Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday afternoon Nina picture

Random plant event: Monstera deliciosa cuttings rooting

This is not a huge accomplishment -- Monstera deliciosa is really easy to root in water -- but something about the way the picture came out, and a complete inability to get decent pictures of my first choice for a post today (Anthurium flowers are impossible indoors: any direct source of light throws patches of glare all over the damn things), made me think this would make an okay post.

I was wrong, of course. The picture is not nearly as good as it seemed initially. But this still represents a personal accomplishment of sorts: I've been needing to do something with the parent plant of these cuttings for over a year, and kept putting it off because I didn't want to wrestle with repotting it (which is what it really needs), and these cuttings mean that at the very least, I've managed to restart the plant. Takes some of the pressure off w/r/t the parent.

Friday, November 20, 2009

List: Houseplants Native to Mexico

This is not even remotely an exhaustive list: Mexico is big, and diverse, and is home to a substantial chunk of the world's succulents, and a really stupidly large percentage of the world's cacti. Also, the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts both straddle the U.S.-Mexico border, so some of their plants do as well, which means that some of these "Mexican" plants might be perfectly normal residents of the U.S. too. Which is fine. They can do that if they want.

As before, I'm happy to add additional plants to the list, if anybody wants to suggest any in comments.

Astrophytum myriostigma (bishop's-cap cactus).

Beaucarnea recurvata (ponytail palm).

Chamaedorea metallica (metallica palm).

Echinocactus grusonii (golden barrel cactus).

Pedilanthus tithymaloides (devil's backbone).

Sedum morganianum (burro's tail, donkey tail).

Selenicereus chrysocardium (fern-leaf cactus). Also Central America.

Tradescantia zebrina cv. (wandering Jew)

Vanilla planifolia, variegated (vanilla orchid). Also in Central America, I believe.

Zamia furfuracea (carboard palm).

As far as a favorite three of these goes, well, longtime readers will not be surprised to find out that Pedilanthus tithymaloides is number one. After that it gets hard to pick, since I have all but one of these (I don't own a Vanilla) and like most of them. But the #2, 3, and 4 spots would go to Chamaedorea metallica, Astrophytum myriostigma, and Selenicereus chrysocardium, not necessarily in that order.

Not pictured:
Agave americana (also United States)
Agave attenuata (foxtail agave)
Agave victoriae-reginae (also United States)
Astrophytum ornatum
Beloperone guttata (shrimp plant)
Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm)
Echeveria spp. (some spp.)
Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia)
Graptopetalum paraguayense (ghost plant)
Mammillaria spp. (some spp.)
Pinguicula spp. (butterworts) (some spp.)
Sedum rubrotinctum (jellybean plant)
Tradescantia pallida (purple heart, purple queen)
Yucca guatemalensis (spineless yucca; still called by its old name, Y. elephantipes, quite a bit) (also Central America)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unfinished business: Cycas revoluta thingies

A few days ago, I posted a Question for the Hive Mind about weird growths at the base of my Cycas revoluta, and was advised to get a better picture. Which I've done, though it's too late (and opinions may differ on whether or not it's better), since I found out what they were already. But here it is anyway:

Yes, this blows up bigger if opened in a separate window.

So let's start with the basics. Cycads are, botanically speaking, plants in the order Cycadales: as far as houseplants go, the important cycads are the genera Cycas (sago palms) and Zamia (cardboard palms). If other cycads are kept as houseplants, I haven't heard about it.

As Diane said in the comments on the post last Saturday, cycads (all of them, apparently) have a symbiotic relationship with some cyanobacteria, which means that the plants and bacteria both benefit from their association with one another. The cyanobacteria live within the cycad's roots, and convert atmospheric nitrogen (which the plant can't do anything with) into ammonium ion (which the plant can use to build proteins and stuff). I'm less clear about what the cyanobacteria get out of the deal: I had my whole aha! moment at about 10 PM last night and am kind of scrambling to get a post together at the last minute, so I'm doing a lot of skimming. Presumably the cyanobacteria are getting something. Let's just leave it at that.

My understanding is that all cycads grow roots like I was asking about, which are called apogeotropic precoralloids, whether or not there are any cyanobacteria around. Most of the roots don't do this; only a small percentage of them do.

So then eventually a cycad and a cyanobacterium meet, and if they decide that they love one another very much, the cyanobacterium moves into the precoralloids, and then the plant turns the precoralloids into coralloids. I'm unclear about what that means, but it's obviously the most important day in any young cyanobacterium's life. Probably there is cake.

If you want to poke around in semi-impenetrable scientific language and not-great webpage design, here's where I found this all out. I will no doubt wind up revisiting it all myself, whenever I get around to writing a Cycas or Zamia profile, but for right now I'm just happy to have found out that, A), these freaky things are supposed to be on my plant, and B) serve some kind of purpose which I can try to comprehend later.

The apogeotropic precoralloids are probably not supposed to be above the surface of the soil. I should cover them. This isn't a particularly good time, though. Right now, I've had a long day and really just want to get to sleep. So I will.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pretty picture: Colmanara Wildcat 'Bobcat'

This is a really old picture, dating back to the bygone days of 2007. (How innocent we all were!) I've had it sitting around so long that I'm no longer quite sure why I didn't use it then, but I suspect the issue is that I either didn't think the quality was quite up to par (the image has faint vertical lines in it, which is something my camera used to do before I figured out how to take pictures with it not doing that) or that the flowers themselves were too similar to some other flowers I'd taken pictures of recently. I really don't remember for sure. Doesn't matter.

This is the only Colmanara I've ever seen. Other pictures I ran into on-line for this particular cross mostly appear to be a little less ruffly and a little less yellow than is shown in my picture. I couldn't tell you if this plant was different because it was mistagged (always a possibility) or cultivated differently or what. Maybe they're just variable.

Multigeneric orchids like Colmanara are usually given three names: the first (Colmanara) tells you which genera of orchid were involved in the cross (here, Oncidium, Odontoglossum, and Miltonia). The second name (Wildcat) describes a particular cross between two parents, which in this case refers to Odontonia Rustic Bridge (Odontonia = Odontoglossum x Miltonia) and Odontocidium Crowborough (Odontocidium = Odontoglossum x Oncidium). Any given cross may produce thousands of seeds, and each of the seeds, because it has inherited a slightly different batch of genes, may be subtly different from all of the others. The third name ('Bobcat') refers to a plant grown from a particular one of those seeds; all the 'Bobcat' specimens out there are clones from that one original plant.

Orchid genealogy is not a particularly interesting subject to me, but obviously both of 'Bobcat's parents were crosses as well, so the hybridization could easily go back several generations before one hits any actual species. Orchid fanciers do like to fiddle with things.

The reason why orchid names are often so weird (See the post about Goodaleara Pacific Truffle 'Surrogate Star' for complaining about weird orchid variety names. Also it's a nice flower in its own right, and is worth the trip.) is because, clearly, at some point one just runs out of descriptive words and has to resort to paging through the dictionary. I fully expect to see a Beallara Truckasaurus Matisse 'Ninja Breath' at some point very soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

List: Houseplants With Fuzzy or Hairy Leaves

This is the first of the list posts, as described last week. I'm not sure how useful or interesting this will be to anybody, but I do get hits from time to time from people who are wanting plants with specific characteristics (plants from Southeast Asia, plants with pink leaves, plants that stay tall and narrow), so I thought I could do some posts on those kinds of topics every once in a while. The reason I didn't start doing this immediately upon having the idea was that I figured at the bare minimum I should have pictures of the plants in question. So I've spent a long time taking pictures. Not finished with that, but finished enough to be able to do this set, so there you go.

I don't intend to make any of these lists exhaustive: all I promise is ten per category. However, I'll add to the text at the end if anybody wants to suggest additional plants in the comments. Also if anybody has any suggestions for ways to make these more useful or interesting that don't involve a lot of additional work, that would be welcome too.

Abutilon x 'Bella Pink.' (flowering maple)

Echeveria pulvinata 'Frosty.'

Gynura aurantiaca. (purple passion plant)

Kalanchoe tomentosa. (panda plant)

Plectranthus oertendahlii.

Saintpaulia ionantha cvv. (African violet)

Saxifraga stolonifera. (strawberry begonia)

Streptocarpus 'Tanager.' (cape primrose)

Tradescantia sillamontana. (kitten ears)

Tolmiea menziesii. (piggyback plant)

My favorite of these plants is easily Saxifraga stolonifera, with Plectranthus oertendahlii and Gynura aurantiaca coming in second and third. All three are pretty easy to grow and propagate (though watering can be a little tricky with Gynura).

Not pictured:
Begonia rex-cultorum (some cvv.)
Cyanotis kewensis (teddy bear plant)
Cyanotis somaliensis (=Tradescantia somaliensis) (also "kitten ears")
Datura metel (angel's trumpet, devil's trumpet, downy thorn apple)
Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'
Plectranthus amboinicus (Cuban oregano)
Sinningia cvv. (florist's gloxinia)
Tetrastigma voinierianum (chestnut vine)
Tradescantia pallida (purple heart, purple queen)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pretty picture: Schlumbergera NOID flower

And now we come to #3 in the Schlumbergera blooming show this year. The first one, the pink-and-white one, is already basically over: there's one bud still on it, but it only ever produced three buds, so that show is nearly over. The 'Caribbean Dancer' will keep going for a while, though lately some of the buds have been falling off (because it's upset with me for trying to get a picture of it for the yearbook?). The third and final bloom is going to be another short-termer, but I'm at least happy that the plant did turn out to be sort of peach-colored after all.

For various reasons, the photo is kinda weird-looking, but the light orange here really is more or less the color. I was expecting pinker (it was supposed to be "salmon"), but don't mind this at all.

I wasn't sure about this, because during Christmas last year, I broke a piece off of one plant from work, which had "salmon" flowers, and I also brought home a chunk of plant that I'd found lying on the table, with unknown-colored flowers. When I planted them both, they both hung on for a while, but one of them eventually died. By the time this happened, I could no longer remember which was the peach/salmon one and which was the unknown one (they were both the same size, four segments, and I put them both in pots of the same size, shape, and color, so the bloom color was the only way to tell them apart), so until this actually bloomed, I knew I either had a peach/salmon one or a random other color, but wasn't sure which it was going to be.

I'll be watching for some discounted Schlumbergeras in the stores after Christmas: I'm all in favor of getting low-cost, easily-propagatable, relatively easy to grow plants that produce pretty flowers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Music video: "Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga)

I wasn't previously a fan of Lady Gaga's: I'd either pretty much missed ("Poker Face") or heard but not cared about ("Paparazzi") her previous stuff, but this I like. A lot of artists would have done three or four costume changes and called it a day: the sixteen I actually count in the video1 would be unthinkable -- and they're also all very complex and detailed: it's not like she threw on a different t-shirt and called it a costume change. Plus remember that most of these are going to require the scene to be relit, her hair and makeup to be redone, and multiple takes for each shot.

I mean, you don't have to like her, or the video, but you can't deny that she's working hard.

Of course, there will at some point have to be a plant profile based on Lady Gaga as the "person,"2 but I'm unable to think of a plant weird enough to withstand the comparison. Not a houseplant, anyway. Maybe Drosera. Any suggestions?


11) Opening gold triangular thing w/ razor-blade sunglasses.
2) White plastic "Slim Jim" outfit.
3) Wide-eyed strawberry blonde in the bathtub w/ translucent white plastic (?) top.
4) All-black outfit with black "Slim Jim" headpiece.
5) Close-up shots of crying blonde Gaga with (sometimes) a snake skull (?) on her head.
6) Diamond crown + white boots + brown and black blanket/coat.
7) #6 without the blanket/coat.
8) Naked with snake-head (cat head? bat head? WTF is that?) in "shower."
9) #7 without the diamond crown.
10) Black mask and lingerie surrounded by diamonds.
11) Silver "gyroscope."
12) Terrifying green iridescent/metallic thing with the shoes. (Possibly appears later looking bluer -- or maybe that's a different outfit entirely.)
13) Floor-length white fur coat with bear-head train and large sunglasses.
14) Red "Fifth Element" bandage outfit.
15) #13 without coat = white lingerie + heavily caked-on mascara + a white rat (mouse?) on her head (!).
16) Sparky.
My favorites are 3, 5, and 14: don't ask me to pick one.
2 After all, I did it for Amy Winehouse. Fair is fair.

Pretty picture: Begonia assortment

This is an old picture from work of some vile Rieger Begonias. It's not a great picture, but I didn't have a lot of time to look for a better one in the archives, and I'm not a fan of Rieger Begonias anyway, so this is probably as good as it gets.