Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Unfinished business: Polyscias seedlings

I suppose "unfinished business" is misleading, as it implies that some kind of business is going to be finished here. It's totally not. But I thought you might be interested in seeing what the Polyscias seedlings are up to now that they're 21 months old.1 (Previously: at 0.9 months, 1.8 months, 8 months, and 13 months.)

Of 53 seeds sown, eleven did well enough to become official plants, on the spreadsheets and everything. Seven of those are still with us. One of the more surprising things about this (aside from the fact that Polyscias hybrids are self-fertile in the first place, and the fact that it's even possible to germinate Polyscias seeds indoors) is how dramatically different they've been in vigor and appearance. Seedlings 5, 7, 10, and 11 all died. Seedlings 6 and 8 are still with us, but are very short -- measured from the soil line to the top of the plant, seedling 6 is only 7.5 inches tall (19 cm), and seedling 8 is only 4.5 inches (11 cm). Which sucks, because seedling 8 was really interesting.

But. The remaining five plants are all doing well, for some definition or another of "well."

Seedling 1 most resembles the parent plant, though it has more finely-divided leaves, and the leaves are spaced further apart, or something. Mostly it's annoying because it's top-heavy, and flops over when it gets dry. But it has, at least, started to branch since the last time we checked in, which means that the base of the plant is filling in with foliage. Maybe this will help keep the main stem upright.

Seedling 2 was my favorite, and remains so. It's deceptively small-looking in the photo because after I repotted it into an 8-inch pot, the main stem started to grow sideways. I felt like I had the stem straight when I repotted, though that's happened with a cutting of the original plant too, so maybe I'm bad at judging what's vertical when I'm repotting.

In any event, the cutting was itself very large (large enough that I didn't think I should remove all of it, which is why the plant still leans to the left in the photo), and I've managed to root it in a large plastic container already. Haven't potted the cutting up yet because it has a lot of leaves, and I'm afraid that it's going to need a bigger root system to support them. But in any case, seedling 2 is the first one to be propagated.

Though seedling 3 wanted to be the first seedling to be propagated. In February, it bloomed.

The flowers opened and closed, just like they're supposed to, but I was unable to pollinate them. I don't know what the problem was. After this, seedling 3 went through a terrible awkward period where the stem that had bloomed fell apart (dropped leaves and buds), and then some branches developed from the bottom and took over so it filled in. Not sure what to expect it to do next.

The leaf color remains unusual as well; the photos are crap2 but the leaves are nearly black, much darker than those of the parent plant. (Similarly, seedlings 1 and 4 are both very green; seedling 2 is green but shows up bluish in photos because the leaflets are broad and waxy; seedling 9 is a very dark green, similar to 3.)

Seedling 4 is the shortest of the "tall" plants. It retains leaves almost perfectly, which is all the more remarkable because the leaves are very thick and three-dimensional; you'd think they'd shade one another out really badly and then the plant would lose the ones that were most shaded. But no. It's very very thick, and very very fluffy, and I think it's probably the one most likely to have commercial appeal (very fluffy looking, slow grower, little/no leaf drop), though personally I'm more interested in 2 and 3, because they look the least like anything I've seen before.

And finally, number 9, which very nearly didn't make it -- when it was young, a few of its leaves developed a bunch of yellow spots and then dropped off. I was pretty sure that it would linger and then eventually die, but it bounced back and seems more or less fine now. Granted, it's not especially pretty. The foliage is too sparse, and it's only just now starting to branch from the base. So I'm thinking it's probably got the least commercial potential of the five.

I think at this point, it's pretty safe to assume that these five will be with us for a while longer, and it would be nice to have some way to refer to them besides the numbers. Which means I'm officially asking for name suggestions. Ideally, we're looking for a list that's basically infinite (like types of music3 or mass nouns4), a list of things for which there are five main ones and then a near-infinite number of smaller ones, like Lakes of the United States,5 original Buffy: The Vampire Slayer "Scooby Gang" characters,6 or auto show locations,7 or groups consisting of only five things, if it's possible to imagine extending the list with additional, plausible-sounding names, like the Spice Girls8 or Marx Brothers.9

In any case. If you have a group of names that you've always wanted to see used for a group of five Polyscias seedlings but you never suggested the idea because it's not really an everyday sort of opportunity, now is your time to shine. As it is, I'm kinda leaning toward the Spice Girls, and I can already tell that that's a terrible idea.


