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I've had this pair of fairy castle cacti for several years now, and they've done fairly well. However, I noticed today that they have developed brown patches over most of their stems and a few areas have a sort of crackled look. I can't say exactly how long it took for this to develop, but I didn't notice it on the last watering (6-8 weeks ago).

brown patches and "crackling" (lower left and middle right) on fairy castle cactus

in some areas it looks "built up", like it could be chipped off (though I haven't tried). There are also a few very dark spots that almost look burnt, except they are on the side facing away from the window.

"burnt"-looking spots on fairy castle cactus 1

"burnt"-looking spots on fairy castle cactus 2

Any ideas on what is wrong with them, and what I can do about it (natural methods only please - I don't use commercial gardening products)?

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I was tempted to say corking (a natural process on some cacti such as prickly pears), but that is usually on the oldest bits of the stems - you've got it on the tips and in spots. So I suspect it is some kind of infection. The cuticle is then dying or if you are lucky responding in a similar way as corking so as to protect the plant. –  winwaed Sep 17 '12 at 13:36
good tips, thanks. Searching for corking did lead me to some helpful search results I wasn't getting by just searching the description of the problem, so I'm a little closer to figuring this out. –  bee.catt Sep 17 '12 at 17:05
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