Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tribute to a Prickly Pear

Last week, I had to have my diseased Prickly Pear removed. It was hard to watch as it was chopped down and hauled off by the landscape maintainence crew. I had tried everything to rid it of the blight killing it, but to no avail. It had to be removed to protect all the other Prickly Pear species in my garden.


This Prickly Pear started out as two pads in my new landscape over three years ago. It was supposed to be a Beavertail Cactus, (Opuntia basilaris) but the pads were extremely large, thin, and had very odd shapes. This is the cactus two years after planting. It made a great focal point that I could see from my family room.



It was so unusual that cactus experts at the Desert Botanical Garden couldn't identify it. I photographed it regularly, and loved to manipulate the photos to highlight its mystery cactus status. As a matter of fact, I used a portion of this photo as my blog header for well over a year.


It continued to grow with amazing speed, and it had a beautiful gray-purple coloring that lasted all year. All the new pads were misshapen, with some of them exceeding 26 inches across. This was its size this past March. The maroon buds are the start of 41 new pads added this year.
In June, it was in fine shape and the pads at their most stunning purple coloration. It made a beautiful contrast to the Tecoma stans 'Orange Jubilee' behind it. Some of the new pads seemed to have the characteristic beavertail shape, but they were still large and thin compared to the normal Opuntia basilaris pads.


Then in late September, Cochineal Scale attacked it with a vengeance. Almost overnight, the cactus was covered with the characteristic white webby substance of the Cochineal insect. Usually, the scale starts out slowly and it takes months to get out of control, but within a a few weeks, it was covered. I've concluded that it was more vulnerable to the insect than other Prickly Pears because of its odd growth pattern.
For the first time, the cactus lost its gray-purple coloration and became a pale green. Every treatment I tried was a failure. It was obvious that it was beyond help. The pads were so full of holes that even if I could have ridded it of the scale, it would have struggled to live, so I called in the 'cactus undertakers', AKA the landscape maintenance crew. They quickly chopped it down and carried it out to their wood chipper with pitchforks. It took them all of 10 minutes from start to finish.

In late April, it bloomed for the first time, and although the flowers were a lovely lemon yellow, it proved it wasn't an Opuntia Basilaris, which has brilliant fuchia flowers. This flower photo, along with all the other photos of the cactus in its glory days, will serve as a permanent reminder of my special mystery prickly pear.

17 comments:

Julie said...

Oh this is SAD. I am so sorry Aiyana. What a beautiful and mystifying plant she was! I know you will miss her so much! I hope you can find a new sexy plant to take her spot!

Claude said...

how sad... were you able to save even one pad to reroot? And many opuntia will gregrow from the roots if the top is chopped off... but then, you may not want another one if it's going to be so prone to infestation.

I wonder if it was a natural hybrid of some sort, I know that many of our 'species' of prickly pear are...

anyway, you had a beautiful plant for a while, and you got some beautiful pics while it was here.

buedamau said...

it's an amazing cactus, it's a pitty the plague had destroy it. i'm in love for the purple-wall-wave effect, it´s like a land-coral-barrier!!!

Suzanne said...

Oh, that makes me so sad. What a beautiful and unusual plant. I just love it. The photos you took of it were magical! It reminded me of something in the ocean! The bloom on it was so beautiful -- such a luscious bright lemony color. Oh man...I hardly knew it, but I'll miss it!

Anonymous said...

What a sad end to the most lovely (and mysterious) opuntia ever. I guess, it was impossible for you to salvage at least a pad or two for propagation? You can take heart that you have some great photos of the plant in its heydays.

Darla said...

What an outstanding cactus! So sorry to hear of it's sickness and death. I HATE it when something like that happens. Maybe you can find another one. Didn't really know that they got diseases.

beckie said...

Aiyana, once again you are the teacher-I am the student. I had no idea there were different varieties of prickly pear. This was truly a beautiful one though. Such interesting pads. I'm so sorry for the loss of it. It was a lovely cactus.

Teri C said...

Gosh, that is an amazing-looking p.pear!! Loved looking at the photos.

Sheila said...

Those are just beautiful! The variation in color is amazing.

Grammy said...

So sorry about you plant.The green one is so hardy it stays alive in our cold winter here in Missouri. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Grammy

playsdolls said...

Hate ou lost your odd cactus,it was quite odd looking but very beautiful.loved your pics.

Anne Fannie said...

Hi Aiyana, how sad you lost your cactus. I didn't know they get a disease. Sorry everything you tried didn't work. Hopefully you can replace with another one.
~Ann

Jean said...

So sorry about the loss f your beautiful prickly pear cactus! The waves of the pad was so interesting and I love the color. Jean

Weeping Sore said...

Sorry to see you lose such a lovely cactus. Did you know that natives prized the cochineal for it's dark red stain. Take a tiny bit of the white scale on your fingers, rub them together to crush the bug, and your fingertips turn a lovely red.
You probably disposed of zillions of dollars worth of dye. Well, maybe not zillions. But still.

Pam/Digging said...

What a stunning prickly pear, which makes its loss even greater. Those wavy pads, that purple coloring---it was a beauty.

Dee said...

This is so sad. It was such a lovely cactus. Your pictures show how amazing it was before the disease struck. I hope you find something equally amazing to replace it.

Hort Log said...

This is a pretty Prickly Pear with unusual growth form and colour - maybe its a Crestation or some sort of mutatation. I would have relished at a cutting....