Saturday, February 28, 2009

By request: Coffea arabica

In the comments on the Coffea arabica profile post, Anonymous has asked for a picture of my plant now, as opposed to the picture that was there previously, which was from October 2007.

I'm afraid the comparison isn't very good.



Some of this is the season: it dropped leaves during the winter of '07-'08, and then dropped another round this past winter. I'm not sure it's finished, actually, with the leaf-dropping. But if I remember right, the leaf-dropping stopped at more or less the precise moment when new growth started up, and we do have new growth on it now. It's even branching, which I guess is good. I'm not sure.

In any case. Under good conditions, they're fast-growing, but apparently my apartment is not what the plant considers good conditions. Not really surprising.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Random plant event: Euphorbia drupifera flowers

We've seen this before; I posted about this exact same plant about a year ago, before I even knew for sure what it was. But I'm posting it again, because 1) I only have so many things to post about, 2) it's moderately impressive, maybe, that I've convinced the plant to rebloom, and 3) I'm better with the camera now than I was then, so I can do closeups that I wasn't capable of then.

This is the same plant I took the pictures of a year ago: it just lives with me now. Last year, it continued to form new blooms for quite a while, and eventually developed little branched sprays of flowers, not individual ones like in these pictures. (For some reason, I was not motivated to take pictures of the multiples.) It remains to be seen whether this will happen with the plant now that it's out of a greenhouse, but if it was happy enough to flower in the first place, I suppose we can't rule out continued blooms. I don't remember how long the blooming lasted last year, but it seemed like it went on forever.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I had an idea today that I was immensely proud of. The perfect cultivar name for the next big variety of Angelonia is:






Angelonia 'Jolie.'

Please, someone, make this happen for me.

Pretty picture: Nematanthus NOID flowers

Until I started my current job, I had no idea that Nematanthus flowers were ever any color but orange. But not only can they be orange, they're sometimes pink:

and every once in a while, they can even be tiger-striped:

Which is awfully cool of them.

I've bought a pink one from work, and brought home a tiger-striped cutting, but so far, only the tiger-striped one has bloomed. The pink one is maybe not in the best spot, but I think it's getting a lot of fluorescent light where it is, so I'm puzzled that it can't bring itself to give me even one flower.

I'm sure we'll work something out sooner or later. It seems like the kind of plant that could be reasoned with.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mashup of note

Check out this page: the first mp3 download on it is The Bootleague's "Groove is in the Black Hole Sun," which combines the vocals from "Black Hole Sun" (Soundgarden) with the music from "Groove is in the Heart" (Dee-Lite) to create something remarkably different from either. Chris Cornell has never sounded more cheerful.

Fictional botany: Schizocaulus resectus

404 plant (Schizocaulus resectus) is a quick-growing, rhizomatous perennial native to Central and Southeast Asia. The fleshy, spoon-shaped leaves emerge from beneath the soil singly, dying back with the onset of the dry season. Leaves are typically about 4 inches (10 cm) in length: they are green on the upper side and orange on the lower.

The rhizome grows quickly beneath the soil, and is capable of covering as much as eight feet (2.4 m) in a single season. It also branches at regular points along its length. With the onset of the dry season, much of the rhizome dies back, leaving only the last six inches (15 cm) or so of each branch. These points lie dormant in the ground until the rains return. Repeated cycles of this type can leave acres of land covered in Schizocaulus, until a surviving tree seedling manages to grow tall enough to begin shading it out: Schizocaulus is not shade-tolerant.

404 plant is not well-suited for garden or container culture. Though the leaves are attractive, its habit of rapid spread, followed by die-back, makes it difficult to contain in a garden. In the few instances where it has been deliberately cultivated as an ornamental, it has not come up in the same place from year to year, or has reappeared in undesired locations (such as a neighbor's yard), which limits its usefulness to most gardeners.

The plant flowers in mid-summer, on spikes of small orange flowers about six inches (15 cm) tall. They are pollinated primarily by bees and other insects. Seeds are shiny, oval, and black, about 1/4 inch (5 mm) in length.

