Collins January 2015

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Dry Rot in Cactus

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Prickly Pear!

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Sun Scald in Cactus

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Cactus Among Us!


I frequently go into Blunt Creek, even before this assignment. So times it is good to get back to nature; to get away from all the stress and worry that staying in the dorm room impresses upon a person. It is really nice that we have such a place so close to campus, but is it really an escape into nature, or is it a tease? The past couple of times I have gone into Blunt Creek,I have paid attention and now assert that blunt creek and the surrounding areas are under invasion.

The first invader, oddly enough, is Spring. That is spring like temperatures. On the 27th of January, the high temperature was eighty-three degrees. The trees and foliage, which had just recently put on their winter coats and turned brown, were now all sorts of colors. It was like the part was caught between Winter, Fall and Spring. Some flowers were blooming, some trees were losing their leaves, the squirrels were out gathering acorns, an activity I believe to be one done in the fall due to all of my disney exposure.


The next invader affects our beautiful state plant, the prickly pear part of the genus Opuntia. At first, I was surprised to see so many cacti around Blunt Creek because it is a creek area, would there not be too much water causing the cacti to rot? True to their nature, the cacti closer to the creek tended not to bare fruit, only as one climbs higher to you realize that this is actually the iconic cactus of Texas. But, as I have stated, this blog is about invasion, and true to my word I noticed much more about the cacti throughout Blunt Creek. I have always been curious about disease in plants and am a failed gardener, so I quickly noticed that much of the cacti in the Blunt Creek area has been infected by two main diseases.

One, commonly known as dry rot, comes from the fungus Phyllosticta concava, shows as black spots on the surface tissue of the cactus. This is troubling because this infection starts in the soil, meaning once one cactus shows signs of the disease, all are virtually infected in their roots. The other disease I saw was scorch or sunscald which is caused by the fungus Hendersonia opuntiae, This disease makes the cactus “crack”, first starting in a grayish brown circle, then spreads to the rest of the cactus causing it to rot into brown mush.

This fungus is more troubling than the last because there is not protocol in treating it, at least for dry rot, you can take the infected plant out, then treat the soil with fungicide and hope you were in time to save the rest of the cacti. But to me this bring up an interesting point. Nature is not like a garden, It is a harsh and cruel place, like in Blunt Creek, no one is going to go into the park and treat the cacti. No one will nurse them back to health. They will die. As nature intended them too. Does that make disease in plants something we should cure or let play out with hopes that stronger plants will come from it? This reminds me of a quote from A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold “under each of the needles of yesterday fall to earth building a blanket of smokey gold; at the tip of bud of tomorrow, performed, poised, awaits another spring” (58). Are the cacti in Blunt Creek better off dying with the hope that a few of the strongest will survive to create a park full of beautiful red prickly pears? I guess that is debatable.

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