Prickly Pear is a general term used to describe over ten members of the Cactaceae family (Cactus). But the one most of us know as Prickly Pear, is Opuntia stricta var dillenii, (pictured). Some may remember a weeds story from school days about a voracious weed that spread over millions of hectares of Queensland and New South Wales in the early 1900’s and cost our agricultural industry millions of dollars in mechanical and chemical control…both of which proved ineffectual on the unstoppable spread of the weed. It wasn’t until a biological control was found and distributed in 1926 in the Cactoblastic moth (the larvae ate the leaf), that Prickly Pear control was achieved. Like all biological controls though, total eradication is not possible.
Prickly Pear is a NT Class A weed (must be eradicated) for a number of reason. It has a hard seed carried in the sweet fleshy fruit, which when consumed by animals, predominantly birds, will pass through unchanged, ready to germinate. Each fruit and flat brachlet has projections called areoles, housing spines and from which new plants can develop. It is highly drought resistant and if bushfire or stock destroy the top of the plant, it will regenerate from bulb.
The two mature plants that have been found will be removed asap but it is absolutely vital that any other plants in town are identified and removed in a clinical and careful manner. If you have this plant in your yard or in a pot plant do not compost it, bury it or throw it in the bin.
Please call Luke Playford at Dhimurru on 0499037753 to discuss how to deal with it.