1 (Alternately: I thought you might be willing to pretend to be interested, if it means getting to look at something other than an Anthurium or Schlumbergera.)
2 I had to take the full-plant photos in this post outside, because the plants no longer fit into the photo setup I've been using. The lighting, as a result, is not what I'm used to, and seedling 3's photo turned out especially poorly because the tops of the leaves are very nearly the color of the fabric behind them.
3 (seedlings 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9 could be Classical, Top 40, Death Metal, Country, and Alternative, perhaps)
4 (Mass nouns are things that aren't directly countable, like Air, Gravel, Lava, Sand, and Ashes: you don't say one sand, two sands, three sands, etc. -- if you have to quantify an amount of sand, you specify units and then attach the numbers to those, like six grains of sand, or three tons of sand. If you're part of the International Society of Rare Sands Collectors, and you have samples of sand from sixty different locations in little vials in a display cabinet on your wall, then I guess you can talk about having sixty sands, but that's a very special circumstance, and even then, everybody would know that what you really mean is samples of sixty distinct kinds of sand.)
5 Erie, Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Ontario.
Later seedlings, if any, could take Great Salt, Of The Woods, Iliamna, Oahe, Okeechobee, Pontchartrain, Sakakawea, Champlain, etc.
6 Cordelia, Willow, Giles, Buffy, and Xander. Though it might get weird having a non-willow plant named "Willow."
Subsequent seedlings, if any, could get Anya, Angel, Oz, Tara, etc.
7 Paris, Tokyo, Detroit, Geneva, and Frankfurt are "the Big Five" per Wikipedia, but without even having to look it up I know they have auto shows in plenty of other places, so it's basically infinite.
8 Baby, Sporty, Scary, Posh, and Ginger; could maybe be extended to Dreary, Sundry, Fairy, Glory, Sleazy, Spacy, Weary, Wary, Hangry, Tiny, Rosemary?, Hairy, Fiery, Tory, Marsh, Harsh, Danger, Lager, etc., though I feel like the number of plausible additional spice girls is pretty small. It doesn't take very long at all before you find yourself seriously considering Notary Spice, Dairy Spice, and Laundry Spice.
In fairness, some of the names they actually went with seem super-questionable to me, too. Like, I don't think I would ever have come up with "Baby Spice," because ew. Also Scary is fine, I guess, but giving that name to the only non-white member? Really?
9 Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, and Gummo; additional Marx Brothers names are also pretty limited, but I suppose we could consider Banjo, Bongo, Cheapo, Cargo, Combo, No-Go, Rambo, Limbo, Dorko, Dingo, Jumbo, Turbo, Stucco, Devo, Loco, Crisco, Dodo, Judo, etc.


Paul said...

Interesting just how much variety there s amongst the siblings.

With regards to theme related names for the Polys, mental/emotional states of being might be entertaining. This was brought to mind by an episode of "The Librarians" I recall seeing. Two of the characters are walking through a forest in search of the Tree of Knowledge. The woman is anxious about locating it before the bad guys do. Her companion tells her that, while he doesn't know what it looks like, he will know it when he sees it. She starts randomly pointing at trees which he glances at and names them off: "That is the tree of Sorrow, that is the Tree of Righteous Indignation, ....". You might be able to have some fun with that.

Pattock said...

Have you thought of taking cuttings of the most vigorous plant then grafting a bud from 6 and 8 on to them?

Ming emperors?

Unfortunately there are only four major innovations in Ming pottery "such as jihong (磯紅) in the Xuande (宣德, 1426-1436), doucai (鬥彩, contending colors) in the Chenghua (成化, 1465-1488), jiaohuang (嬌黃) in the Hongzhi (弘治, 1488-1506), and wucai (五彩, five-color) in the Wanli (萬歷, 1573-1620)".

You could call them all Wucai something.

Actors or characters from Flash Gordon?

Monomers of popular plastics? Styrene, ethylene, terephthalate (or ester?), carbonate and amide.

I tried to think of something to do with shadows but only came up with companions of The Shadow and squirrels.

Number in Mandarin? yi, er, san, si, jiu = 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, or wu for 5.

mr_subjunctive said...


Interesting just how much variety there s amongst the siblings.

Right? It still stuns me a little bit, how the parent looks just like a regular old P. fruticosa but contained all this potential for weirdness. It sort of makes me want to try again with some of the other Polyscias I see for sale, on the grounds that maybe they, too, are only pretending to be P. balfouriana or P. scutellaria or whatever.


Well, I've never grafted anything to anything, so I can't say I'd be super comfortable trying that, but it's an idea, I guess. I've been betting that there will be new seeds at some point in the near future, and that one of those might produce a more vigorous 6- or 8-type plant.

(And really #6 isn't even that interesting; I don't care that much whether it lives or dies. I'd be sad to lose #8, I guess, but I'm not interested in going to a lot of trouble for it either.)