Cane cactus (Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica)

Also known as: coral cactus, prickly pear, cacti

Cane cactus is a spiny shrub with pink to red flowers and round, fleshy stems. It can grow in thick patches and its sharp thorns can injure people and animals.

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How does this weed affect you?

Cacti have spines which can:

  • injure people, livestock, working dogs and pets
  • get stuck around the mouth of lambs or calves and stop them from feeding
  • injure and sometimes kill wildlife that gets trapped in the spines
  • devalue wool and hides
  • prevent shearing.

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

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

Cacti damage natural environments by excluding native plants. They also harbour pests including foxes, rabbits and fruit fly. 

What does it look like?

Cane cactus is an upright shrub that grows between 30 cm and 1.5 m tall. It has spiny, branching stems and often grows in patches many metres wide.

Stems (also called cladodes or pads) are:

  • dark bluish-green
  • 15-50 cm long and 3-4 cm in diameter
  • cylinder-shaped
  • fleshy and shiny
  • branched. 

Flowers are:

  • pink-red
  • 2.5 cm wide and up to 6 cm long
  • cup-shaped.

Fruit are:

  • deep green to green-yellow
  • up to 4.5 cm long
  • egg to urn shaped.

Spines are:

  • white
  • about 1 cm long. 

Roots are:

  • fibrous
  • shallow.

Leaves are:

  • up to 1 cm long
  • deciduous (short lived).

Similar plants

There are over 30 different species of cactus in Australia. It can be hard to tell them apart. Plants can have more than one common name and sometimes two or more different species are all called the same name, adding to the confusion. 

Cane cactus looks most similar to Eve’s needle cactus (Austrocylindropuntia subulata) but can also be confused with other opuntioid cacti.

Where is it found?

Cane cactus is not common in New South Wales but can be found in a few isolated areas in inland central New South Wales. It is also a weed in Victoria and South Australia.

Cane cactus comes from Ecuador and Peru.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cane cactus can grow in grasslands, shrublands and open woodlands, particularly in semi-arid regions. 

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Cane cactus during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2022)
    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

Plants can spread easily from stems, fruit and flowers. When these plant parts fall off and come in contact with soil they send out roots. In a few weeks new stems will start growing. 

Animals, people, vehicles, machinery, water and wind can all spread cane cactus.

Seeds

Cane cactus fruits have seeds, but it is not known if they can grow into seedlings in Australia.

References

Invasive Species South Africa: Cane cactus Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica. Retrieved from: http://www.invasives.org.za/legislation/item/861-cane-cactus-austrocylindropuntia-cylindrica

PlantNET (The NSW Plant Information Network System). Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Retrieved 15 May 2020 from: https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Austrocylindropuntia~cylindrica 

Sheehan, M. R., & Potter, S. (2017). Managing Opuntioid Cacti in Australia: Best Practice Control Manual for Austrocylindropuntia, Cylindropuntia and Opuntia Species. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

More information

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Control

Successful weed control relies on follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.

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

Prevention

Stop the spread of cane cactus into new areas by checking clothing, vehicles and equipment for plant parts before leaving an area.

Physical removal

By hand

Seedlings and small plants can be dug out using a hoe or mattock. Take care to remove the whole plant and collect any parts that have fallen off. 

Dispose of all plant parts to prevent regrowth or spread by:

  • burying with at least 1 m of soil over the top of plants
  • burning in a hot fire 
  • or contacting your local council for landfill options.

Check burn and burial sites regularly for 5 years to ensure there is no regrowth. If you move cactus ensure that it is contained when transporting it to the disposal site. 

Biological Control 

There are no biological control agents availble for cane cactus in Australia. 

Chemical control

Spot spray actively growing plants and thoroughly cover the plants. A spray oil will make the herbicide more effective. Re-treatment may be necessary, particularly with large clumps. 

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. Add 0.5 % Uptake spray oil.
Comments: Spot spray application. Spray actively growing plants. See permit for critical use comments.
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
Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon Extra®)
Rate: 50 mL per 10 L of water plus 50 mL Uptake spray oil.
Comments: Knapsack application. A spray volume of 3 L to 4 L per 10 m2 should be used. See permit for critical use comments.
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 (Various products)
Rate: 500 mL per 100 L of water. Add 0.5 % Uptake spray oil.
Comments: Spot spray application. Spray actively growing plants. See permit for critical use comments.
Withholding period: Nil.
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 (Various products)
Rate: 50 mL per 10 L of water plus 50 mL Uptake spray oil.
Comments: Knapsack application. A spray volume of 3 L to 4 L per 10 m2 should be used. See permit for critical use comments.
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. Spray actively growing plants. See permit for critical use comments.
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. Add 0.5% Uptake spray oil.
Comments: Spray actively growing plants. See permit for critical use comments.
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: 50 mL per 10 L of water plus 50 mL Uptake spray oil.
Comments: Knapsack application. A spray volume of 3 L to 4 L per 10 m2 should be used. See permit for critical use comments.
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 certain dealings
Must not be imported into the state, sold, bartered, exchanged or offered for sale.
All species in the Austrocylindropuntia genus have this requirement

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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