Saturday, March 7, 2009

Site-related: Blogger issues

Ordinarily I write posts in advance and then have them post at 4:30 AM my time, which up until today Blogger has allowed me to do. That's not working now, though (the QFTHM about the bonsai was actually supposed to go up tomorrow). It remains to be seen what effects, if any, this will have on subsequent posting.

Between this and my new cold, which is adding new unpleasant symptoms at an alarming rate, I'm getting the strong impression that maybe today wasn't worth getting out of bed for.

UPDATE: Figured it out. It wasn't that Blogger was having issues, it's that I was. I was trying to set the post for 2:30 AM (I have to schedule it according to Pacific Time, for reasons I've never understood clearly) on Sunday, 8 March 2009, but there will be no 2:30 AM on Sunday because that's the hour that gets skipped when we move clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time. Because I was trying to set up posts for a time that wasn't going to exist, the timed-post field wasn't updating the time field when I changed it.

Question for the Hive Mind: Bonsai flower

Last week was New Plants Week: a new batch of tropicals came in, including some of the most awesome Anthuriums you've ever seen (which will be a separate post later), and among them were some 4" bonsai plants. No IDs on them, unfortunately, but one of them had this lovely flower:

It looked a little goofy on the plant. Bonsai is supposed to be all about creating the illusion of a radically scaled-down tree, and if the tree in question was your standard 20-30 foot (6-9 m) tree, then the flower, proportionately, would have been a completely unrealistic five or six feet (1.5-1.8 m) across. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to have bothered anybody, because it sold within three hours of getting it tagged and put out in the greenhouse.

Anyway. So the overall plant is pictured below. Anybody know what it is?

UPDATE: The plant has been identified by Sheila Peterson in the comments as Grewia occidentalis.

Pretty picture: Bougainvillea NOID

I believe I'm coming down with a cold. Sore throat all day yesterday, coughing, sneezing, swollen lymph nodes, etc. This kinda sucks. Let's try not to expect too much from the blogging for the next few days.

But you're here for the plant, so:

I'm not a big fan of Bougainvillea. They drop bracts everywhere in the greenhouse, and they have thorns that are sharp enough to stab me through jeans at work, both of which make it difficult to find suitable places to display them. (That second problem also comes up with Pandanus spp., screw pines.) They are colorful, though, which I suppose is a positive. I don't know anybody who grows them indoors (not even WCW!), though I've had customers buy them with that intent. None of them have ever reported back to tell me how it went, though.

Friday, March 6, 2009

[Exceptionally] Pretty pictures: transmitted light -- Part VII

Transmitted light time again. This is maybe not the most impressive batch, but there are still some nice ones.

(See the other transmitted light posts here.)

Ardisia elliptica. The speckles are apparently a normal part of Ardisia leaves. Other pictures, and other species, have shown the same thing.

Pedilanthus tithymaloides. Nearly impossible shot to get (the leaves are thick, making the image muddy, and they're small, too, which means most of the attempts had big flares that washed out what little detail I could get through the leaf anyway), and possibly not really worth it. But oh well.

Ludisia discolor. This one was actually unusually difficult, too: any light source bright enough to highlight the veins properly was so bright that it flared and washed out the rest of the image. Plus the leaves are small, and so you have to have the camera very close to the leaf to prevent flaring, but then it winds up too close to focus. This isn't an especially good shot, but it's the best of, like, several hundred thousand attempts.

Ficus religiosa. My one seedling still survives. I think we only wound up with one survivor at work, too, and the customer who bought it introduced herself as such the other day. Hers is still alive too.

Ficus triangularis. Can't say the same for the triangularis, though. It was in crappy, peaty soil when I bought it, and I should have repotted, but I didn't, so it eventually dried out one too many times and died. We have two at work now that were potted together from 4-inch plants like the one I bought, and they're actually looking pretty awesome right now. I'm not tempted to buy, but I'm impressed with what they can do if you give them decent care. I should get pictures.

Begonia NOID. Subtle, but kind of interesting. It's slightly larger and more focused if opened in a new window.

Tradescantia zebrina. This was, like, the luckiest of all lucky shots ever, I think: somehow I managed to catch the light at exactly the right angle to light up all these . . . what are they? Pores, maybe? Whatever they are, I've tried to duplicate the shot since, and it hasn't worked out. So this one is totally my favorite from this post.

Dracaena reflexa 'Riki.' The venation isn't really anything to get excited about, but I like these colors. Why more people don't have 'Rikis' mystifies me.

Colocasia NOID. Or maybe it's an Alocasia. I haven't figured out how to tell them apart yet.

Calathea ornata. (new leaf) The old leaves are too dark to see through very well; this was the only way I could get a clear image that included the pink lines.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Epipremnum or Philodendron?

