Boxing glove cactus (Cylindropuntia fulgida var. mamillata)

Also known as: coral cactus, jumping cactus, jumping cholla, prickly pear

Boxing glove cactus is a twisted looking spiny shrub. It forms dense thickets and it’s sharp spines can injure people and animals.

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How does this weed affect you?

Boxing glove cactus damages natural environments by excluding and out-competing native plants.

The spines on boxing glove cactus can injure people, native animals livestock, working dogs and pets. They also

  • can kill wildlife if they get stuck in the spines
  • get stuck around the mouth of lambs or calves and stop them from feeding
  • devalue wool and hides
  • prevent shearing because of the spines in the wool.

Dense thickets of this cactus restrict the movement of animals and people, so that:

  • livestock cannot move to access feed
  • mustering is difficult
  • access to watering points is reduced
  • recreation such as bushwalking or bird watching is restricted.

 Boxing glove cactus can also provide harbour for pests including foxes and rabbits.

What does it look like?

Boxing glove cactus is a grey-green upright shrub that grows between 40cm and 1m tall. It has unique looking stems (also known as cladodes) that twist and bend, sometimes looking like boxing gloves.

Cacti pads have bumps on the surface called areoles. Spines, bristles, leaves, flowers, fruit, roots and new shoots all grow out of the areoles. The small fleshy leaves on boxing cactus are only present for a short time on young plants.

Stems (cladodes or pads) are:

  • fleshy and spiny
  • green to grey-green
  • 10-22 cm long and 2-4.5 cm in diameter
  • lumpy or corrugated.

Stems have three main shapes, which can all grow on the same plant at the same time. They are:

  • cylindrical to club-shaped
  • distorted, wavy, boxing glove shaped
  • small and loosely attached stems that grow on the end of other stems.

 Spines are:

  • 0.7-2cm long
  • cream to brown
  • covered by a papery white to tan sheath
  • in groups of 4-15 per areole.

Flowers are:

  • deep red
  • rarely present.

Fruit are:

  • cone or egg-shaped
  • green to grey-green
  • seedless in Australia
  • rarely present.

If fruit are present they sometimes grow attached to each other, forming a ‘chain’.

Roots:

  • fibrous
  • shallow

 Similar plants:

There are over 30 different species of cactus in Australia and it can be hard to tell them apart. The twisted stems of boxing glove cactus help distinguish it from other cacti.

Where is it found?

Boxing glove cactus mainly grows in arid and semi-arid regions. In NSW, it is present around the mining settlements of Broken Hill, Cumborah, Grawin Lightning Ridge and Tibooburra.

Boxing glove cactus is also a weed in Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

It is native to south-western parts of the United States of America and northern Mexico.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Boxing glove cactus can grow in many different soil types including sandy and stony alkaline soils. It grows: 

  • in native grasslands and woodlands
  • in urban areas
  • along waterways
  • in rangelands.

It could grow across most of NSW, west of the Great Dividing Range.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Boxing glove cactus during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2021)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

How does it spread?

By plant parts

Boxing glove cactus does not produce seed in Australia but plants can spread easily from stems, fruit and flowers. When these plant parts fall off and come in contact with the soil they send out roots. In a few weeks new stems will start growing. Plant parts can be small and hard to see.

Animals, people, vehicles, machinery and water can all spread boxing glove cactus.

More information

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Control

Managing infestations of boxing glove cactus can be hard because it spreads so easily from small plant parts that can be difficult to find.  

It is important to follow up any type of control work to make sure the treated plant has not regrown or that new plants are not establishing. Return to control areas regularly to check progress and re-treat when needed.

Control options include digging out plants, herbicides and biological control.

Wear thick protective clothing, including gloves, boots, and eyewear to prevent injuries from spines.

Prevention

Stopping the spread of boxing glove cactus is an important part of control programs. Use fences to keep stock (and wildlife if possible) out of where boxing glove cactus grows as they can spread it to clean areas. Check clothing, vehicles and equipment before leaving an area to make sure plant parts are not moved around.

Early detection

Learn to identify boxing glove cactus and remove plants early to reduce the chance of spread. Look for small stems, or plant parts, that can be hidden in grasses and other plants.

Physical removal

By hand

Seedlings and small plants can be dug out. Take care to remove the whole plant and any parts that have fallen off. Dispose of any plant parts appropriately to prevent regrowth or spread.

Disposal

To dispose of cacti bury them with at least 1 m of soil over the top or burn in a hot fire. Check disposal sites regularly and control any seedlings. Alternatively contact your local council for disposal advice.

Biological control

A cochineal insect (Dactylopius tomentosus ‘ cholla’ linage), , was released into Australia in 2016. The cochineal eats the cactus which then eventually collapses and dies. Control will take several years and in some areas it has killed 95% of plants within 2 years. The cochineal doesn’t move very far on its own. It can be introduced to new areas by taking plant parts with cochineal to new plants by hand.

Biological controls are used on large dense infestations of weeds when other options are too hard or expensive. They will not work very well when plants are thinly scattered around.  

There are several species and linages of cochineal insects that look similar, but they each control different cacti. It is important to use the right species of cochineal for each species of cactus. Contact your local weeds officer for information about using cochineal to control boxing glove cactus.

Chemical control

Spot spraying

When spot spraying ensure that all of the plant is thoroughly covered. Add a spray oil to make the herbicide more effective. Plants may regrow after spraying so follow up applications may be required.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 14442 Expires 30/06/2023
Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon Extra®)
Rate: 500 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application, add 0.5 % Uptake spray oil.
Withholding period: Where product is used to control woody weeds in pastures there is a restriction of 12 weeks for use of treated pastures for making hay and silage; using hay or other plant material for compost, mulch or mushroom substrate; or using animal waste from animals grazing on treated pastures for compost, mulching, or spreading on pasture/crops.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 14442 Expires 30/06/2023
Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L (Grazon® DS)
Rate: 500 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application, add 0.5 % Uptake spray oil.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 14442 Expires 30/06/2023
Triclopyr 600 g/L (Garlon® 600)
Rate: 1 L per 75 L of diesel
Comments: Spot spray application.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 14442 Expires 30/06/2023
Triclopyr 600 g/L (Garlon® 600)
Rate: 3 L per 100 L of water
Comments: Add 0.5% Uptake® spray oil.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
All of NSW Prohibition on dealings
Must not be imported into the State or sold
Central Tablelands Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
Excludes cultivated plants
Central West Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. Land managers should mitigate spread from their land.
This Regional Recommended Measure applies to all species of Cylindropuntia except Cylindropuntia rosea (Hudson pear)
Western Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2021