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Invasiveness Assessment - Abrojo (chain-link cactus, sheathed cholla) (Cylindropuntia tunicata) in Victoria

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Plant invasiveness is determined by evaluating a plant’s biological and ecological characteristics against criteria that encompass establishment requirements, growth rate and competitive ability, methods of reproduction, and dispersal mechanisms.

Each characteristic, or criterion, is assessed against a list of intensity ratings. Depending upon information found, a rating of Low, Medium Low, Medium High or High is assigned to that criterion. Where no data is available to answer a criterion, a rating of medium (M) is applied. A description of the invasiveness criteria and intensity ratings used in this process can be viewed here.

The following table provides information on the invasiveness of Abrojo.

A more detailed description of the methodology of the Victorian Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) method can be viewed below:

Victorian Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) method (PDF - 630 KB)
Victorian Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) method (DOC - 1026 KB)
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Common Name: Abrojo
Scientific name: Cylindropuntia tunicata

Question
Comments
Rating
Confidence
Establishment
Germination requirements?Although the literature reports that C. tunicata reproduces primarily vegetatively, information is lacking on the specifics of germination. ‘New plants can grow from any segment or fruit that comes into contact with the ground. Growth only occurs if conditions are suitable.’ (J. Hosking 2006. pers. comm., 19 June). Cultivation from seed is recommended to occur by sowing after the last frost (Dave’s Garden, 2005). This would indicate a seasonal component to the propagules requirements.
MH
M
Establishment requirements?C. tunicata will grow in shade – not dense shade. (J. Hosking 2006. pers. comm., 19 June).
Can establish under moderate canopy.
MH
MH
How much disturbance is required?Found in grasslands, very open woodlands and pastures (FNA 2005). Can establish in minor disturbed natural ecosystem.
MH
MH
Growth/Competitive
Life form?Perennial shrub (Benson 1982). Life form – other.
L
H
Allelopathic properties?None described.
L
M
Tolerates herb pressure?‘Their spines readily penetrate the flesh of domestic grazing animals’ (WSC 2004).
Currently ‘no effective biological controls available’ (Laity 2005). The similar species C. imbricata along with other Opuntia species are reported to eaten by rabbits and rodents particularly in times of drought (Bunting & Wright 1976). The species is damaged by the cochineal insect (a form of Dactylopius tomentosus) but appears to recover from the damage (Hosking, Conn & Lepschi 2006). Therefore the species may be consumed but is probably not preferred and is even able to recover form damage caused by the cochineal insect.
MH
MH
Normal growth rate?‘If conditions are warm and wet plants grow rapidly. Segment number may double in a few months under suitable conditions.’ (J. Hosking 2006. pers. comm., 19 June). Moderately rapid growth rate that will equal competitive species of the same life form.
MH
MH
Stress tolerance to frost, drought, w/logg, sal. etc?Drought-tolerant (Dave’s Garden 2005). Can withstand temperatures to -9.4C (Dave’s Garden 2005).
MH
M
Reproduction
Reproductive systemAble to vegetatively reproduce (Laity 2005). C. tunicata ‘fruits usually sterile’ (FNA 2005). The primary mode of reproduction is vegetative, however, the species is capable of sexual reproduction if only in a limited capacity.
H
MH
Number of propagules produced?Unknown.
M
L
Propagule longevity?The primary mode of reproduction is seen as vegetative.
L
M
Reproductive period?No specific data for this species. However, the majority of other Cactaceae sp. live longer than 10 years, and can reproduce vegetatively during this time (Bowers, Webb & Rondeau 1995).
H
M
Time to reproductive maturity?Through vegetative reproduction, plant can reach reproductive maturity in a few weeks (J. Hosking 2006. pers. comm., 19 June). Under a year.
H
MH
Dispersal
Number of mechanisms?‘Seed and vegetative propagules can be spread by water, animals and vehicles (Laity 2005). Joints easily detached (Britton & Rose 1919). Spread by water, animals and light vehicular traffic.
MH
MH
How far do they disperse?‘Abrojo is able to easily spread via seed or break into segments and be carried by water, vehicle tyres and animals” (Laity 2005). Possible that many propagules will disperse 200 – 1000 metres via attachment to vehicles or mobile animals.
MH
M


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