So, okay, dear readers, I haven't posted the Philodendron hederaceum profile just yet, even though it's been in the sidebar as the next profile for, like, weeks now. There are lots of good reasons for this, which are not likely to be that interesting to you but are totally valid. (I'm still working on it. It'll happen soonish. It's done, as of 16 March 2009.)


I've decided to take this piece out of the profile and give it its own post, because it'll shorten the actual profile and because it's also a small, manageable subject that comes up a lot. And the subject is, how do you tell the difference between a pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)?

So here we go, a trivial problem solved in seven easy steps (though most of the time you'll only need one or two of these to be able to make the call: #s 2, 6, and 7 are fairly decisive):

1. If the new leaves are glossy, the plant is probably an Epipremnum. If new leaves are matte, the plant is probably a Philodendron.

Epipremnum is on the left, Philodendron on the right, for all of these photos.

2. If the new leaves are folded along the midrib, the plant is probably an Epipremnum. Philodendron leaves are pretty much flat for the leaf's entire life.

3. If there is variegation in the leaves, Epipremnum leaves will have finer details, including tiny dots and streaks. Philodendron variegation has cleaner lines and is less intricate. (This has become less decisive since I first wrote this post: it's still generally true, but I have found a speckly Philodendron, which is still very uncommon in retail as far as I've seen, probably because the variegation isn't very stable and tends to disappear, and a non-speckly Epipremnum by the name of 'N'Joy,' which is getting to be fairly common in stores. I think we'll be seeing new non-speckly Epipremnums in the future, from what I've seen on-line from plant breeders. So don't rely too heavily on this one.)

4. There is also a subtle difference in the leaf tips: Philodendrons have a more exaggerated "drip tip," an extension of the end of the leaf which must serve some purpose, but which has never really been satisfactorily explained to me. Something about enabling the leaves to shed water more quickly or something. Epipremnums (and most other members of the Araceae, actually) also have these, but they're less prominent.

5. If the new growth is the same color as the old, or only slightly lighter, it's an Epipremnum. New Philodendron hederaceum1 leaves tend to be reddish, especially if the plant is in good light. I.e., the plain green variety starts out slightly olive; the yellow variety starts out reddish or orangish, etc.

6. If the petioles2 are grooved, it's an Epipremnum. Petioles which are smooth along their whole length belong to Philodendron.

7. If developing leaves are protected by a sheath, which later dries up and falls off, you have a Philodendron. If there's no sheath, it's an Epipremnum.

Does it actually matter which is which? Well, yes and no. Both plants are pretty long-suffering, vining plants with heart-shaped leaves.3 In general, if conditions are acceptable to grow one, the other would also grow there, but in some situations one or the other is preferable: Epipremnum handles neglect, low light, and dry heat better, for example. Philodendron has a slight edge when it comes to propagation, cooler temperatures,4 and overwatering. Both would prefer more light than they usually end up getting, though Philodendron, at least, will sunburn if the light is too bright: I've never known Epipremnum to burn, but the leaves get black tips and margins if it's too wet or if there's root damage (among other reasons).

There are also certain long-term differences in appearance, and if you can convince them to climb something, there will be even bigger differences in appearance: Philodendron leaves develop a velvety texture (eventually), and Epipremnum leaves get Monstera-like perforations.

I feel like being able to call things by their actual names should be a good enough reason to learn the difference all by itself, but then, I'm pedantic that way sometimes.


Photo credits: all mine.

1 I have to specify hederaceum because this is specific to it. Among Philodendrons in general, new growth is frequently redder or lighter, but not necessarily.
2 Petiole is a botany vocabulary word for the stem-like structure connecting the leaf to the actual main stem. They could have just called it "stem," but then people would have to spend a lot of time specifying which stem, over and over, and there'd be confusion, cats lying with dogs, and all that, so a new word was invented for this particular kind of stem. This is how jargon gets born, and it doesn't have to be any more intimidating to you than you want it to be.
3 (or kinda heart-shaped: with Epipremnum, the smaller leaves are usually more or less oval or lens-shaped, and they'll only appear to be heart-shaped from certain angles because the leaf is folded down the midvein. Very large, mature Epipremnum leaves are heart-shaped, but those are uncommon indoors.)
4 Though neither plant particularly likes cooler temperatures, pothos seems to be the only one that actually starts to freak out if it gets too cold: the Philodendron just sort of stops growing for a while. Pothos is especially touchy, in my experience, about getting watered with cold water, which is a problem every winter at work because we can't control the water temperature. So it alternates between drought and freezing all winter long, and then starts to recover when the cold water out of the tap warms up. The Philodendrons probably don't like the cold either, but they're less vocal about it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pretty picture: Scilla NOID Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica

One of our suppliers sells us pre-made bulb gardens from time to time, which usually contain some daffodils (often Narcissus 'Tete a Tete'), some Crocuses, and some Scillas Puschkinias. I see lots of the daffodils, and quite a few Crocuses, but by the time the Scilla Puschkinia flowers open, the pot has already sold, or else work is crazy and I just can't get a moment to stop and take a picture. And then the pot sells. The stars aligned last Friday, though, and we had a bloom and a spare moment, so now there's a picture.

