All Plants Are Not Equal: Opuntia ficus-indica (Sweet Prickly Pear)
Scientific Name: Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill
Common names: Turksvye, Sweet prickly pear, Boere-turksvy.
Opuntia ficus-indica was brought into the country for its use as hedging, animal feed and for its delicious, juicy fruit. These plants can be a very aggressive alien species. A serious infestation can render a veld useless. Cattle and wild eat the leaves but avoid the fruit because of the irritating thorns.
This plant is believed to have originated in the Americas, specifically in Mexico. It has naturalised in Australia, southern Europe, Africa, southern Asia, southern USA and some oceanic islands with warm climates.
Opuntia ficus-indica is a succulent shrub or tree ranging 1.5-3 m but it can grow up to 5 m. It develops a sturdy trunk with age. The branches (cladodes) are flattened, grey to grey-green. The branches are 30-60 cm long and 6-15 cm wide. Its younger branches arch upwards. The leaves are minute and are shed early. The flowers are conspicuous, bright yellow or orange, red in colour. It bears succulent edible berries which are reddish when ripe, about 8 cm long and covered with clusters of minute spines.
Opuntia ficus-indica is a category 1b plant in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004. This means that the plant must be controlled and where possible eradicated and removed. These plants are deemed to have such a high invasive potential that infestations can qualify to be placed under a government sponsored invasive species management programme. No permits will be issued. No new plants may be planted. Spineless cactus pear cultivars and selections are not listed. The fruit of the sweet prickly pear is not listed if used for human consumption.
Physical removal: This method is quite labour intensive and includes, chopping down, heaping and burning of the plant material.
Chemical removal: With MSMA (Monosodium Methanearsonate) and Glyphosate.
Biological removal: Bilogicial control with cochineal insect (Dactylopius oputiae) and cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum).
Bromilow, C.; 1995. Problem Plants and Alien Weeds of Southern Africa.
Henderson, L.; 2001 Alien weeds and Invasive Plants.