Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture, with bonus Question for the Hive Mind

I mentioned in the last Sheba/Nina post that the Ctenanthe burle-marxii I'd planted in there had died and I wasn't sure what I was going to replace it with.

That question has been settled, at least for the moment: I bought a Peperomia puteolata ($3 at the ex-job) to fill that space, and also put in a Canna seed just for the hell of it.

There's no picture of the latter, because it hasn't actually produced any foliage yet. I just made a hole in the seed coat, soaked it in water until I saw a root emerging, and then planted it in the terrarium, so it may or may not work. If it does work, it will either quickly become too large for the space or struggle along without enough light until I take pity on it and kill it. Not sure which way that will go. But I had a ton of seeds from last year that I never got around to starting, so I figured I may as well try that and see how it goes. Nina, I'm sure, would like something in there that's a bit more climbable.

Meanwhile, Nina is shedding her skin again.

That's not as big of an event as I've made it sound -- she does it all the time, actually -- but I don't very often get a picture of it happening. In the above, the fungusy-looking stuff in the upper left is just dead-leaf debris from the Episcia -- I'm pretty sure there's no actual fungus. The brown and green in the upper right is a Begonia 'Tiger Kitten' leaf that the crickets have eaten a hole into. When the picture was taken, Nina had only managed to clear the old skin from her face, though when I looked in again about half an hour later, none of the dead skin was there anymore.

Speaking of skin: Sheba's whole allergy situation is improving, though slowly and incompletely. We could probably be more aggressive about the Benadryl: I've been giving her 25 mg in the morning when I feed her, but she usually doesn't get a second dose. Even so, her right side is basically filled back in completely. Her left side still has some spots, but they're noticeably better than they were two weeks ago, which I suppose is something.

I also have a weed-ID question for your consideration, which may or may not be related to the Sheba-allergy stuff. When the weeds first started to come up this spring, I decided to let a couple of pokeweeds (Phytolacca americana) stay, because I think they're kind of pretty. One of the pokeweeds turned out to be something else: although the young plants looked more or less identical, and both have developed extremely thick stems (maybe 2 inches / 5 cm in diameter?), the leaves on one of them never got any bigger than about 4 inches (10 cm) long, and are narrower than those on P. americana. Also the stem has stayed green, not pink, and the flowers are tiny and white and obviously something completely different. The non-pokeweed also grew much taller (about 12-15 feet / 3.5-4.5 m), as you can see in this picture:

And here's a close-up of the flowers:

I've let it continue to grow, because . . . I don't know. After the drought got to a certain point, I kind of decided that I was happy enough to see anything growing, and I didn't care what it was. Plus I was curious about what it was going to do. The overall plant shape, and the shape of the leaves, resemble some of the Amaranthus species pictures on line, especially A. tuberculatus, A. australis, and A. cannabinus, but none of those are quite a match (maybe the flowers haven't developed enough yet, though). In any case, I'm wondering if anybody knows what this is, and whether or not it, by itself, could be causing Sheba allergy problems. The flowers are fairly small and inconspicuous, so wind-pollination wouldn't be out of the question, right? And if it's wind-pollinated, maybe it could also be allergenic?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Random plant event: Columnea orientandina

In the beginning, there was the Columnea orientandina.

(May 2011)

It arrived in May 2011, and has been a bit up and down in the 15 months following; one of the original cuttings died, but it's flowered a few times, and it's noticeably larger than it was when it arrived, so overall I think it's doing okay.

(August 2012)

One point of interest about the plant is that it's self-fertile; the berries are pink-purple. Here's one from last August:

I wasn't prepared for this to happen, so by the time I'd found out how to germinate the seeds, the fruit had already dried up. (It might still have been possible to germinate them anyway; I didn't attempt it.) This didn't seem like a big loss, since it had flowered and fruited within a pretty short time of rooting, so I figured I'd have another chance very soon.

Eleven months later, I got the second fruit. Scooped out the seeds, stirred them around in some water to separate them from the pulp, poured them onto a paper towel to dry overnight, then sowed them on damp vermiculite in a plastic clamshell container on 19 July.

It only took 13 days for the first seeds to sprout:

(1 Aug 2012)

And by 16 August, I had about 55-60 individual seedlings:

(Not all seedlings are shown in photo.)

