Thursday, March 14, 2013

Random plant events: white flowers

Nothing gigantic and incredible going on exactly, but I've got three plants blooming recently that are all notable in some way or another, and as it happens, all three have white flowers, so it seemed reasonable to group them together into one post.

First up is the Coffea arabica, which struggled a bit this winter (dropping the lowest leaves, mostly, which for all I know is normal) but just got super excited and put out a huge flush of flowers.1

I counted flowers at 38 separate nodes. If each node produces 2.5 berries (previously, either 2 or 3 seemed to be standard), and each berry produces 1.9 seeds (also based on previous experience), that's roughly 150-200 seeds.

The husband pointed out that 150-200 seeds might actually be sufficient to make a cup or two of coffee. I'm a little bit tempted, but I'd be more inclined to plant the seeds and get more plants. Assuming that there are seeds. Also assuming that the seeds will germinate.2 (Obviously there's a great deal of premature chicken-counting going on in this paragraph.)

I tried, but was unable to get any smell from the flowers at all. (The husband could, so I'm not sure what my problem is.)

Next up, I've got flowers on my Haworthia limifolia var. limifolia. This isn't the first time that one of the Haworthias has attempted to bloom, but usually the flower spike shoots up into the fluorescent lights and then burns before I notice it, or it starts to grow deep within the leaves and then stalls and dies for some reason. I don't know for sure that this is the first time I've ever had one reach full bloom, but it's the first in a very long time, at least.

There is a chance that H. limifolia var. limifolia may be self-fertile: some Haworthias are and some aren't, from what I hear. I won't be attempting to get seeds from this one, though, because the flowers are so tiny and easily damaged that I doubt I have the necessary visual acuity and fine motor control. (If you've got a flowering Haworthia of your own that you want to try with, you'll want to check this out.)

Finally, I think most of us have seen Cryptanthus flowers before, and I've never found them all that interesting or attractive, but these made me do a double-take:

I think Cryptanthus flowers are always white,3 so the color's not a big deal, but I was struck by the size and shape: ordinarily they're small, flat, triangular things that are easily overlooked. This particular plant (a NOID), though, produces flowers that are a bit larger, and more trumpet-shaped. It's not a huge difference, but it was enough to make me think, oh, those are really pretty, for a Cryptanthus.

I won't be collecting seeds from this either, first because there are no other Cryptanthuses blooming at the moment so I have nothing to cross them with, second because the recent failure with the Cryptbergias has made me doubt I could pull it off, and third because there are much easier ways to get more Cryptanthuses, if more Cryptanthuses is what you want, and I've already got so many baby plants from offsets that I have no idea what to do with them all. But let the record show that I totally thought about it.


1 Google says that the bloom season is "mid spring" or March, both of which apply. So I guess everything's normal.
2 This might be a good moment to update you on the progress of the Coffea seeds I started on 18 February. It's an easy update: absolutely nothing has happened yet, as far as I can see. This is not surprising; Coffea seeds are slow germinators, and right now, at one month, is the very soonest I could have expected anything to happen. Two months seems to be typical, according to Google; some sources say as long as four. (Nobody claims anything faster than 1 month.)
I'm also wondering if I maybe got some bad information; a lot of the sources I found while googling for germination times also say that seeds that have dried out too much are generally non-viable. The plan I was working from initially said that viability was best with seeds that had been dried for eight weeks, so somebody has to be wrong here. I'm starting to get a little anxious.
3 (I've never seen them in any other color, anyway.)


The Phytophactor said...

In our glasshouse coffee flowers are always quite fragrant, but many white-flowered rubiads are more fragrant at night.

Pascal said...

Regarding footnote #2: I germinated Coffea only once (from seed harvested from an indoor plant). The little tree had produced one berry containing two seeds that I sowed straight from the plant, more or less. I just removed the pulp and maybe soaked them a few hours in water (that was maybe 15 years ago, so I am not really sure about all the details, I do, however, seem to recall some sort of soaking them) and then put them into the substrate. Both of them germinated, but I cannot recall how long it took them to do so. Of course this doesn't indicate any detrimental effect of drying the seeds, but at least drying doesn't seem necessary for a successful germination.

RMR said...

Those photos really make me want a Coffea arabica.

mr_subjunctive said...


They're nice plants, honestly, though: 1) they need a lot of water, heat, and fertilizer, and 2) the flowers and berries don't start until they're about 4 years old. It's not hard to find Coffea plants for sale, but almost all of them will be seedlings, one year old or less.