Cactus eaters

 

Thifhelimbilu Mulateli

Rhodes University – MSc

 

The jointed cactus, Opuntia aurantiaca, got a foothold in South Africa because it is pretty. It gave gardens a flavour of the exotic, with its barbed spines and many jointed stems which resemble long balloons tied in knots. Its delicate yellow flowers were an added attraction. So, gardeners planted this deadly invader. But cacti, unlike food crops, can reproduce asexually: one of its jointed limbs can fall off, and begin growing as an independent plant.

This hardy and prolific plant has now invaded pastoral lands across the country, threatening indigenous plants as well as the health of livestock. The Eastern