Is there a substance you can encounter out in the Mojave that saps your strength?

Weird/vague question I know.

About two years ago I went out in the deserts north of Vegas and hiked around a bit. Didn’t do anything too unusual - had some encounters with some prickly plant life, pretty much all desert plant life is prickly, maybe sat down in the dirt from time to time. Anyway, the next day when I woke up I felt as if all the strength had been sapped from me - I had a difficult time even getting out of bed and walking, and the feeling diminished over time but lasted for about a week.

So anyway, I was going through some old clothes, and possibly clothes I wore that day that I haven’t worn since, that have been sitting in a box all that time, and again I woke up feeling similarly - no strength, hard to even get up, etc.

Is there some sort of plant pricker or some sort of substance you can encounter out in the desert that might bind to clothes that could give you this effect?

There is fungus in the sand. That doesn’t mean that’s what is bothering you though.

Weird. I lived on the western edge of the Mojave Desert in my teens and 20s, and never ZZzzzzzzzzzzz…

I’d go with heat and a lack of a substance called water and salt. There are jumping cactus out there, but I never had them drain me as you describe (not sure if they are in the Mojave as it’s been a while since I hiked around out there…definitely have them in Arizona though). But the heat, especially if you aren’t used to it, will DEFINITELY sap you…and the low humidity drains you of water and salt without you really noticing it, until you keel over. I’ve seen that happen to a lot of folks who aren’t used to it.


Is there a specific strain that could somehow cause these sorts of effects?

No, I definitely get that. Plenty of experience with that.

When I got home from that trip I remember being tired and my clothes had some pricklers and burrs in them and I was worn out so I just ended up throwing them into a box of old clothes. I think I may have forgot to ever take them out and wash them, so when I was going through old clothes I handled them a bit. And now I’m feeling worn out again - no heat or dehydration today, just doing laundry at home.

It could just be coincidence, maybe I’m coming down with something, but I figured I’d ask if there was some sort of plant life or microbe life that could bind to clothes and cause this.

I would have said dehydration and heat too, if the question hadn’t been about the fact the symptoms showed up later when handling clothes worn there.

Fascinating, SenorBeef. If you can clarify the precise area, I will see if any of the department biologists know of anything around here. I believe we have several biologists studying the plants in those areas (depending on what exactly you mean by “north of Vegas,” of course…), and If anybody would know it would likely be one of them, right?

Hmm, perhaps I could ask some of our colleagues over in the geosciences building if they know of anything, too.

Jumping Cholla isn’t prevalent in the Mojave. Much more common to the south and east. It is the most evil plant on the continent. Once you’ve been stuck, you make DAMN sure it never happens again.


Sure, thanks. This google maps link shows the area. I was between route 93 and the mountain to the east. I didn’t run into anything as large as a cactcus, but there are all sorts of plants around on the ground that’ll scratch your ankles up. I remember too once sitting down and then using my hand to get back up, and I accidentally put my hand on some sort of prickly bush when I was getting back up and got a palm full of prickers.

Yeah, the laundry thing sort of throws a monkey wrench into the mix. I’ve never had a plant do what you describe when hiking in the Mohave or anywhere else in the South West, though I also usually end up with burs and stickers all over my pants legs or boots every time I go out. I guess it could be a mild allergic reaction to something…you should definitely go see the doc if you have it again.

I’d definitely keep an eye on it and if it happens again go to the doctors immediately. My wife has some allergies from some of the dust or pollen out here, and definitely has a reaction when we go hiking sometimes…but nothing like what you are describing there.


It may very well be a coincidence that I’m feeling like crap today. My stomach is a bit off, like I ate something bad. But even if today is unrelated to the original incident, I’d still like to find out more about what happened 2 years ago in the first place. That was really a strong effect - for two days I’d have to do stuff like rock myself to build the momentum up to roll over and get out of bed. It gradually trailed off but I felt weak and off for maybe 10 days.

Yeah, they are definitely evil. I remember as a kid being out hiking and brushing up against one…and then having to walk miles with a bunch of spines sticking out of my leg! :eek: Then having to have my mom pick them out (and my grandma spraying Clorox all over me to ‘disinfect’ the punctures).


Well, you know what they say. Once is happenstance. Two is coincidence. Three is a deadly fungus that is slowly but surely ravaging your immune system.

In all seriousness though, if it happens again, I’d definitely go see a doctor.

And as you know (the hard way, like me), the are very painful going and staying in, and unbelievably painful coming out because each needle is covered with bazillions of micro-barbs that tear the hell out of the wound as they’re being pulled or yanked out. Bastids!

Even a mild (?) case of heat exhaustion can knock you out for a couple of days. Even if you’re used to being out in the desert and “do everything right”, you can get zapped out in the blink of an eye. Push yourself too much further and you’re asking for real trouble. Best to find some shade, drink a lot of water and just rest.

In regards to the horrors of cholla…On two separate occasions I have witnessed idiots let their dogs run free at the Cholla Gardens in Joshua Tree NM. It didn’t end well either time. Lucky for them I had my BBQ tongs.

Could it be hantavirus or something similar? I believe this could be carried home on clothes. Haantavirus symptoms seem to be more extreme than what SenorBeef experienced, but considering the clothes tie-in it must be something like that.