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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
up vote 2 down vote accepted

It appears to me that you've got more than one thing going on here. "Corking" for sure and in the lowest photo of spots, that looks like physical damage. I've found a great site for you to pursue and more closely identify your problems/questions. Other general information I think all cactus owners should know. Let us know what you decided and what you plan to do, before you do it and we'll be better able to help. cactus fungus and disease

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Stormy, would you consider adding more information on this? Also, part of the question was "what I can do about it (natural methods only please - I don't use commercial gardening products)?". You should try to cover that in your answer, as well. – J. Musser Aug 26 '14 at 2:36

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