:
- In the cartoon "Trick or Treat", a witch tries to help Huey, Dewey and Louie get Halloween candy from Uncle Donald. When Donald locks up the candy and swallows the key, the witch uses magic to make Donald cough it up, including bewitching a cactus to poke Don in the butt.
- In "Wide Open Spaces", Donald goes camping in the forest, as the only place to stay for the night expects him to pay full price for bunking on the front porch. After a night of mishaps, Donald ends up rocketing on a leaky air mattress right back to the motel, and ends up dozing on the porch. The manager finds him, assumes he changed his mind, and charges him for the full night before dumping him off the porch. Donald, still asleep, falls onto a saguaro cactus, which wraps its "arms" around him, and he's still sleeping too soundly to notice.
- In "Sir Ed-a-Lot" from Ed, Edd n Eddy, Ed throws things at Eddy dressed as a fool to juggle with them. One of the things is a cactus, which bites him in the hand, causing him to drop all the other things.
- Futurama: In "The Tip of the Zoidberg", Fry gets stung trying to shake hands with the Cactus People, which turned out to be just ordinary cacti.
- An episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had Grim attempt to take his elderly childhood idol, Dracula, to breakfast for the Early Bird Special. They end up stranded in the desert with a wrecked car because Dracula insisted on taking the wheel. He then insists on riding a limo back over just walking back, and insists to Grim he found one in the middle of the desert. The limo is exactly what you think it is.
Dracula: This limo's hurtin' Dracula's butt!
- In the episode "Wishbones," Pud'n requests that the wish-granting skull Thromnambular give him "a pet bunny that will love me, please." Unfortunately, the rabbit that appears goes full Yandere in seconds ("Sometimes love hurts, Pud'n—and I love you a lot") and starts brutally attacking. At one point during their fight, Pud'n tumbles out of a window and, by some amazing coincidence, seems all set to land on "The World's Largest Pillow"...but unfortunately, said pillow is right next to the local cactus farm. As Grim Adventures runs on Black Comedy, Pud'n lands in the cacti face-first, and has to pull one plant from his eyeball.
- One episode of Josie And The Pussy Cats had Token Evil Teammate and resident Butt-Monkey Alexandra fall from a great height and onto a cactus, butt-first of course. She then had to endure Team Pet Sebastian pulling the spines out.
- In The Loud House episode "A Tattler's Tale", Lola puts a cactus outside her window which Lincoln ends up landing on, as a punishment for reading her diary.
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In the episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Tigger", Sheriff Piglet tries to jump on a runaway train commandeered by Tigger and Pooh from a water tower. But he got distracted by Pooh saying hello, and thus ends up falling into a field of cactus that causes him to dance in pain.
- The Rocko's Modern Life episode, "The Good, The Bad, and the Wallaby", after being thrown off a truck, Rocko flies over and past a cactus field, a large group of snakes, a barbed wire surrounded toxic waste dump, a utensil graveyard (with a sign that reads "Please bury your utensil pointy end up") and finally lands on an arm chair in a comfy chair dump; only for a spring to pop and toss him seat first on a nearby cactus.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Marge in Chains", there was an episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show where Scratchy falls onto a cactus with the needles going right through him.
- In "Cape Feare", Sideshow Bob stalks Bart by hitching a ride on the underside of the Simpson family car. Unfortunately for Bob, Homer decides to drive through a cactus patch for no reason.
- In "Homer to the Max", Homer, outraged that a TV show made a character bearing his name, attempts to storm out of the writer's room, but walks right into a cactus. The writers adapt this into the show, having the Homer Simpson character fall off a flagpole and land on a cactus.
- In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Star Comes to Earth", Marco, angry at Star for the mess she made with her magic, walks through a window and falls into some cacti.
Star: Are you okay?
Marco: Luckily the cactuses broke my fall.
- Steven Universe: Future: The episode "Prickly Pair" features a mobile, talking cactus grown into the shape of Steven by the boy himself, which eventually causes problems for the others, including repeatedly getting the Crystal Gems covered in its spines.
- The Tom and Jerry cartoon "Texas Tom" starts with Tom Cat toying with Jerry Mouse. Tom lets Jerry get a running start, then uses Improbable Aiming Skills to lasso Jerry, and reel him in. During this reeling, Jerry gets pulled onto a spiny lobe of a cactus. Jerry almost yelps in pain, but stifles it. Once Tom has Jerry in his grasp, Jerry produces the cactus lobe, and slaps Tom in the puss with it.
- Xiaolin Showdown: In "Treasure of the Blind Swordsman", one of the Wudai weapons the monks went on a quest for is found in the Cactus Creek. The cacti come to life and hurt the monks with their spines when fighting them. Also, Omi gets his back stuck on a cactus.
Kimiko: Omi, are you OK?
Omi: I have a thousand needles in my backside. What do you think?!
- The Jumping Cholla, a type of cactus found in the Southwest, is particularly notorious for this, because pieces tend to fall off easily. These light weight pieces tend to roll around and can easily be stepped on or get stuck to your clothing if you get too close.