COMMON NAME:  Prickly Pear

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Opuntia spp

FAMILY: CACTACEAE

ORIGIN: South America

HABIT: Extremely drought tolerant bushy, clumped plant with fleshy succulent stems covered in spines. Under 1.5m high. No obvious trunk. 

HABITAT: Extremely hardy plant found in wasteland and edges of bushland.

LEAVES: Leaves are modified to scales, to reduce water loss.

STEM: Paddle shaped flattened stem segments, under 20cm long, are mostly dull bluish green to green and covered in spines.

FLOWERS: Usually bright yellow with multitude of long soft petals appear on the edges of the stem segments.

FRUIT/SEED: Pear to oval shaped fruit, 4–5cm long, ranging from dark purple, to red, orange, yellow and green. Edible.

UNDER-GROUND STRUCTURES: Shallow fibrous roots.

DISPERSAL: Seeds dispersed by birds and animals. Grows from any plant part left in contact with the soil, making dumping a major method of dispersal.

TREATMENT TECHNIQUES: Carefully remove and bag all parts of the plant and dispose of carefully (to landfill).

FOLLOW UP REQUIREMENTS: Monitoring and regular follow-up. Will re-shoot from any material left on the ground.

CONFUSING SPECIES: Opuntia stricta (common prickly pear) caused a major outbreak in the early 20th century, although the lower growing Opuntia aurantiaca (tiger pear) is now considered Australia's worst variety.

NOTES: The prickly pear caused major ecological damage to the eastern parts of Australia until the introduction of the cactoblastis caterpillar in 1926 which helped control it. ALL major prickly pear species are declared "noxious weeds" under the Noxious Weeds Act 1983.

Prickly Pear