” I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.”
What two things are most important to someone lost in the desert? Why, a compass and, of course, some water. If you are lost in the desert and find a compass barrel cactus, you have both in this amazing plant.
There are many true stories told about people who were lost in the desert and dying of thirst until they found the compass barrel cactus. Some of them expected to find an actual barrel of water inside the cactus when they cut it open. What they found instead was a couple of quarts of water stored in the inner flesh of the plant. It is enough water to save someone’s life, but it has a bitter flavor. Your thirst has to be real before you’ll put up with the taste!
Where does all that water come from in the desert? The cactus has long sharp protective spines. The spines end in a bend toward the ground. They are so designed that they catch the dew and deliver it, drop by drop, to the ground around the plant. There, shallow roots quickly take up the water for storage. The compass barrel cactus also gives directions to the traveler. The cactus produces a light‑sensitive chemical that makes it grow more rapidly on the side that gets the least sun. The result is that the cactus grows leaning toward the south.
The compass barrel cactus is more than just a compass for those who are lost in the desert, It also bears witness by pointing to a wise Creator who, we learn from the Bible, provides forgiveness of sins, salvation and spiritual direction through Jesus Christ.