Schizocaulus resectus has obvious invasive potential, and its transport is heavily regulated. The dried rhizomes are edible, with a mild bitter-savory taste, and find occasional use in cooking. Dried rhizomes so used may still resprout if wet, so one should freeze or grate rhizomes before putting them in the trash, to prevent introducing the plant to a new habitat via landfill. Leaves are non-poisonous but unpalatable to people and most animals: the only species known to consume the leaves in the wild are a handful of turtle species in Pakistan and India, and it does not appear to be a major food source for them.

The common name originates from internet culture, and refers to its changeable location: a "404 error" is when the client is unable to find a web page because it has been moved or deleted.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pretty picture: Fenestraria rhopalophylla flower

This is an old picture: Fenestraria, like Lithops spp. (to which they are related), are fall bloomers. This picture is from last October 25.

As I recall, they were blooming when they came in, and the excitement was kind of short-lived: within about a week, the blooms were over, and we didn't even get that full week, because they're one of those flowers that won't open all the way if it's cloudy. Still kind of cool, though.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Work-related: Vermiculite (Schefflera propagation)

I was never a big fan of vermiculite until fairly recently. I didn't dislike vermiculite; I just never saw the point of using it for anything, because what could vermiculite do that perlite couldn't? It's too compact, and breaks down too fast, to be useful for lightening a heavy soil mix, and if you want to make a mix more moisture-retentive, there are a lot of simpler options. So vermiculite just seemed redundant.

But I have now discovered one area where vermiculite is far superior to perlite or anything else: starting cuttings of species that don't like to start from cuttings. We've gotten about 55-60% success with geraniums (as opposed to about 30%, maybe less, with direct-sticking cuttings into potting mix); we've gotten six or seven plantlets off of single Saintpaulia (African violet) leaves, repeatedly (as opposed to attempts that either fail completely or only produce one or two plantlets, from soil or water); and now this.

The story is that someone brought us a Schefflera arboricola they no longer wanted and told us to do whatever we liked with it, salvage, resell, whatever. WCW cut it to bits and planted about 25 cuttings in vermiculite, which on Saturday I sorted through the pieces and got five plants out that had rooted. 20% success may not sound that great, but this is the first time we've ever gotten Schefflera cuttings to do anything but die, and we've tried a number of times before.1

Not only that, but we weren't even trying terribly hard. A lot of our cuttings are just scraps of whatever that WCW or I think might be worth something, someday, but then we don't necessarily have the time to follow through with the care, so they get watered haphazardly, sometimes get moved around into bad locations, etc. With the above geraniums and African violets, we were making an effort to remember to water properly, but watering the Scheffleras was sort of an afterthought if it was ever a thought at all. So five of them making it, and not just making it but doing well (look at that rootball! And it wasn't even the most impressive one!), is kind of amazing given the circumstances.

Vermiculite: is there anything it can't do?


1 More from a waste-not-want-not mentality than any urgent need to have more Schefflera arboricolas. They do sell, but not fast enough that we're in danger of running out.
I don't even especially like the species. S. actinophylla is the more interesting plant to me, possibly because it was around when I was a kid and arboricola wasn't. They both suck compared to S. elegantissima, though elegantissima is not much to look at either, unless several plants are planted closely together.
In any case, now that I've seen this, I respect S. arboricola more, and I brought one of the cuttings home with me. We'll see if being around it makes me like the species better.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pretty picture: Petunia 'Potunia Strawberry' flower

The plugs are beginning to come in, and for me, lately, everything's been about trying to squeeze the tropicals into smaller and smaller spaces so we have room for the plugs we're transplanting. This is difficult.

The plugs really ought to be too young to try to flower, but they do anyway. The lighting was weird on this one (yellowish, from one of the grow lights: the flower is really more of a bubblegum-wrapper pink, not the orange it appears to be in the photo). This is a new variety for us, or at least it's a variety we weren't carrying last year: these 'Potunias' look pretty normal so far: if there's something special about them, I haven't seen it yet.

But still. It's the first Petunia of the year, and (unlike many people) I like Petunias, so it's noteworthy to me.