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Invasiveness Assessment - Erect prickly pear (Opuntia stricta) in Victoria (Nox)

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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 Erect prickly pear.

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 - 1 MB)
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Common Name: Prickly pear, erect
Scientific name: Opuntia stricta

Germination requirements?“As for wheel cactus”.

- “Seeds germinate at any time of the year”.
P & C (1992 p. 365)
P & C (1992 p. 363)
Establishment requirements?“Growing well in both exposed and semi shaded situations”.
P & C (1992 p. 364)
How much disturbance is required?Invades lowland grassland and grassy woodland, dry sclerophyll forest and woodland and riparian vegetation.
Carr et al (1992)
Life form?Erect succulent shrub.

P & C (1992 p. 362)
Allelopathic properties?No Allelopathic properties described.
Tolerates herb pressure?Opuntia spp. Are not usually grazed by stock because of the stout spines and bristles damage their tongues and lips, but in times of drought plants are eaten and animals appear to develop a craving for them”. (P & C 1992 p. 361). “Today isolated plants and small patches are still found throughout much of the area originally infested but these are generally of no importance, being kept in check by the insects”. P & C (1992 p. 365)
Normal growth rate?“Seedlings produce small segments only a few centimetres in diameter each of which grow slowly…the first flowers do not develop until plants are at least three years old”. ‘Cactus Pears are slow growing”. (Muyt 2001 p. 203).
Stress tolerance to frost, drought, w/logg, sal. etc?“All Opuntia species are drought resistant”.

“Because of their high moisture content, plants are not easily burnt”.
Reproductive system“reproducing by seed and from branch segments”.
P & C (1992 p. 364)
Number of propagules produced?Seeds numerous in fruit (4-6 cm long) and plants produce numerous fruits as shown in picture P & C (1992 p. 365).
P & C (1992 p. 365)
Propagule longevity?? for seeds.
Reproductive period?“Plants are long lived”.

“Once established individual plants can persist for several decades”.
Time to reproductive maturity?“The first flowers do not develop until plants are at least three years old”.
Number of mechanisms?“As for tiger pear but in addition, wheel cactus produces viable seed which is spread in the droppings of birds, foxes and other animals”.
P & C (1992 p. 366)
How far do they disperse?Birds and foxes may disperse seeds > 1 km.


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