En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Curling, Red Leaves on Gaura
July 18, 2013 - My gaura had most of its lower leaves turn red and then fall off. It is July now, I bought and planted it in May where it seemed to do really well growing several more inches tall and blooming nicely....
view the full question and answer

Wisteria with root rot in Flower Mound, TX
July 11, 2009 - I have a wisteria that is showing rot root from an exposed wound on the side of the base. Would like to save the tree. What can I do to fix the problem.
view the full question and answer

Are Ashe Junipers dying from mite damage in Austin?
August 08, 2011 - If Ashe Juniper needles are turning brown and dropping off the trees because of drought, and not disease, do the needles ever come back, or have the tree limbs died? What if the cause is mites, not ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with wax myrtle in Austin
February 01, 2009 - I have been struggling with wax myrtles for the last year! We live in NW Austin, The plants start off great and then thin out, leaves go brown, and die. I then cut off the dead wood in the hope that t...
view the full question and answer

Dry browning leaves on Monterrey Oak from San Antonio
August 08, 2013 - I have a Monterey Oak that was planted four years ago and was doing great until the last two weeks. It has turned brown and the ends of the branches are very dry and brittle. The root flare was cov...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center