Eve's needle cactus (Austrocylindropuntia subulata)

Eve’s needle cactus has prickly cylindrical stems, pink flowers and green fruit. It forms large thickets and its sharp thorns can injure people and animals

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How does this weed affect you?

Eve’s needle cactus is an invasive cactus with long spines. It can damage natural environments by excluding the growth of native plants. 

Spines can:

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

Dense thickets of Eve’s needle cactus can prevent movement of animals and people. This means that:

  • livestock cannot move to areas with better pasture
  • mustering is difficult
  • access to watering points is reduced
  • recreational activities such as bushwalking and camping are restricted.

What does it look like?

Eve’s needle cactus is a branching shrub that grows up to 3m tall. Plants often grow in patches many metres wide. Cacti pads have bumps on the surface called areoles. Spines, bristles, leaves, flowers, fruit, roots and new shoots all grow out of the areoles.

Stems (also called pads or cladodes) are:

  • green
  • fleshy and spiny 
  • cylinder-shaped 
  • up to 50 cm long and 4-5 cm in diameter
  • branched

Spines are:

  • grey-white
  • up to 7cm long
  • either single or in groups of up to 4 per areole 

Flowers are:

  • pink 
  • cup-shaped.

Fruit are:

  • green
  • up to 10cm long
  • oblong, egg or club-shaped and can grow in chains, where single fruits are connected to each other.

Leaves are:

  • green and fleshy
  • thin and pointy on the tip
  • up to 12cm long 
  • short-lived.

Roots are:

  • fibrous
  • shallow

There are many forms and cultivars of Eve’s needle cactus worldwide. In NSW the monstrose form Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. montrosa or Christmas tree cactus has been sold as a garden plant and pot plant. It differs from the description above as follows:

  • It is up to 4 m tall.
  • Its leaves are shorter only up to 5 cm and may be yellow, red or pink not just green.
  • Spines are often absent and if present are only up to 1.5 cm long.
  • The flowers and fruit are red.

Similar looking plants

There are over 30 different species of cactus in Australia. It can be hard to tell them apart. Eve’s needle cactus looks most similar to cane cactus (Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica). Cane cactus leaves are shorter (1 cm long rather than 12cm) and do not last on the plant as long as on Eve’s needle cactus. 

Where is it found?

Eve’s needle cactus has been grown as an ornament plant in NSW and is often traded through online marketplaces. It has not yet naturalised in NSW. However, there is suitable climate for it through many parts of NSW. It is very adaptable and can grow from sea level to high altitudes and tolerates light frosts. 

It is currently a weed in South Australia.

Eve’s needle cactus comes from the Peruvian Andes in South America.

What type of environment does it grow in?

In its native range it grows in semi-arid regions with up to 1000 mm of rain per year. It prefers soils that are free draining and with either neutral to alkaline pH. It is tolerant of infertile, saline and shallow soils. 

Eve’s needle cactus is a potential weed:

  • in grasslands, shrublands and open woodlands (especially in semi-arid regions)
  • along roadsides 
  • along waterways and creek banks.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Eve's needle cactus during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2020)
    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 regrow from stems, fruit and flowers. When these plant parts come in contact with soil they send out roots and new stems grow within a few weeks.

Plant parts can be spread by sticking to animals, people, vehicles and machinery. They can also be spread by water.  

By seeds

Eve’s needle cactus fruits do have seeds, but it is not known if they  are viable inAustralia.

References

Brisbane City Council. (n.d.) Brisbane City Council Weeds Identification Tool: eve’s pin cactus Austrocylindropuntia subulata. Retrieved 4/04/2020 from: https://weeds.brisbane.qld.gov.au/weeds/eves-pin-cactus

Chinnock, R.J. (2015). Feral opuntioid cacti in Australia: part I. cylindrical-stemmed genera: Austrocylindropuntia, Cylindropuntia and Corynopuntia. State Herbarium of South Australia, Adelaide.

Macquarie University (2019) Weed Futures: Determining current and future weed threats in Australia, Austrocylindropuntia subulata. Retrieved 4/04/2020 https://weedfutures.net/species.php?id=2019

Pasiecznik (2019) CABI Invasive Species Compendium: Datasheet Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica (cane cactus). Retrieved 4/04/2020 from https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/112618

Sheehan, M.R. and 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 (WA), Perth.

More information

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Control

Successful weed control requires follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. 

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

Prevention

Do not grow Eve’s needle cactus in gardens or pots Do not take cuttings of unknown cactus plants to grow out or share with others. 

Stop the spread of Eve’s needle cactus into new areas by checking clothing, vehicles and equipment for plant parts before leaving an area that has cacti.

Physical removal

By hand

Seedlings and small plants that have not developed obvious spines can be hand-pulled with a gloved hand. Use tools such as hoes and shovels to remove small to medium-sized plants. Take care to remove the whole plant and any parts that have fallen off. 

Disposal 

To dispose of cactus bury them at 1 m deep or burn in a hot fire. Check disposal sites regularly. Alternatively contact your local council for disposal advice.

Chemical control

Spot spraying

Apply herbicide to actively growing plants. Re-treatment may be necessary, particularly with large clumps of cacti.  A spray oil will make the herbicide more effective.

Biocontrol

There is no currently no biocontrol for Eve’s needle cactus in Australia

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
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 2020