Taxonomic name: Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw.
Synonyms: Cactus opuntia L. var. inermis DC., Cactus strictus Haw., Opuntia airampo Phil., Opuntia anahuacensis Griffiths, Opuntia atrocapensis Small, Opuntia bartramii Raf., Opuntia bentonii Griffiths, Opuntia cyanella Griffiths, Opuntia dillenii (KerGawl.) Haw., Opuntia gilvoalba Griffiths, Opuntia gomei Griffiths, Opuntia horrida Salm-Dyck ex DC., Opuntia humilis (Haw.) Haw., Opuntia inermis (DC.) DC., Opuntia keyensis Britton ex Small, Opuntia laxiflora Griffiths, Opuntia longiclada Griffiths, Opuntia macrarthra Gibbes, Opuntia magnifica Small, Opuntia maritima Raf., Opuntia nitens Small, Opuntia parva A.Berger, Opuntia spinalba Raf., Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw. var. dillenii (KerGawl.) L.D.Benson, Opuntia tenuiflora Small, Opuntia tunoides Gibbes, Opuntia zebrina Small
Common names: Araluen pear, Australian pest pear (English), chumbera (Spanish), common pest pear (English), common prickly pear (English), erect prickly pear (English), Feigenkaktus (German), gayndah pear, nopal estricto (Spanish), pest pear of Australia (English), sour prickly pear (English), spiny pest pear (English), suurturksvy
Organism type: shrub
Opuntia stricta is a cactus that can grow up to 2 metres in height and originates in central America. This spiny shrub favours habitats such as rocky slopes, river banks and urban areas. Opuntia stricta was considered to be Australia's worst ever weed. Opuntia stricta is also invasive in South Africa, where biological options are currently being explored to control the problem.
Spreading to an erect shrub to 2 metres. Basal stem-segments sometimes thickened, trunk-forming; uppersegmets elliptic to obovate, 10-35cm long, 7-20cm wide, glabrous, dull green to grey-green. Leaves conical, 4.5-6mm long. Spines up to 11 per areole, 1-6cm long, yellow to brown; glochids yellow. Flowers 5-6.5cm diam.; petaloid lobes spreading, yellow. Fruit obovoid with depressed apex, 4-6cm long, 2.5-4cm diam., purple. Seeds 4-5mm long, pale brown.” (George, 1984, In PIER, 2003)
agricultural areas, ruderal/disturbed, scrub/shrublands, tundra, urban areas, water courses
Cultivated for Medicinal/culinary uses in some areas
Native range: Tropical and subtropical coast of eastern North America, Bermuda, West Indies and adjacent South America
Known introduced range: New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Australia, South Africa, Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Agriculture: This plant came to Australia on the first fleet, making it the oldest weed. Early settlers in Australia planted O. stricta for ornamental purposes and as hedges to keep cattle under control before barbed wire became affordable. (Australian Plants online, 1999)
Local dispersal methods
Garden escape/garden waste:
Other (local): The segments will take root from the "eyes" if left in contact with the ground, (ESC).
Water currents: They can be moved in floods leading to infestations along river banks, (ESC).
Seed. The segments will take root from the "eyes" if left in contact with the ground, and because they are so succulent, they remain capable of rooting for several months after being detached from the parent plant. They can be moved in floods leading to infestations along river banks.
This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders
Reviewed by: Under revision
Compiled by: IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Saturday, 12 June 2010