Prickly pear cactus (scientific name “Opuntia”) has long been a fixture in the Texas Hill Country landscape. A native to the area, it is the official plant symbol of Texas and has almost 60 varieties including the tasajillo (or “Christmas cactus”). It has edible pads called “nopales” or “nopalitos” in Spanish and edible fruits called “tuna” that usually ripen between July and September. It is a hardy species that can survive in very hot, dry climates including deserts. It’s very difficult to get rid of, as it can multiply in several ways.
Much like succulents, prickly pear cactus can re-root from just one stray pad left on the ground. They can regrow if all the pads are cut off but the crown or “base trunk”, a few inches below the soil surface, is left intact. The tuna are filled with seeds that can be spread far and wide by birds, deer and other animals.
Although it’s difficult to get rid of cactus—it’s not impossible. There are 2 main methods of removal, including chemical and mechanical removal. Chemical Removal is done through the use of pesticides—either fast-acting or slow-acting. Fast-acting pesticides will kill the cactus after about 1 year and are much safer than slow-acting pesticides that can take up to 2 years. Mechanical Removal can be done using various types of equipment including mulching machines, that grind up the cactus into, essentially, slush or slime. This is a quick fix that can be followed up with chemical application as backup. The other mechanical option is using our patented grubbing attachments to uproot the cactus plant and its base trunk from the soil.