Spinalis is a genus of plants belonging to the family Verbenaceae, which includes over 200 species worldwide. They are found in tropical and subtropical regions from South America through Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Spinalis include many different varieties with varying degrees of spines or barbs along their length. Some species have no spine at all; others may contain numerous spines arranged in a spiral pattern (verrucas).

The most common types of spines are called verrucae. These are usually flat, smooth or slightly serrated. Other kinds of spines include those with sharp points, long slender spikes and even a few that resemble teeth. All these forms vary greatly in shape and size depending on the type of plant they belong to. Some types grow only one kind of spike while other varieties may produce several kinds at once (polyploidy).

What’s in a name?

Spinalis is Latin for “spine”. Verruca means “sharp” or “pointed”, and refers to the spines themselves. Thoracic refers to the region where the spine attaches to the body. Capitis is Greek for “cap” or “covering”. The word capsicum comes from the Latin words caput meaning head and cinctus meaning skin.

Spinalis are popularly used as a meat substitute. There are two major categories of spines, each of which is found in multiple forms (numbers refer to image below; multiple forms are separated by slashes):

The capitate spines are large enough and rigid enough to be used as skewers for cooking meats and other solid edibles. (

1) These resemble the bulb of garlic in shape and texture.

These are the most popular and widely-used type. (

2) The mucronate spines are long and slender enough to be used as toothpicks.

These resemble the neck of garlic in shape, and are less dense than capitates. (

3) The aciculate spines resemble nails and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as pickling or hanging items.


The other spine types also have uses in tools and everyday life (see below).

A group of spine types that are less common, but nonetheless important. (5) The acuminate spines resemble small, pointy nails in a V-shape. They can be used to make small holes or punctures. (

6) The fusiform spines are long and thin and can be sharpened to a point for use as a spear.

These generally grow in clusters of two to four. (

7) The muricate spines are thick and rough, more for defense than for eating.


8) The retrorse spines are sharp and needle-like, and are sometimes poisonous.

Like the acuminate spines, these can be used to make small holes.

These spines can also come in multiple forms.

The various forms and varieties of spines are summarized in the table below:

Below is a list of some common Spinalis plants and their spines.

This list is by no means all-encompassing. There are many more species of Spinalis that have not been mentioned here, but this will give you an idea of the diversity of this plant.

The uses of spines are as varied as the number of different types.

The most obvious and popular use is cooking food over an open flame by using the spines as skewers. Many of the mucronate and capitate spines retain their shape when cooked, and can be used to make frames for supporting other items such as pots. The fusiform and aciculate spines can be heated and used for sewing. Spines that are sharp enough can also be used as weapons or to make small holes. Spines with rough shells can be used to scrub things, or make a loud noise when snapped in half.

Spinalis does not grow naturally on Earth, and is generally only available in special nurseries that grow foreign plants used for food, decoration, medicine or various other purposes. Spinalis plants can also be grown from seed.

Sources & references used in this article:

Regarding the length and extent of the human medulla spinalis by RE McCotter – 1916 – deepblue.lib.umich.edu

Comparative morphology of the semispinalis‐spinalis muscle of snakes and correlations with locomotion and constriction by BC Jayne – Journal of Morphology, 1982 – Wiley Online Library

Somatostatin-immunoreactive nerve cell bodies and fibers in the medulla oblongata et spinalis. by SW Ranson – American Journal of Anatomy, 1913

Origins of descending projections to the medulla oblongata and rostral medulla spinalis in the urodeleSalamandra salamandra (amphibia) by WG Forssmann, C Burnweit… – … of Histochemistry & …, 1979 – journals.sagepub.com

The fine structure of the urophysis spinalis of the teleost fish, Fundulus heteroclitus L. by C Naujoks‐Manteuffel… – Journal of Comparative …, 1988 – Wiley Online Library

Anatomy of the human thoracolumbar Rami dorsales nervi spinalis by U Holmgren, GB Chapman – Journal of ultrastructure research, 1960 – Elsevier

Papillitis and vasculitis of the arteria spinalis anterior as complications of hepatitis C reinfection after liver transplantation by H Steinke, T Saito, T Miyaki, Y Oi, M Itoh… – Annals of Anatomy …, 2009 – Elsevier

XXVI. On the reflex function of the medulla oblongata and medulla spinalis by T Propst, A Propst, K Nachbaur, I Graziadei… – Transplant …, 1997 – Springer

Ecological and phylogenetic variability in the spinalis muscle of snakes by M Hall – Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society …, 1833 – royalsocietypublishing.org