Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Tiger Pear (Opuntia aurantiaca) is a spiny aggressive invasive weed.
  • Stem segments fragment easily and are readily distributed by animals, vehicles, water or wind.
  • Tiger Pear damages natural semi-arid and drier subtropical biodiversity and agricultural lands.
  • If this species is seen please notify your local weed management authority.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Tiger Pear (Opuntia aurantiaca) is a perennial sterile hybrid forming a low growing, divaricately branched, spreading cactus to 0.6 m tall. It often forms extensive thickets The narrow linear, terete (rounded) to sub-terete stem segments are deep green to purplish and commonly 4–15 cm long, 2–4 cm wide and 1–1.5 cm thick. They are readily detachable. The areoles (spots on stem segments and fruits that contain the spines and glochids) have between 2–7 barbed spines 1–4 cm long. These spines are surrounded by a dense cluster of whitish to pale yellow glochids (clusters of small barbed bristles).

The flowers are yellow, 2.5–6 cm in diameter.

The sterile pear-shaped fruits are 2–2.5 cm long, red at maturity, spiny and not juicy (Telford 1984; Harden 1990; Stajsic & Carr 1996; Anderson 2001; Navie 2004; Chinnock 2007 pers. comm.).

For further information and assistance with identification of Tiger Pear contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Tiger Pear occurs in semi-arid regions or in drier regions in subtropical regions. It occurs on a variety of soil types where it grows in open woodlands, open shrublands, pastures or near creeks. It will tolerate full sun or partial shade (Navie 2004).

Are there similar species?

Tiger Pear is readily distinguished from Harrisia cactus species, Sword Pear (Acanthocereus tetragonus) and Night Blooming Cactus (Hylocereus undatus) as all have distinctly angled stems and large white flowers compared with the rounded (terete) or sub-terete stem-segments and yellow flowers of Tiger Pear (Chinnock 2007, pers. comm.).

It can be distinguished from other Prickly Pears (Opuntia spp.) by the very narrow stem segments 2–4 cm wide (Chinnock 2007, pers. comm.).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Native ecosystems: Tiger Pear is a very aggressive drought tolerant weed that is easily dispersed by fragmentation. It is regarded as the most troublesome of all cactus species in New South Wales and one of the worst Opuntia species in Queensland. It forms impenetrable thickets and covers extensive areas under mallee and other vegetation types.

Agriculture: Dense infestations can impede movement of stock, lay waste to agricultural and pastoral lands and harbor pests such as rabbits. Spines and glochids can cause injury to humans and animals. The fruits are hosts to Fruit Fly (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Chinnock 2007 pers. comm.). Stock does not usually graze on Tiger Pear due to the presence of the spines and bristles which can damage their mouths (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

How does it spread?

Tiger Pear is dispersed by stem segments. These segments readily fragment and will attach to animals fur, car tyres and can be transported by water especially during floods. Very small segments can be dispersed short distances in open areas by wind (Telford 1984; Stajsic & Carr 1996; Navie 2004).

What is its history in Australia?

The origin of Tiger Pear in Australia is not known but it was first noted in New South Wales in 1883 and recognised as a potential problem in New South Wales and Queensland by 1911. Many thousands of hectares were infested in southern Queensland by 1932 with individual patches of over 1600 hectares. In many places Tiger Pear was invading areas from which Common Prickly Pear (Opuntia stricta) had been eliminated by the Cactoblastis moth. The control of Tiger Pear by the Cochineal insect (Dactylopius austrinus) has been reasonably effective in Queensland but it is still a major pest in New South Wales especially in the eastern part of the state west of the Great Dividing Range and in the Hunter Valley (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

A few small populations are known in Victoria near Rushworth, Piangil and Geelong and one population occurs in South Australia near Lochiel (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Chinnock 2007, pers. comm.).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: Physical removal and burning can be used to control Tiger Pear infestations. All dislodged segments and fruit must be destroyed to prevent reestablishment. As much of the root system as possible should be removed by grubbing or cultivation (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Chemical control: A number of herbicides can be used against Tiger Pear (Land Protection 2006). However, chemical control can be difficult as Tiger Pear often occurs on steep rocky areas (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au

Biological control: Tiger Pear has also been recognised as a target for biological control through a cross-jurisdictional government process. This allows activities to be undertaken to develop effective biological controls. Tiger Pear can be controlled by the Tiger Pear Cochineal Insect (Dactylopius austrinus) which can be manually transferred by a few pieces of stem segment to unaffected plants. It rapidly reduces Tiger Pear populations but dies out in a paddock after the destruction of Tiger Pear. It needs to be reintroduced after Tiger Pear regrows (Land Protection 2006). Heavy rain kills some of these insects so they are most effective during long dry spells. It is also less effective in the cooler winter areas of New South Wales compared with Queensland (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

New plants arise from detached segments. Roots are formed from one or more of the areoles on the segment surface in contact with soil and new segments are produced from some of the areoles on the upper surface. Plants are very long lived (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Tiger Pear is widespread and common in sub-coastal south-eastern Queensland and central and eastern New South Wales. It occurs in a few scattered localities in Victoria and one location in South Australia near Lochiel (Navie 2004; Chinnock 2007, pers. comm.; AVH 2007).

Where does it originate?

Tiger Pear is a native of Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina (Anderson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

In all states and territories.

Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Opuntia aurantiaca

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

Opuntia ferox (Willd.) Haw. (misapplied by Bailey, F.M. 1900, The Queensland Flora. 2: 704., p.p.)

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Jointed Prickly Pear

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