Monday, November 26, 2007

Blind Date (Alworthia x 'Black Gem')

I got this plant in a trade from a Garden Web member back in April 2007. It wasn't something I'd asked for, to trade – I had actually asked for an Aloe variegata (partridge-breast aloe), and the person with whom I was trading included several bonus Aloe cultivars and species in addition to the one I'd asked for. 1 So the plant and I were "set up," if you will.

I was pleased to have bonus plants, but not so pleased to have Aloes, which I've never been all that keen to grow. 2 I've heard a lot of stories about Aloes being prone to sudden declines over nothing in particular, which tends to make a person wary, and Aloe vera leaves me kind of cold aesthetically, probably a case of familiarity breeding contempt. But 'Black Gem,' along with another cultivar ('Walmsley's Blue,' not shown), have both done quite well for me, offsetting multiple times and having no watering or pest problems to speak of, and all of the others save one (A. nobilis, which rotted on me over the summer) have done fine here. So I've come to like them, and for a blind date, you'd have to say it's worked out well.

But about 'Black Gem' specificially: it's an attractive plant. It has a nice color (evenly dark green in lower light, dark red-green in high light: it's tough to get enough light on it indoors to see it change color, and you can't see it in the photo at all, but it's happened once, briefly), it's not sharp or thorny, it seems to offset freely, and it doesn't seem to be particularly attractive to pests. So I'm pretty happy with it. I worry about overwatering, and getting it enough light, but that's about it. I'm looking forward to when I can separate the offset and grow it on its own, but that's probably going to be a long wait: it's growing pretty slowly.

Trivia about the plant: well, there's not a whole bunch. I did find one site, which, alarmingly, notes that this plant is "fire retardant," leading me to wonder what kind of nutbar worries about his plants getting set on fire. Since when is this a selling point? Aren't most plants fire-retardant when they're not dead (Eucalyptus and Pinus aside)?

Anyway. Care is pretty much what you'd expect: bright light with at least some sun, water when dry, propagate from offsets. Humidity, feeding, underwatering, pests, temperatures, and grooming aren't huge issues.


Photo credit: me.

1 (brevifolia, greatheadii var. davyana, nobilis, maculata, 'Black Gem,' 'Minibelle,' 'Walmsley's Blue')
2 (Though for one reason or another, I've sure wound up with a lot of them. I've also been given an A. aristata hybrid and 'Doran Black.' Additionally, I've actually chosen and purchased 'Crosby's Prolific' and A. harlana. I only actually paid for two, yet I have ten different varieties (and seventeen individual plants) – does that seem right to you? Clearly I have some kind of Aloe-related karmic thing to work out. Maybe I was an Aloe in a previous life. That'd be weird.)


Anonymous said...

You have finally identified a plant's name for which I have been searching a long while.

Anonymous said...

There are fire retardant and fire promoting plants. A Eucalyptus will pretty much explode in a fireball given the right conditons, whereas an aloe will not burn because of high moisture content.

Which one would you rather have next to the house in a wildfire??

mr_subjunctive said...

It's not that I don't believe it's true, it's just that I don't live in a part of the country where this is normally a big issue, so I've never had to think about it w/r/t someone else's property, and my gardening has pretty strictly been indoors, so flame-retardancy isn't really an issue for me w/r/t my own property either. It's a perspective issue. My whole plants-on-fire experience is limited to the Cryptanthus in the "nutbar" link.