Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Random plant event: Disocactus fruits

UPDATE 4 Aug 2009: The plant in this post is in fact not a Disocactus. What it is, is a Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa. It was sold to us (where I used to work) as a Disocactus, so that's what I called it. I would rewrite the whole post to reflect this, but that would be an awful lot of work to go to for an old post that nobody is likely to read anyway, so instead I'm saying this. Sorry for any inconvenience and/or confusion.

This is a Disocactus. Maybe. Still shaky and hesitant on the ID: posters earlier suggested that the more accurate name might be either Rhipsalis or Pseudorhipsalis, and maybe that's true. I have yet to see any really good photos that make me think that it's definitely anything, so for the time being we're going to keep calling them Disocactus. (Among other reasons, that's what the tags for them that I printed up at work say they are, so I have a certain personal interest in seeing them remain Disocactus.) Anyway. I wrote about them previously, because they had all flowered and that seemed noteworthy.

This is the flower, along with, underneath it, a couple of fruits. I had originally assumed that the fruits would probably only contain one or two seeds, not for any good reason, really. I guess I just figured the fruits were pretty small already, so the seeds would probably take up most of the volume of the fruit. Like an olive or something.

This, then, is what happens when a ripe fruit is squeezed a little bit. Seeds start popping out of one end. The overall texture and feeling is kind of like squeezing jelly out of a plastic bottle.

This is cool, but we're not done yet, because the gunk in which the seeds are embedded has interesting properties of its own:

The gunk is almost exactly the texture of snot. Or slug mucus. Something that is simultaneously very viscous and sticky, but becomes slippery if dampened (making it fun to try to get off). The whole point in touching them in the first place was because I wanted to plant them, and that didn't work out well at first: anything I tried to plant them in would just stick to my finger.

Eventually, I resorted to washing them off in a glass of water. The seeds from any particular pod all stay stuck together in water, like a phlegm globber, so, after adding several more, I stirred hell out of the water and then pulled out the -- I guess you'd call them "rinds?" This did sort of separate the seeds from one another well enough to make them plantable: I basically then just poured the water out on vermiculite, and we'll see whether that's good enough.

The interesting part of that was that the seeds actually made the water noticeably thicker to stir. Not by a lot, but enough that you'd have no trouble telling the difference between a glass of ordinary water and a glass of water that had had Disocactus seeds stirred in it and then filtered out. This is impressively viscous glop. It really just cries out for an industrial application of some kind. I have no ideas about this personally, but there's got to be something.

It's all kind of beside the point, because they're very easy to propagate from cuttings anyway (like Epiphyllum, which it resembles). I in fact have one at home, which came from a cutting of one of the work plants. Seeds are hardly necessary.

But: they're fun.


Anonymous said...

Heh heh. Stupid plant tricks. That is very cool. I suppose that if the fruit are edible like other cacti, one could use it as a food thickener of some sort. It's possible that this is already being done somewhere. Although I suppose one would have to be pretty darn brave to try it. I hope you are feeling better today!

Lucy Corrander said...

What a wonderfully disgusting post!

It makes me thing of mistletoe.