Monday, March 17, 2008

Question for the hive mind: bonus ferns?

I bought a small bay tree (like, four-inch pot small) last week sometime, because the plant looked really good. Most of our bays aren't looking so hot. Nothing really wrong with them, I think, just, they're slow growers, and it was winter, and so they've just been maintaining until spring. This one was better than most, a little bigger, got started on new growth a little earlier, and so on.

I'd been thinking about getting it for a while, 'cause bays (Laurus nobilis) have a long and mostly positive relationship with people, but what pushed me over the edge was actually not the plant itself, but this:

I think they're baby ferns. We do have volunteer ferns pop up from time to time in the greenhouse, so this isn't hugely farfetched, and they look sort of like what I've been told fern prothalli (pro = first; thallus = green shoot) look like. I asked a co-worker, and she said that it was lichen. I know what lichen looks like, and this ain't no lichen. However, I'm far from certain they're fern prothalli, either. Would any of the readers happen to know?

Also, if they are ferns, what should I do with them now, if anything?

There's actually a second purpose in posting these pictures, though: I've had a question to ask for quite a while and hadn't really had the right moment to ask it. My question is about "bonus" plants. Like, if you go to buy a plant, and you see that there's something else growing in the pot too, something that clearly wasn't supposed to be there, does this make you think Awesome! A free plant!, or does it make you think Cripes, these people are too lazy to weed?

I ask because there have been occasions, like this one, where I've bought a plant not for the plant I was paying for, but for a plant that had stowed away in the same pot. This doesn't generally work out all that well, though I did get a Bryophyllum daigremontianum that way once, that I then grew for a few months, and it was okay. But when I'm going through the greenhouse, looking for stuff to do, I sometimes see this kind of thing and wonder whether or not I should pull the extras out of the pots. So I figure I can ask you guys: as customers, do the presence of "bonus plants" make you more, or less, likely to buy a plant? 'Cause, just because it works on me is no reason to think it'd work on anybody else.


forest said...

Could also be just liverworts.

Blue Fox said...

Mr S, so sorry, I have to agree with Forest - it's liverwort. My advice, get rid of it before it spreads into every single plant you own. A good preventative is to sprinkle turkey grit or other fine gravel on the top of the soil. As for your other question - a free plant? Of course I'll take it! Looking over all choices carefully first of course!

alenka said...

Re: bonus plants. I always think "awesome, free plant!!" If there are two otherwise decent healthy plants for sale, I'll pick the one with the little freebie in the pot. And if the bonus plant is something that I really don't like, or something that I know won't do well for me, then I'll try to pick a freebie-free pot, but still I won't think "they are too lazy to weed" -- I'll think someone else will be happy to find the 2-for-1 deal. I don't think I've ever actually bought a plant only because of a freebie, but seeing one does make me happier (and curious, if I don't know that bonus plant's ID), and when I'm happier, I buy more plants.

coreopsis said...

For the second question, I'm firmly in the "oooh! free plant!" category. But then, I'm actually trying to get as many as people as possible to take daughters from my smuggled-from-Madagascar-by-graduate-students
Bryophyllum Daigremontianum, so I think I qualify as crazy.

Esther Montgomery said...


I was given a Golden Bay Tree in a little pot in 1994.

It now comes higher than the first floor windows of our house.

(Now I have a name for Liverwort. I've always associated it with over-watering and lack of airation in the soil.)

Thanks for visiting my blog, by the way!


Sherri said...

What's wrong with having liverwort? It seems like a neat freebie to me. And from this comment, you can easily tell that I am of the "yay, a free plant" ilk when it comes to having a second plant growing in a purchased plant container. Not only that, but sometimes I do seek out such pots.

mr_subjunctive said...

Hmmm. Liverworts.

I would have preferred ferns, I think. Though liverworts are more educational -- I didn't know they existed until today. So.

perL said...

I kinda like liverworts. And, yes, I tend to go for the plant with the "freebie" in most circumstances. (Usually I refer to it as a hitchhiker.)

Hermes said...

I'm always thrilled when I find there is more than one plant in a pot or that a plant is big enough to be divided. Two (or sometimes more) for the price of one.

Stuart said...

Looks like the thallose liverwort Marchantia polymorpha to me. The fruitbodies will look like miniature palm trees if you leave them alone.

The round objects in the thalli are gemmae cups. These contain gemmae (little bundles of cells) which are splashed out by falling water and then form new specimens.

Humidity is indicated by their presence.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

I always think "Awesome! Free plant." I also look for plants where it looks like two are growing in one pot or where it looks possible to divide them easily and get two-for-one.

I have a very small plant budget. I grow almost everything from seed or from cuttings and passalongs from friends.

Paul said...

Definitely liverwort. However it isn't as though it's going to harm your plant so if you like it leave it. [They generally require constant moisture and good humidity.]

Depends what the freebie is. If it is a dandelion or other obvious "weed" then I generally rip it out while I'm standing there. If it looks like something interesting, it stays in th epot & gets to come home w/ me.

Sheila said...

Dissenting minority opinion: I've never found anything in a pot that I even considered wanting except for what was intended to be there. I only find chickweed or that darn oxalis weed thing. So my thought is always, "Don't these people WEED?" It's a real turnoff in my mind.