En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - January 03, 2010

From: Hico, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Fungus on spineless prickly pear in Hico TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is there anything I can do to save my spineless prickly pear planted 3 yrs ago in rock garden. Pods had grayish-white fungus? on the pods and I noticed a few green colored bugs on them. Bugs are gone- but pods are drooping and falling off,like they have rotted and are mushy. There are several other cactus nearby and need help to save others? thanks

ANSWER:

This is almost surely a moisture-related problem. Even in a rock garden, your Opuntia ellisiana (tigertongue) is probably being subjected to more watering than it can tolerate, and perhaps without sufficient drainage. You need to remember that these are desert plants, accustomed by millennia of experience to growing in fast-draining sand (when there was any rain water to drain) and surviving. They are succulents, holding moisture inside their structure, but moisture collecting around their bases or soil that is too moist will encourage fungus. To protect your other plants, you need first to remove the pad(s) that are appearing rotted and mushy; in fact, it might be necessary to remove the whole plant. This will help prevent the spreading of the fungus to other cacti near it.

You next need to address the amount of water that is being applied to the garden, either by rain or artificial irrigation.  You say you planted your rock garden three years ago; this may be the first time since it was planted that it has received very much rain. Since Central Texas is unexpectedly getting some rain this Fall and early Winter, it's possible that poor drainage is causing that water to collect. Under no circumstances should your Opuntia be receiving supplemental watering. At this point, if the drainage in your rock garden is insufficient to protect the roots of the cacti, there is not a lot you can do about it. If and when plants have to be removed because of the problem, you can replace the soil with a more sandy mixture specifically for the growth of cacti and other succulents before you re-plant. And don't fertilize. These are native plants that can get along just fine with the materials in the soil where they live. Fertilizing will only encourage fresh growth, which is going to be more prone to disease. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Opuntia ellisiana

Opuntia ellisiana

Opuntia ellisiana

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Plant to repel snakes
September 23, 2008 - name of a plant or plants that repell snakes.
view the full question and answer

Problems with Eastern hemlock in Greenville SC
July 02, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a beautiful, young, 5 and a half foot tall Eastern Hemlock. I purchased and planted it two years ago in the fall. It has been doing very well all this spring. And ne...
view the full question and answer

Problems with gnats in dirt
December 27, 2008 - I have problems with gnats in my dirt. It's something I can't get control of. What can I do?
view the full question and answer

Insect pests in Gaillardia aristata in Tennessee
August 22, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a couple of 'Oranges and Lemons' blanketflower plants in a butterfly and hummingbird native flower garden that is the foundation planting of my house. They bloom prol...
view the full question and answer

Problems for Texas Madrones from Dripping Springs TX
November 15, 2010 - Dear neighbor: I'm blessed with a property with many Texas Madrone on it. I've been trying for a few years to determine what causes apparently healthy trees to suddenly blacken and die. I've con...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center