I don't know how many of those are going to transfer successfully to soil, so there's no telling how many new plants I'm going to wind up with when all is said and done. I should probably be hoping that most of them fail: I already have ~250 Anthurium seedlings potted up and growing, plus ~600-700 Schlumbergera and about 20 Rhipsalis NOID (R. rhombea?) seedlings started but not big enough to pot up yet. I've tried a couple times to cross Episcias as well, but, happily, they aren't cooperating. (I say that I want to reduce the number of plants I have, often and recently, but I clearly don't mean it.) We'll see how everything shakes out, I suppose.

If none of the seedlings survive the transfer, it looks like I will have another berry relatively soon to start over with; the above photo is from 23 August.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum armeniacum

Sometimes when people talk about yellow being a cheerful color, I want to counter with, oh yeah? Well what about dingy laundry? Or dying leaves?1 In this case, though, even I have to admit that this is a seriously cheerful-looking flower.

P. armeniacum is fairly new to cultivation (late 1970s / early 1980s, depending on whom you believe). I gather from some minimal googling that it's also fairly difficult to grow. There are some extremely precise recommendations here, though I can't vouch for their accuracy. P. armeniacum is also somewhat unusual in that it produces plantlets on runners, like a spider plant or strawberry begonia.2 A photo of such a runner can be found here.


1 (I actually find it extremely weird that we assign emotions and genders to specific wavelengths and intensities of light in the first place, but that's something to discuss another day, I suppose.)
2 (It's possible that there are lots of other orchids that do this and I've just never heard of them before, I suppose. The concept was new to me.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random plant event: Epiphyllum NOID

And this would be the second of the two big developments during the hiatus.1

This probably shouldn't have happened either, by the way. Just three months ago, the plant was just two unrooted cuttings,2 which is surely way too young to be blooming. Though the cuttings were from growth that looked pretty solid and substantial, which is maybe why it worked anyway. I don't know.

In any case, I first noticed that something was going on in mid-July. It wasn't immediately clear that what I was seeing was a flower bud, as opposed to a developing branch, but by 21 July it was pretty obviously a flower.

I refused to get my hopes up about this, because Epiphyllums are fairly prone to dropping buds when being grown in less-than-ideal conditions, and the conditions here are nothing if not nonideal, so I was kind of expecting to be disappointed sooner or later. But it kept developing.

(3 Aug)

The orange color in the above photo is true-to-life; even though the flower was actually pink, I spent a few days hoping that it was actually going to turn out orange, because of the bud.3 But by 7 August, it was clear that no, it was going to be pink after all:

And then things proceeded very rapidly. About 8 hours after the above picture, the bud started to open:

I took a bunch of pictures because I wasn't sure how many opportunities I would actually get; some Epiphyllums' blooms are only open for a single evening, and even though I didn't think that was the case here, I wanted to be sure to get some kind of photographic documentation, lest the flower be gone in the morning. So the opening-bud pictures are kind of crap, but they were the best I could do at the time.

By the time I went to bed on 7 August, the plant looked like this:

And then when I woke up in the morning, it looked like this:


So then I took like 150 pictures on the morning of August 8, which is what the rest of the post is about.

This not only immediately became my favorite flower of aaaaalllllllllllll the flowers I've ever had in the house (including the orchids, 'cause fuck orchids, they don't like me anyway),4 but then I also called my mom, and was like oh my GOD mom, you HAVE to come see this FLOWER I just got it's AMAZING.

The surprising part being that the family actually did come up a couple days later, on 12 August, by which point the flower was beginning to droop a bit, but it was still in good enough shape that you could sort of see how it would have been impressive at one point. I figure they got the general idea. (They were more impressed with the Clivia, though.)

Epiphyllum: bringing families together!

The flower lasted a mere four or five days, by the way: late on the night of August 7 until late afternoon on the 12th.

The odds of this happening again next year, or ever, are pretty slim, I suspect. Probably it only happened this year because the cutting had lots of stored energy from being grown outside, and was freaking out over the sudden decrease in light. Though I suppose the other cutting could still decide to bloom at some point. Hard to say. The orange-blooming cuttings I'd actually asked for had a much rougher trip, and were smaller to begin with, so I doubt those will bloom any time soon, but clearly Epiphyllum-type miracles do happen, so I'm not going to rule it out.


1 The first, in case you missed it, is here. The explanation for what was going on with this hiatus is here.
2 (A bonus plant, that arrived here as part of a trade.)
3 I'm not strongly anti-pink or anything, but given the choice, I'd rather have had orange. The Epiphyllum I'd actually asked for was orange.
4 This is all the stranger because I'd seen plenty of Epiphyllum photos on line before this, and had been largely unmoved by them. I mean, the pictures were nice and all, but nothing I'd seen before this prepared me for the actual jaw-dropping beauty of seeing one in the flesh.