How to Survive Being Destroyed by Cactus Spines on a Daily Basis

Welcome back to the blog where I showcase my personality flaws while still hopefully managing to convey information about my research this summer. If you recall, I switched from doing intensive biological research to working on greenhouse outreach because it suited my interests and temperament much more. My project this summer consisted of compiling information on hundreds of plants and ordering tags for them so people who visit the greenhouse are able to instantaneously obtain information on any plant they find interesting.

One of the most challenging parts of this process was, surprisingly, photographing the plants. I was given a list of all of the plants kept in the greenhouse, but not of their locations. This meant that every day was a scavenger hunt–is this plant in Bay 3, Bay 4, the hallway? Once I became more familiar with the way the plants tended to be grouped, that part got easier. My ability to see a scientific name like Cotyledon tomentosa (one of the cutest plants around) and know where it would most likely be located is a skill that I’m definitely proud of developing. For the most part, finding a specific plant was the most uphill part of the battle. Cacti, though? The rules flew out the automatically-retracting greenhouse windows.

The cacti are all grouped in one place–Bay 3, back bench against the windows. They’re easy to find. Unfortunately, they weren’t as easy to photograph. The abundant mess of spines made it nearly impossible to grab cacti in the back few rows of the bench and extract myself without at least a few spines in my arms and hands. On the bright side, I did get an excellent firsthand lesson on the dangers of various types of cacti spines, so it wasn’t all bad.

I’m going to leave you on a cliffhanger and talk about the information I had to get on each plant and what I did with that in my next post. Tune in, or don’t. I’m not making any ad revenue off of this blog anyway.


  1. emturrietta says:

    Me again, a loyal commenter! This is an interesting post which brings up an issue I would not have anticipated comes with greenhouse research, taking photos. Kudos to you for taking cacti spikes to the arms and hands for the good of science! This summer I also found myself learning how to identify plants, and in my case, animals. I always thought the ability to know a scientific name on command was reserved for the experts, and I’m excited to see that another researcher like myself got to learn this skill and enjoy the satisfaction it brings. I’m interested to hear what you learned about how the plants are grouped in the greenhouse. Is there any rhyme or reason? Are they grouped by size, color, type of plant, etc? Thanks!

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