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  • Subject



    Wie nennt man die Stacheln eines Kaktus? Thorns, spikes, oder spines? Und was wäre dann ein stach(e)liger Kaktus? A thorny/spiky c.?

    Author Ferenczi (237228) 24 Aug 20, 11:40

    The plants of the cactus family  are particularly well known for their dense covering of spines. Some cacti have also glochids (or glochidia, singular glochidium) – a particular kind of spine of different origin,

    #1Author wienergriessler (925617)  24 Aug 20, 11:45

    Die "Stacheln" der Kakteen sind botanisch gesehen Dornen.

    #2Author Harri Beau (812872) 24 Aug 20, 11:46

    Botanical lingo aside, in everyday language I would call a cactus “thorny” or “prickly” – the latter being a botanically even less accurate term, I would guess, but nonetheless very common.

    #3Authorredcranes (766941) 24 Aug 20, 11:58
    Spines, in my experience, in a standard or botanical register. (But you might see if Agalinis might have a comment.)

    You might speak of a particularly bristly one, with finer spines, or more commonly with larger spines, a prickly one. In the figurative sense, prickly is also the word for a person who is very touchy, thin-skinned, tending to bristle at criticism.

    A particular kind of cactus in my state and others is called the prickly pear.

    Thorns tend to be on bushes, like roses. Spikes are usually pointed metal rods, or else sharp jumps, as on a graph or in a pandemic.
    #4Author hm -- us (236141) 24 Aug 20, 11:59

    So are cactuses/cacti spiny?

    (And which is more common: cactuses or cacti? Googlefight suggests the latter.)

    #5Author Ferenczi (237228) 24 Aug 20, 12:07

    Botanically speaking, a cactus does not have thorns, cacti have spines. Thorns are derived from shoots while spines are derived from leaves. 

    #6AuthorBubo bubo (830116) 24 Aug 20, 12:13
    I considered spiny, but rejected it as less idiomatic for cactuses. (Which is what I usually say, but cacti also exists and may be more common in scientific language and/or crosswords.)

    Actually, spiny makes me think more of sea creatures. I don't think it's commonly used even for porcupines, although they too have spines.

    Thorny in my experience is not for cactuses, but usually only figurative in the sense of a thorny issue or problem.
    #7Author hm -- us (236141) 24 Aug 20, 12:23

    re #2 :

     ... Auswüchse

    Die Dornen der Kakteen sind also nichts anderes als umgewandelte Blätter oder Organe. Rosen hingegen haben Stacheln. Diese sind botanisch als „Auswüchse“ der Epidermis, der äußeren Zellschicht von Sprossen und Blättern, definiert. Beim Stachel wurde also nichts umgewandelt. ...

    #8Author no me bré (700807) 24 Aug 20, 12:23

    Hier steht es auch so:

    Was wir beim Kaktus gemeinhin als Stacheln bezeichnen, sind eigentlich Dornen: echte Organe der Pflanze, nämlich Blätter.

    #9Author Puppengesicht (807439) 24 Aug 20, 12:25

    Re: #5:

    I’d say you can’t go wrong with “spiny.” (See #4 and #6.)

    As for the cactuses/cacti question, we’re wading into deep waters here. Personally, I call them cacti, and as far as I know, that’s the grammatically correct plural. But I also hear ‘cactuses’ quite often, even among educated people, sometimes said with a slightly pained expression that’s supposed to express, “yes, I know it’s ‘cacti’ but that sounds just so ridiculous.” Think “cappuccinos/cappucini” for a German equivalent.

    But that’s just me and my circles.

    #10Authorredcranes (766941) 24 Aug 20, 12:26

    Think “cappuccinos/cappucini” for a German equivalent.

    Da brauchen wir nicht so weit vom Thema weg zu kommen:

    "Bei uns finden sie eine große Auswahl an Kakteen"

    "Er kaufte sich dort jede Menge Kaktusse"

    #11Author Harri Beau (812872) 24 Aug 20, 12:40

    Re. cacti vs. cactuses, both seem to be in general use and considered correct, right?

