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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - March 30, 2010

From: Palo Pinto, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Eradicating cactus in Palo Pinto County, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live on a ranch in Palo Pinto County and would like to know how can I get rid of wild cactus.

ANSWER:

Do you have any idea how many different genera of plants go under the name "cactus?" This website CactiGuide.com will give you an idea. When we searched our Native Plant Database on "cactus," we found 49 different species with that word in their common name native to Texas. However, we are betting, given that you live in the western part of North Central Texas, and knowing the landscape around there, that you are dealing with the genus Opuntia, Prickly Pear. Even there, there is a lot to choose from: 23 species native to North America and 18 native to Texas. We found that Opuntia engelmannii (cactus apple) is shown in this USDA Plant Profile as growing natively in your area, so we'll take that as an example. 

Now, how to get rid of that plant? Well, it isn't going to be easy-it has lived there a whole lot longer than humans have, and is very adapted to the rainfall, temperatures and soils. On the website invasives.org we found this website on Opuntia and, in turn, the page on Opuntia engelmannii (cactus apple), which accessed some pictures, but didn't tell us much more than that it is considered invasive. From the San Angelo TX December 24, 2006 Standard Times, we found this article Ranch land management saved historic ranch. By the by, most of the articles on the invading Prickly Pear and its eradication were from Australia, where it is a large-scale invader, having been imported from North America in the 1800's. 

You understand, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends neither for nor against any of the herbicides or methods discussed above. Even if you take the hard way and attempt to bulldoze it or grub it out, new plants can grow from pads left lying on the ground.  If we had a magic potion, we would tell you about it, honest.

 

From the Image Gallery


Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

Bigroot prickly pear
Opuntia macrorhiza

Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

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