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.