Of mealy bugs and powdery mildew
Once upon a time, I had a comely cactus…
|Mammillaria bocensis right after I got it from IKEA of all places|
…and a lovely leafy plant.
|Bloody dock (Rumex sanguineus)|
Both were the picture of health.
Then came the evil forces in white.
|Mealy bug secretions on Mammillaria bocensis|
|The larger hairy tufts are OK, they are a normal part of the cactus anatomy; |
the smaller “pillows” are mealy bug secretions
|Notice the whitish powder on the Rumex sanguineus|
|That’s classic powdery mildew|
|Short of bringing out the chemical arsenal, cutting off the affected leaves is all you can do|
Mealy bugs are fairly common here in the summer when the humidity is low. Isopropyl alcohol seems to be quite effective on isolated outbreaks, but this cactus was so infested that I decided to toss it. (Yes, I admit it, I’m just a fair-weather gardener. A real gardener would have tried to remove the infestation and save the cactus. But I recently spent a goodly amount of time scraping off cochineal scale from a Santa Rita prickly pear so I didn’t have the patience and energy.)
Powdery mildew, on the other hand, is a fungal disease. Most experts recommend discarding the infected plant, but I’m not ready to let go of my bloody dock (what a devilishly fun name!) so I simply cut off the affected leaves. I’m not at all certain that the new leaves will be fine, but it’s worth taking a chance.
Talk about having double standards, but I guess I’m more attached to the bloody dock than to the bloody cactus :-).