Pine cone cactus: declared pest

Page last updated: Tuesday, 17 May 2022 - 5:31pm

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Pine cone cactus (Tephrocactus articulatus) is a declared pest in Western Australia (WA). This article describes the nature of the plant with links to requirements land owners/occupiers must adhere to, and how to detect and report it.

What you should know about pine cone cactus

Pine cone cactus is native to Western Argentina. It is an opuntioid cactus which is cultivated as an ornamental in many countries. It has become invasive in South Africa where it is targeted for eradication. It has invaded disturbed sites, rangelands, seasonal watercourses and drainage lines in the arid interior of South Africa including the Karoo. It has also been found in farming areas of the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape. Computer predictions show pine cone cactus would grow well in the southwest of WA.

This species has a speedy growth rate, an ability to double its segment numbers. Its spines injure to livestock. Like many other invasive cacti, this species forms dense stands that are difficult to penetrate, preventing human and stock movement.

Appearance: Pine cone cactus (Tephrocactus articulatus) is a low-growing, clump-forming cactus usually 2030 centimetres high. The segments of mature plants look similar to a pine cone, hence the common name. It is also known as spruce cone cactus and paper-spine cactus. It reproduces vegetatively and by seed.

Segments or cladodes: dull green, 2.55cm by 2.55cm, easily detached.

Spines: in groups of one to four, can be spineless. Can have modified spines, paper- or raffia-like, pale brown or white, up to seven millimetres wide and 25100mm long. Glochids conspicuous, maroon or dark brown.

Flowers: white or pale pink, three to four centimetres in diameter, and similar to prickly pear (Opuntia) flowers. The fruit is dry-walled.

Seeds: corky and winged, adapted to dispersal by wind and water.