    This is not a scientific treatise. So, in an everyday context, what would native speakers (AE) say: Be careful, this c. is extremely ... prickly (as in "prickly bear")/thorny/spiny?

    #12Author Ferenczi (237228) 24 Aug 20, 12:44
    Please see #4 and #7 for one speaker's reply. 'Prickly,' as in 'prickly pear.'
    *feeling invisible*
    #13Author hm -- us (236141)  24 Aug 20, 12:45

    @ #12: Personally, all the above caveats and disclaimers re: botanical/standard/correct usage aside, I would say "prickly," as in "be careful, it's prickly."

    (Canadian English, for the record.)

    A shoutout to hm -- us (re: # 13): I think the reason nobody has commented on your posts is that nobody disagrees with you. A rare distiction :-).

    #14Authorredcranes (766941) 24 Aug 20, 12:57
    Thanks, redcranes.

    We do seem to largely agree, but as I tried to say, I wouldn't actually use 'spiny' for cactuses, even though it might be technically correct.
    #15Author hm -- us (236141) 24 Aug 20, 13:00


    Ad #13: Please don't. I completely agree with #14, so special thanks to you. I just wanted to double-check with other native speakers (e.g., #10).

    #16Author Ferenczi (237228) 24 Aug 20, 13:02
    Okay, well, two votes for 'prickly cactuses' so far.

    Maybe others will comment. (-:
    #17Author hm -- us (236141) 24 Aug 20, 13:04

    So the NES consensus so far is that - botanical lingo aside - the spines are what makes a cactus prickly?

    #18Author Mattes (236368)  24 Aug 20, 13:39

    Support for the "prickly" crew.

    Not a NES but dear acquaintance (being from and living in Arizona) once told me, she planted lost of "prickly plants" to keep the neigbours kids of her grounds.

    #19Author JayVienna (1269945) 24 Aug 20, 14:01

    While it can be argued that “prickly” (my initial first choice as well) denotes the prickles on the cactus, it certainly also generally and perhaps more frequently connotes the spine/animal interface and the effect the spines have on an animal; “spiny,” on the other hand, denotes pretty one-sidedly the plant’s spine-bearing-ness. “Woman holding a spiny cactus,” for example, draws attention to the length, toughness, and sharpness of the spines. Were the title of the photo “Woman holding a prickly cactus,” it would suggest its effect on anyone, or an animal, coming in contact with it. As far as I know stachelig can mean both spine-bearing and liable to prick; if so, then it would be necessary to know what sense of stachelig is intended in the OP.

    #20AuthorBion (1092007)  24 Aug 20, 14:22

    Der Kaktus ist pieksig, kann man auch sagen.

    #21Author Puppengesicht (807439) 24 Aug 20, 14:30

    ---given the explanation in #12, definitely "prickly."

    #22AuthorBion (1092007) 24 Aug 20, 14:47

    Wie falsch/off/unverständlich wäre denn "spikey"?

    #23Author Sammakko (1221779) 24 Aug 20, 20:28

    An interesting question. Cacti definitely have "spines" imo, yet I would refer to "prickly" cacti, colloquially at least (BE).

    #24Author Anne(gb) (236994) 24 Aug 20, 23:34
    Re #23,

    —> spiky

    Well, if people already know you're not a native speaker, and with the context of a cactus, almost anything is probably close enough to get the point across, idiomatic or not. (-;

    To me, however, spiky is more often used for other things. A sea urchin, for instance, or a punk hairdo.

    If you're interested in which words are best in which contexts, you might enjoy browsing with several of these terms in a collocations dictionary or a text corpus.
    #25Author hm -- us (236141)  24 Aug 20, 23:37

    Thx to all! Interesting discussion.

    #26Author Ferenczi (237228) 25 Aug 20, 11:52
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