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

Brown patches on St. Augustine grass
April 24, 2009 - I have brown patches on my st. augustine grass, it looks like the grass has rotted from standing water, but the drainage is not a problem, What could it be?
view the full question and answer

Western soapberry dropping leaves in San Antonio
June 03, 2013 - My Western Soapberry tree (China berry?) Suddenly started dropping full, perfectly healthy green, leaf units. Now half the tree is turning yellow. There is a second tree in the yard not far from this ...
view the full question and answer

Bloom color change in Choctaw Crape Myrtle
July 30, 2007 - In 2006 my wife bought a Choctaw Crape Myrtle from a local nursery. It had a tag from Greenleaf Nursery and had several blooms in the "correct" pink color. The plant was 5-6 ft tall. It has grown...
view the full question and answer

Why doesn't Diervilla lonicera bloom in Wisconsin?
June 11, 2015 - I have had a Diervilla lonicera in southeastern Wisconsin for at least 5 years. It has never bloomed. Why? It appears healthy.
view the full question and answer

Dying Damianita in Blanco, TX.
June 18, 2015 - My Damianita bloomed its heart out and since all the rain here in Blanco the biggest plants turned brown and look dead. I've trimmed back some and do see green stems. Will they come back? How far ...
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