Picture can be viewed much larger if opened in a new window.

I'm glad I got it: in person, I'd never noticed some of the details, like the stripe down the center of the petals. And how often do you see blue pollen?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Unfinished business: Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Mini'

In the Zamioculcas zamiifolia profile, I mentioned the existence of a 'Mini' cultivar. (I called it 'Zamicro,' because that's the name the article I found mentioned, but I think 'Mini' is the same thing, or at least close to it.) Didn't have pictures, still haven't seen one in person, but I have a picture second-hand from Florida to show y'all. 'Mini' is on the left, and the regular ZZ plant is on the right.

Photo: B.J. Knapp. Used by permission. Click for larger view.

We're going to be getting some of these at some point (Juneish?), I'm pretty sure, though from the photo I can't really tell whether I'll like them or not. I was expecting just a ZZ, but smaller: this actually has leaflets about the same size as usual, but the growth habit is slightly different. I must have one, but I'm not sure if I like it necessarily. Though I don't hate it either. I don't know. What do y'all think?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pretty picture: Aeschynanthus speciosus flowers

I was getting a little worried about the Aeschynanthus: I posted at the end of December when we had a few flowers from one of these plants, but since then I've been getting kind of worried about them, because we had those few flowers I took the picture of, and then -- nothing. For what seemed like quite a while. In my memory, these were blooming pretty steadily from about Christmas onward last year, for more or less the whole winter.

But it turns out they were just late, it looks like: we're getting blooms now again, and I'm seeing my first ones at home, too. Possibly they weren't getting enough light before now, too: we had them under some hanging baskets of Plectranthus verticillatus (Swedish ivy) until a little while ago, and maybe they were being shaded out. But anyway. Now I have my very own personal flowers, which is the occasion for the post.

And yes, they really are this orange in person. Oranger, possibly.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Coming Attractions

This morning before work, I went to and bought some stuff, which I'm sure will eventually result in some blog posts somewhere down the road.

Gratuitous Cryptanthus 'Black Mystic' flower shot. I know the file name says 'Black Magic.' I can't seem to ever get that right the first time. I'm not even sure there's a difference, from what comes up with Google image searches.

I've decided that the plant-toxicity list is just not going to be accomplishable without help, so I purchased Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants (Lewis S. Nelson and several others), and pre-ordered Wicked Plants: A Book of Botanical Atrocities (Amy Stewart, nemesis de moi), the latter in hardback, even, so it'd better be good or I'm gonna be pissed and I'll say mean, mean things about her. I'm not necessarily expecting Stewart to have anything to say on the subject of houseplants, but perhaps she'll throw me a bone or something and mention Dieffenbachia, which is poisonous in a cinematic enough way that it wouldn't be out of place. Failing that, I'll accept a brief note about poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). But there'd better at least be poinsettias.

There's also an even cooler and more expensive third thing, which ought to be good for weeks of blog posts at some point or another, but unfortunately it's sooooooo incredibly (potentially) cool that I can't tell you what it is. I'll give you a hint, though: of the things I do at PATSP, it's most closely related to the transmitted light photography.

Of course, this is all assuming that I manage to remain upright and functional during the spring. We can't assume that just because I survived last year, I'll make it through this year too. I hate spring with a passion exceeded only by my hatred for summer. (And actually, dealing with the poinsettias in the winter's not great either. And early fall is awfully close to summer, really, a lot of the time. So basically I like October, and I like January, and the rest of the year can go to hell. )


N.b.: I was not compensated for advertising any of the above products, nor for advertising, and rest assured that if, once I get them, I think they suck, you'll hear about it, I can just about promise. But for now, I'm excited.

I should probably also note for the record that although I'm not lying that I'll say so if I don't like Wicked Plants, I'm not especially worried. Flower Confidential was good, after all.

Unfinished business: Kalanchoe thyrsifolia flowers

Back in early December, I reported that we had a Kalanchoe thyrsifolia that had started to bloom. Well, it's still blooming now, but the old flowers aren't drying up and falling off like they would on most plants: they're hanging around. Not sure what's going on -- they don't seem to be doing anything in particular -- but it makes for a dramatic picture. This is best when opened in a new window.