This succulent cactus has a corrosive, dangerous, irritating, or downright toxic sap. The word "succulent" simply means that this plant is juicy with these fluids.
Part of the danger is that the firestick cactus is easily bruised, so the milky sap can easily be liberated from the plant.
In the summer of 2010, Pastor Rick Warren received hospital treatment after getting some firestick cactus sap in his eyes. The author of "The Purpose-Driven Life" had apparently been gardening.
The Best Growing Conditions for the Firestick Cactus
Firestick cactus likes sunshine and dry warmth. The thick leaves hoard moisture, although it appreciates a little rain or watering if the ground becomes bone dry.
Southern California and similar climate zones are good for this naked lady cactus. She dislikes frost or cold rainy winters.
Pastor Warren may have been pruning his Indian tree spurge, which does have a tendency to grow tall and top-heavy. He probably took the sensible precaution of wearing gloves before dealing with his firestick cactus, but likely rubbed his forehead and put a few drops of its dangerous sap onto his forehead.
Its intense colours make the firestick cactus a strikingly beautiful, if dangerous, addition to a hot arid garden.
[Mike has written two other articles on this subject.
Firestick Cactus: The Plant with Acid Sap! told much the same story, while The Firestick Cactus: Garden With Care provides more of a slant towards science and gardening].