In 1834 viticulturist James Busby wrote with approval of the prickly pear hedges he had encountered in southern Spain:
If there is any part of the rural economy of the Andalusians which the settler of New South Wales could adopt with advantage, it is the hedge of prickly pears. It is not possible to imagine a more effectual fence …
Following his advice, the re-created Victorian kitchen garden at Vaucluse House is bordered on one side by a thick hedge of the flowering cactus, which was employed in the colony to deter thieves and wandering stock.
The first Opuntia plants were introduced to NSW in 1788 in the hope of establishing a cochineal industry (prickly pears are host to the cochineal beetle, used in the manufacture of scarlet dye). While some species became devastating environmental weeds, the prickly pear at Vaucluse House is the less invasive Indian fig, still grown for its edible fruit.