Eastern Prickly Pear – News & Stories

“The calls I get about prickly pears usually come during drought years from the northwest part of Indiana,” Johnson said. “They have sandy soil near Lake Michigan. We also get questions from the sandy areas of southern Indiana.

“Horse pastures tend to be under-managed, so I sometimes hear of someone who has moved their animals and wants to eliminate cacti. Corn and soybean growers can also have problems with figs from Barbarism if they haven’t done much to manage their pastures.

Removing prickly pears is not an easy task as mowing them will do more harm than good. “The mowers don’t get close enough to the ground and they tend to scatter bits of vegetation,” Johnson explained. And, due to cacti’s tendency to grow in dry areas, burning them can be a risky solution.

“If a person has prickly pears in a large area, chemically treating them will be the most cost-effective and labor-efficient way,” Johnson said.

While some may want to remove prickly pears, others enjoy the plant. The cactus produces bright yellow flowers in early summer and is sold by nurseries.

The cochineal’s red dye is produced from the insect Dactylopius coccus, which lives on prickly pears. Dye was once a valued and important Spanish export in Aztec culture. It was also the dye used for the British Army’s red coats as well as the original Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniforms.