Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unfinished business: Justicia scheidweileri

Just a few little things connecting to this particular plant, which seems to keep drawing my attention lately.


Last fall, I asked the hive mind for an ID for this plant:

It was on behalf of a reader, who'd written in to ask me. The plant turned out to be a Euphorbia leuconeura, and I expressed an interest in getting some seeds from the reader, the next time the plant produced some. S/He then sent me some. They didn't make it through the postal system intact, unfortunately:

But I went ahead and planted the pieces anyway, on the off chance that something might happen, and much to my astonishment and delight, something came up:

Which made me very happy. I mean, I didn't know what E. leuconeura seedlings were supposed to look like, but I knew they were supposed to have green leaves with silver/white veins, and this did, and I hadn't planted anything else there, so what else could it have been?

And so I persisted in this belief until some point last week, when I noticed that the Euphorbia was blooming. Very exciting stuff, except . . . uh-oh, that's not what Euphorbia blooms look like.

Which is how I came to realize that my Euphorbia leuconeura was actually a Justicia scheidweileri. I should probably have figured this out before now, but you know how it is. I knew it didn't look like I was expecting, but the only seeds I remember ever planting are the Euphorbia ones. I'm almost positive that the parent Justicia never lived in the basement, but that's where the seedling showed up, and although I suppose I might have planted seeds on purpose and then forgot about doing so, I don't think I knew what Justicia seeds even looked like, or had thought to try to collect them, until last week. Kind of a lot to forget, there. So you can't really blame me for assuming that the seeds I planted were the seeds that sprouted.

So. Um. If anybody has any Euphorbia leuconeura seeds sitting around that they aren't using, let me know, 'cause apparently I still need some.


I mentioned recently that I've been finding seedlings here and there of plants I suspected were Justicia scheidweileri, but I didn't have any pictures, and said I'd let you know when I did.

So now I'm letting you know.

This particular seedling is in a pot which is ordinarily about six, six and a half feet (1.8-2.0 m) away (the precise distance varies because plants don't go back in precisely the same spots when I take them down to water); in between are a number of tall Synadenium grantii and Monstera deliciosa. So this is very unlikely. I've found another one in a pot two feet (0.6 m) straight up, and several in pots closer to the plant.


After discovering the seedlings so far away from the original plant, I thought well gee, if the plant's throwing so many seeds around that I'm finding seedlings six feet away, maybe I should check and see if I can find the seeds that didn't make it to a pot, 'cause there must be tons of them.

The Justicia is on the same wire shelves as everything else, but its particular shelf has a sheet of clear acrylic on top of it, because there's a heat/air-conditioning vent under the shelves and I was trying to block the air from blowing directly on the plants. Which turns out to mean that I accidentally put a seed-catching tray underneath the plant that shoots seeds everywhere.

It turned out not to be that difficult to identify the seeds and pick them out -- they're heart-shaped, dark brown, and about 1.5 mm (about 1/16 inch) long. Behold:

So to sum up. I understood, when I first looked it up, that Justicia scheidweileri (a.k.a. Porphyrocoma pohliana) had a tendency to spread when outdoors. The surprising part is how intent on spreading it is indoors. I mean it's either 1) spread to rooms it was never even in, 2) convinced me to transport its seeds to other rooms and then wiped my memory after I planted them, or 3) both. It's a little creepy. Does seem to be a good houseplant, though. I mean, other than some wilting when it first arrived (which was fixed by moving it into a larger pot, that stays wet longer), I haven't had any problems with it, and it's bloomed for me in both natural (east window) and artificial light. No bug problems so far, it doesn't appear bothered by the humidity here (even in the winter), and the worst thing I can say about it is that it's kind of messy, with all the seeds and spent flowers everywhere. I have yet to see any of these in stores -- I gather they're considered more of an outdoor plant -- but it's not for lack of amiability on their part.


Pat said...

In some plants the seed ejection is caused by touching the capsule so the seed has a chance of being carried away to pastures new by whatever passing animal does the touching. If the animal has a habit of leaning over pots of compost for most of its waking hours so much the better. Impatiens would be a classic example.

Cute seeds. What they need is an advertising slogan and the plant can be sold by the million.

Thomas said...

I recycle soil & seed media, and sometimes I get mystery sprouts. I had Passiflora vitifolia show up that way. It took over a year to ID it. Sadly, it wouldn't bloom. Right now I've got Gloriosa superba sprouting in something I repotted two years ago (!), it must have been a tiny tuber to have missed it then. It refuses to bloom for me, and goes dormant for long stretches, but then pops up somewhere to tease me.

Tom said...

Well now I know why I saw these everywhere in the conservatory I used to volunteer in...

Anonymous said...

Justicia scheidleiri: Pod person