Interflora flowers

Plants with thorns, spines and prickles

Plants with prickles, spines and thorns should always be handled with a bit more care than your typical house plant. Well-known examples include aloe, rose bush and thistles.

These defensive mechanisms fit into three categories; thorns, spines and prickles, and it is important to know which is which.

  • Spines are modified leaves that have been turned in to or reduced to spines as the plant has evolved
  • Typically, thorns are modified branches that are attached to the trunk or stem of a plant
  • Prickles are not remnants of any existing part of the plant and are typically found on the leaf structure, stem or ‘skin’ of the plant.

The most popular plants with thorns or spines on in the UK are:

  • Citrus – Citrus trees that grow in the wild often produce thorns to keep away hungry animals from their fruit. The ones you find in garden centres have typically been cultivated to grow without thorns.
  • Fever Tree – The Acacia xanthophloea has large white spines that grow in pairs along its branches, protecting its delicate cream flowers.
  • Rose – One of the most popular flowering plants in the world; there are over 100 species of rose available today. The majority of varieties have prickles along their stems and branches.