A Prickly Problem – Sales of cacti causing havoc for people, pets, and parks

Cactus plants are popular potted and garden plants. They have an appealing aesthetic, are easy to grow, and thrive on neglect and so what’s not to love?

But certain cactus plants can harm people, pets and parks and it’s important to know what you are buying before you make that purchase.

Prickly pears are fleshy-stemmed cacti with sharp spines or barbed bristles that detach easily from the plants and lodge in skin and eyes. The bristles and spines can injure people as well impale, infect, blind, and even kill native animals, pets, working dogs and livestock. When the plants get out into the environment, they can form impenetrable walls of vegetation that prevent animals from grazing and from accessing shade and water. These types of cacti also reduce the natural beauty of our parks and outdoor areas. That’s why it is illegal to sell or swap them in NSW.

There are more than 27 species of prickly pear cacti known to be in Australia. Eve’s needle, bunny ears, smooth tree pear and blind cactus are all types of that unfortunately are still being traded. NSW Crime Stoppers, Local Land Services and the NSW Department of Primary Industries have joined forces and are calling for the community to help with two simple messages:  Do not sell or swap these plants and if you see them being sold, report it.

“Many people may not know the cacti they see for sale at their local market or online are illegal to sell or trade so we have developed information to help people identify the types of cacti.  If you have one of these plants do not sell or swap them.  These cactus infestations cost millions of dollars to control.  Stopping the spread is the only way to minimise the devastating impact these plants can cause,” said CEO, NSW Crime Stoppers, Mr Peter Price AM.

“Community awareness and action will be crucial in preventing the prohibited selling or swapping of these plants.  We are asking anyone who sees these plants being sold online to report it to NSW Crime Stoppers”, added Mr Price.

Spring usually brings an increase in plant sales, so we are appealing to the public to be on the lookout for trade of these plants, particularly online.  On the spot fines of $1,000 and penalties of up to $220,000 can apply if someone is found to be selling or swapping certain types of cacti in NSW.

You can help protect people, pets, and parks. If you see these plants being sold, please report it to NSW Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. We don’t need to know who you are, we just want to know what you know.

For a complete list of plants prohibited from sale or swap in NSW click here.  A fact sheet is also available at https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/