LANDHOLDERS are being urged to look out for a feral Mexican cactus spreading its way through Central Queensland.
Bunny ears (opuntia microdasys) is a declared class 1 pest plant in Queensland and has so far been spotted at 13 locations this year, including Mackay, Emerald and Springsure.
Biosecurity Queensland's Duncan Swan said the plant could cause considerable skin irritation, and that landholders should not try to remove it themselves.
Bunny ears forms a dense shrub about 40-60cm tall, and is composed of pad-like stems. If it becomes established in the wild it has the potential to seriously affect agricultural and environmental systems.
"It has no spines, but instead has numerous white or yellow tufts of fine bristles that detach very easily and can cause serious skin irritation, so the plants must be treated with caution," Mr Swan said.
"It was first detected earlier this year at the Willows west of Emerald, and we have since removed 36 individual plants at locations including Rubyvale, Anakie, Springsure and Eimeo, near Mackay.
"Biosecurity Queensland and local councils have been assisting in the removal of bunny ears to stop its spread, and it's important that this process continues and people do not try to dispose of the cactus themselves.
"The main mechanism for spread at the moment is people giving cacti out as potted plants for gardens and so on, though physical spreading of the plant is also a problem."
Bunny ears is a member of the Opuntia family, more commonly known as prickly pears. In 1920 one species of prickly pear infestation covered 24 million hectares. The cactoblastis moth has been effectively used to control this species of prickly pear since 1926, but is less effective in other species of prickly pear.
"Cactoblastis larvae do not thrive in dry conditions or on plants growing in poor soils. They are not effective against all species of prickly pear, and it is not known if they will affect bunny ears," Mr Swan said.
Bunny ears is known to be a popular cactus in cultivation, however as a class 1 pest it is an offence to introduce, keep or supply it in Queensland without a permit.
For further information, contact Duncan Swan in Emerald on 4983 7404.