Squat spiky cacti with single small pink flower
Nature and wildlife,  Nature Photo Challenge,  Themed galleries

Gallery: the ‘point’ of sharpness in nature

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child

Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I, Scene 4

The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses


Well, I don’t have any images of serpents’ teeth, nor even any of the thorns of a rose. However there are many more examples of sharpness in nature to choose from. But why does nature need sharpness? Maybe Aesop has the answer to that:

A wild boar was sharpening his tusks upon the trunk of a tree in the forest when a fox came by and asked, ‘Why are you doing that, pray? The huntsmen are not out today and there are no other dangers at hand that I can see.’ ‘True, my friend’, replied the boar, ‘but the instant my life is in danger, I shall need to use my tusks. There will be no time to sharpen them then.’

Aesop, Aesop’s Fables

Just as humans (sadly) use knives and swords for attack and defence, so too do animals and plants. Whether it’s a thorn or spike to ward off predators, or a sharp tooth to attack their prey, there is always a point to sharpness in nature. And this week Denzil asks us to highlight some naturally occurring sharp objects. So here are some examples from my archives and from more recent travels.

Round spiky cacti

Cacti growing in a town square in Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde

[my feature photo is of cacti in Kew Gardens, rather closer to home]

Slender spiny cacti, backlit

More cacti, this time in the Majorelle Gardens, Marrakesh

Spiky seed-heads
Spiky seed-heads silhouetted against a blue sky

Teasels in Norfolk and at Druridge in Northumberland, England

Open seed pod with spiny outer shell

Sweet chestnut, Emmets Garden, Kent, England

Head and shoulders sideways portrait of a grey bird with a long beak

Grey heron, Osterley Park, west London

Sideways view of a bird's head with white feathers and curved yellow beak

Bald Eagle at a sanctuary in Kent, England

[for English football fans, this is Kayla who used to fly at Selhurst Park before all of Crystal Palace’s home matches]

Head and shoulder shot of crocodile with mouth open

Crocodile in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Face of crocodile covered in green slime

Another crocodile, this one at Kachikally Crocodile Pool, Bakau, Gambia

Brown lizard with spiny backbone on a log

Green Iguana, Cano Negra refuge, Costa Rica

[despite appearances this is a Green Iguana!]

Large deer lying on the sand with long horns
Large deer with curved horns

An Oryx at Wahiba Sands in Oman, and a Roan Antelope at Fathala Lodge in Senegal

Two deer with antlers, one standing and the other lying on grass

Red Deer, Studley Royal Deer Park, Yorkshire

Large black bison with curved horns looking at camera

Wild bison, Periyar National Park, Kerala


Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!