Is It Illegal To Remove A Cactus From Your Yard? Here's What You Should Know

Cacti growing wild in the desert impart rough beauty to a landscape while offering protection for many species of wildlife. The presence of cacti is also crucial for soil stabilization, and since they hold moisture, they're key components in the desert water cycle. In the right areas, cacti can also add rustic allure to home landscaping. Maybe you've heard that removing these succulents from your yard is illegal and have been hesitant to build a cactus garden for that reason. While some jurisdictions have regulations to protect several species of cacti, removing one from your yard is not illegal as long as you follow those guidelines. 

For instance, the state of Arizona has outlined a list of protected native plants that include dozens of cacti species. Stealing them from state land is illegal, but you can remove one from your property without a problem. Before you get rid of a cactus from your land, it's best to make sure that the plant you're cutting down or digging up isn't on that list. For instance, saguaro cacti are definitely on the Arizona protected list, but barrel cacti are not.

Beyond that, the Arizona Department of Agriculture requires property owners wanting to remove protected plants to obtain a permit between 20 and 60 days beforehand. Then, landowners can destroy, sell, or give away those plants without worry.

Removing cactus in other warm weather states

Arizona isn't the only state concerned about protecting native plants. Texas, Nevada, and California have their own lists of endangered native plants, and several types of cacti are among them. If you've learned to care for a star cactus, Lloyd's mariposa cactus, or black lace cactus, you'll know they're on the rare list in Texas. On the other hand, Blaine and Nye pincushion cactus and hermit cactus are among those on Nevada's tracking list.

There are also regulations regarding digging up a cactus on private property and public land. For example, in Arizona, if you live in another state where cactus grows wild, it's illegal to dig one up in a public space like a highway right-of-way or park. It's also unlawful to remove one without permission on privately owned land. If you need to dig one up in your yard, a license, tag, or permit may be required depending on the plant. Before you begin, check with your local Department of Agriculture for best practices regarding removing cacti from your property.

When is it okay to remove a cactus, even a precious saguaro, without a permit? If a saguaro falls on its own due to old age (some can live up to 200 years!) or disease, you can remove it from your yard without worry. Otherwise, investigate the rules and regulations in your area before digging up or cutting down cacti to stay within the law.