Cactus causing prickly problem

A new state-wide campaign is urging residents to be on the lookout for the sale or trade of the prohibited cactus prickly pear.

Once in the environment, prickly pear can form impenetrable walls of vegetation and cost millions of dollars to control. Its bristles and spines can cause serious injury to people and impale, infect, blind and even kill native animals, pets and livestock.

Crime Stoppers, councils, Local Land Services and the NSW Department of Primary Industries have joined forces to call for anyone who sees these plants for sale to report it.

Easy to propagate from cuttings, cacti are popular plants in household gardens, both indoors and outdoors. That same rapid growth can cause widespread devastation in the natural environment.

Eurobodalla Council’s invasive species supervisor Paul Martin said the shire was lucky to have escaped a serious prickly pear infestation in recent years, and that’s how we wanted it to stay.

“Prickly pear is a declared plant under NSW biodiversity legislation for a reason,” he said.

“If it’s dumped in backyards or reserves it spreads easily. It has nasty spines that can injure people, wildlife and pets and it’s extremely difficult to kill.

“Spring usually brings an increase in plant sales, so we’re appealing to the public to be on the lookout for these cacti in markets and online.”

There are more than 27 species of prickly pear known to be in Australia. Eve’s needle, bunny ears, smooth tree pear and blind cactus are all types of prickly pear illegally traded in NSW, despite on-the-spot fines of $1,000 and penalties of up to $220,000.

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