Well, it is fractus (there is one for your Scrabble games) out on Miss Betty’s place, even if you do see it flourishing elsewhere in the state. Over the years prickly pear has been managed quite well and the family property is pretty much free of it. But given she is now managing it on her own a few plants have been creeping back. So part of our efforts in SA were directed at knocking these things off. First drive a hole into each pad and into the trunk of the plant. Just as Chris is doing here. Then fill the hole with undiluted Roundup. Then spray a mark on it – it can get pretty confusing out here and you don’t want to cover old ground. (It is a method a whole lot safer than the original treatment methods which involved boiling an arsenic mixture and letting the fumes drift into the weeds!) More than 200 plants were so treated, much to Miss Betty’s relief.
Apart from overrunning vast amounts of land the cactus spines get into the sheep wool making it a problem to handle come shearing time. In fact some shearers refuse to shear sheep known to be farmed in country with cactus. The spines will penetrate clean through a hand and leather boots are no protection. Hence Chris attacking this plant with a specially crafted spear – it allows him to stand off and drill the holes for the Roundup.
( A little bit of Prickly Pear disaster/success story in NSW here)