Bunny ears or Golden bristle cactus

Alert

Have you seen Bunny ears or Golden bristle cactus?

Be on the lookout for Bunny ears or Golden bristle cactus and report it to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in controlling Bunny ears or Golden bristle cactus.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Native to northern Mexico, bunny ears cactus or golden bristle cactus is a dense shrub that is currently targeted for eradication in Queensland.

In high-risk parts of the state, Biosecurity Queensland and local governments have been helping landholders to remove bunny ears cactus to stop its spread.

If left unchecked, bunny ears cactus has the potential to spread over considerable areas of Queensland. A closely related species, prickly pear (Opuntia stricta), invaded 24 million hectares in Queensland and New South Wales by 1924, in many cases making land worthless.

Bunny ears or Golden bristle cactus is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Opuntia microdasys

Other names

Golden bristle cactus, polka dot cactus

Description

  • Dense shrub 40-60cm tall, occasionally more.
  • Stems are pad-like, 6-15cm long, 4-12cm wide.
  • No central stem, pads always grow in pairs, giving appearance of bunny ears.
  • Has no spines, but instead has numerous white or yellow glochids (hair-like prickles), 2-3mm long, in dense clusters.
  • Flowers are yellow, 3cm wide.
  • Fruits are fleshy, globular, 3cm long, red-purple.

Habitat

  • Prefers open habitats in arid and semi-arid rangeland.
  • Potential to become abundant and widespread in Queensland.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Found all over Queensland, including Willows Gemfields, Emerald, Springsure, Mackay, Sarina, Gold Coast and Brisbane.

Life cycle

  • Vegetative spread occurs all year when segments break off, fall to ground and start growing.
  • Drought-resistant, they survive where other plants cannot and are easily transported by animals, people, water and vehicles.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Forms extensive, dense stands, much like prickly pear cactus.

Economic

  • Reduces agricultural productivity over large areas of arid and semi-arid grazing land.

How it is spread

  • Spread by movement of broken plant segments or dumping of garden waste.

Control measures

Landholders should report the presence of this plant to Biosecurity Queensland or your local government. Biosecurity Officers will provide specific advice on the safe removal and destruction of bunny ears cactus.

Physical control

  • Physical control is effective.
  • Care needs to be taken due to spiny nature of plant. Small isolated plants are easier to remove than large infestations. All parts of plants need to be removed, which can be difficult because plant readily drops segments that will start new colonies.
  • Physical removal involves removing all plant material for destruction. Once removed, plants need to be treated with herbicides, left to dry, then burnt or deep buried.
Fire
  • Hot fires can kill cactus plants, although regrowth may occur.
  • This could be an option for thick infestations but Biosecurity Queensland should be consulted to see if this option is viable for your situation.

Herbicide control

  • No herbicide is currently registered for control of bunny ears cactus in Queensland; however, an off-label use permit (Permit No. 11463) allows use of various herbicides to control environmental weeds in non-agricultural areas, bushland, forests, wetlands, and coastal and adjacent areas.

See the Bunny ears fact sheet (PDF, 1.0MB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Legal requirements

  • Bunny ears or Golden bristle cactus is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

More information