Tiger pear

Opuntia aurantiaca
Succulent
Basal
Cladode
Yellow
Green

A spreading fleshy plant usually forming thickets less than 40 cm tall. Its dark green to purplish-coloured stems consist of a series of almost cylindrical segments. These stem segments (3.5-30 cm long and 1-5 cm thick) are covered in groups of grey or brownish coloured barbed spines (1-5 cm long). Its showy lemon or bright yellow flowers (25-60 mm across) have numerous 'petals’. Its fleshy and spiny fruit (20-30 mm long) turn red with purplish mottling as they mature.

Common names 
Also known as: Tiger pear, jointed cactus, jointed prickly pear, tiger-pear,
Family 
Cactaceae
Deciduous 
No
Flowering time 
Spring-Summer
Native/Exotic 
Exotic
Origin 
Native to South America (i.e. northern Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay).
Notifiable 
No
State declaration 
Class 2
Council declaration 
Class R – Reduce populations
Known distribution 

A widespread species that is found throughout the eastern parts of Australia. It is most common in the sub-coastal regions of southern and central Queensland, and in central and eastern New South Wales. A few scattered infestations are also present in northern Victoria. Also naturalised in southern Africa and probably beyond its native range in South America.

Habitat 

Mostly found in semi-arid regions and drier localities in sub-tropical and warmer temperate environments. A weed of pastures, open woodlands, fence-lines, roadsides and stream-banks.

Habit 

A low-growing (i.e. prostrate or decumbent), fleshy (i.e. succulent) plant forming thickets and producing underground tubers. It usually grows less than 40 cm tall when unsupported, but can reach up to 2 m in height when growing against other plants.

Impact and control methods 

Tiger pear (Opuntia aurantiaca) is regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. This species was recently also listed as priority environmental weed in two Natural Resource Management regions.

Stem and leaves 

Stems are dark green to purplish in colour, much-branched, and consist of a series of rounded, almost cylindrical (i.e. terete), segments. These stem segments (3.5-30 cm long and 1-5 cm thick) are covered in small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) that each bear 2-7 greyish or brownish coloured spines (1-5 cm long). The spines are very sharp, rigid, and minutely barbed near their tips. The leaves are reduced to small cone-shaped (i.e. conical) structures (3-4 mm long) and are shed when the stems are still young (i.e. they are caducous).

Flowers and fruits 

The showy lemon or bright yellow flowers (25-60 mm across) are borne singly on a fleshy base. They have large numbers of 'petals' (most of these are actually petal-like structures known as petaloids) and numerous stamens. Flowering occurs mostly during late spring and summer. The immature fruit are green in colour, but turn red to purplish as they mature. These fruit (20-35 mm long) are fleshy (i.e. succulent), spiny, and egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid) to somewhat pear-shaped (i.e. pyriform). They do not contain any viable seed.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species reproduces by stem fragments (i.e. the stem segments easily become dislodged and produce roots) and underground tubers (these are formed when segments become buried and lose their spines).Stem fragments are spread by becoming attached to animals, footwear and vehicles. They are also dispersed by flood waters and in dumped garden waste.

Similar species 

Tiger pear (Opuntia aurantiaca) is very similar to Harrisia cactus (Harrisia martinii ). It is also relatively similar to rope pear (Opuntia imbricata), boxing glove cactus (Opuntia fulgida var. mamillata), snake cactus (Opuntia spinosior) and jumping cholla (Opuntia prolifera). These species can be distinguished by the following differences: tiger pear (Opuntia aurantiaca) it a low-growing plant (usually less than 40 cm tall) with relatively small rounded (i.e. terete) or slightly flattened stem segments that do not have any ridges or humps. These stem segments have groups of 1-7 spines on most of the small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) on their surfaces. Its flowers are yellow or pale yellow in colour and its mature fruit are reddish or purplish. Harrisia cactus (Harrisia martinii) is a low-growing plant (usually less than 1 m tall) with very long almost cylindrical (i.e. terete) stem segments that have numerous pyramid-shaped (i.e. pyramidal) humps. These stem segments have groups of spines (1 or 2 large spines and several much smaller ones) on most of the small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) on their surfaces. Its flowers are white or pinkish in colour and its mature fruit are bright red. Rope pear (Opuntia imbricata) is a short shrub (usually 1-2 m tall) with almost cylindrical (i.e. terete) stem segments that have numerous raised humps (2-5 cm long) and are rope-like in appearance. These stem segments have groups of 3-15 spines on most of the small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) on their surfaces. Its flowers are reddish-purple in colour and its mature fruit are yellow. Boxing glove cactus (Opuntia fulgida var. mamillata) is a short shrub (usually 1-2 m tall) with distorted stem segments that have numerous raised humps and are broader towards the tips. These stem segments have groups of 0-18 spines on most of the small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) on their surfaces. It usually does not produce flowers or fruit. Snake cactus (Opuntia spinosior) is a short shrub (0.5-2 m tall) with almost cylindrical (i.e. terete) stem segments that have numerous raised humps (0.5-1.5 cm long) and are rope-like in appearance. These stem segments have groups of 4-24 spines on most of the small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) on their surfaces. Its flowers are red to reddish-purple in colour and its mature fruit are yellow. Jumping cholla (Opuntia prolifera) is a short shrub (0.5-2.5 m tall) with almost cylindrical (i.e. terete) stem segments that have numerous raised humps (1.5-2.5 cm long) and are rope-like in appearance. These stem segments have groups of 6-12 spines on most of the small raised bumps (i.e. areoles) on their surfaces. Its flowers are reddish-purple to pinkish-purple in colour and its mature fruit are greenish in colour.