Saturday, November 22, 2008

Work-related: Lizard

I was down on my hands and knees a couple days ago, weeding the greenhouse floor (This has to be done occasionally, and although everybody tells me that I could do it a lot faster if I used a tool to dislodge the roots and a rake to pull up the weeds, and although it actually is really uncomfortable, I prefer doing it by hand. I figure at the very least I'm not just turning them under the soil to re-root and grow again.), when I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. Turned out to be this little guy, who sat surprisingly still while I took his picture. I was prepared to decline if he tried to sell me car insurance, but luckily, I never had to.

I assume he probably arrived on the last order of tropicals from Florida, which was two weeks ago. We've sprayed pesticide twice since then, so either this guy is very very sick now (which might explain the lack of car insurance pitches) or is able to withstand doses of insecticides that would drop average lizards. If it's the latter, I hope our superlizard is hungry for fungus gnats.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pretty picture: Goodaleara Pacific Truffle 'Surrogate Star'

You know those spam e-mails that included a bunch of random bits and pieces of other text, in the hopes that this would fool spam filters into thinking it was a legitimate message? The name for this particular orchid reminds me of that. Nobody who didn't already know what it was could hope to have a chance of guessing what a "Pacific Truffle Surrogate Star" might be (some kind of marine organism? a famous gourmand?).

Is this necessarily bad? No, not necessarily, but if orchid growers are truly out of meaningful combinations of words, then they may as well just go ahead and just use numbers, because there's really no point to perpetuating this word salad. Memorizing a bunch of digits in some particular order is not appreciably more difficult than memorizing a bunch of unconnected words in some particular order.

But this is nothing against the plant itself, of course, which is a perfectly nice plant as plants go. Goodaleara (Gdlra.) is a new combination for me, this one being derived from genes of Brassia, Cochlioda, Miltonia, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium. It looks a lot like some of the other orchids we've encountered, particularly the Beallara Marfitch 'Howard's Dream.'

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unfinished business re: Davallia spp.

In the original Davallia profile, I said that I am not a Davallia taxonomist and do not know what sorts of things differentiate one species from another. Well. I'm still not a Davallia taxonomist, but after going to work and actually looking at some plants, I've discovered that in at least one instance, it's not that hard. Witness:

At work, we have two species of Davallia. One of them is tagged Humata instead, but I think there's a case to be made for calling it Davallia anyway, so I will. 'Cause that's just how I roll. So this one is Davallia "Humata" tyermanii:

And then this other one is Davallia trichomanoides:

Separately, they still look pretty similar, but when you get them side-by-side, the differences start to stand out a bit more:

This side-by-side comparison of fronds is not as dramatic as I'd hoped it might be, but here it is regardless:

The fronds of tyermanii are substantially stiffer and thicker; they're also a darker green in this particular case, but that could be because of the care these particular plants have received, not what species they are. Trichomanoides' fronds are also a little more deeply divided.

The "common names," according to the tags, are: white rabbit's-foot fern (tyermanii) and brown squirrel-foot fern (trichomanoides). The rhizomes don't look especially different to me, and I forgot to get a picture of them together, but the same general rule applies: the trichomanoides rhizomes might have slightly smaller, finer scales, but if there is a difference, it's very subtle. The rhizomes of both have new growth which is light gray to white, which ages to dark brown.

So now you should be able to tell at least these two apart. If I run across other species, we'll revisit the post again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PATSP Learning Moment #2

When everybody tells you that Homalomena 'Selby' can never ever, under any circumstances, be allowed to dry out, believe them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random plant event: special Dieffenbachia flowering

I've posted pictures of Dieffenbachia flowers before, but nothing quite like these. Previously, for whatever reason, the flowers never actually fully developed. This might have been because the conditions weren't right for it, or it could have been because the plants in question never intended for them to develop all the way in the first place. Really don't know.

So when one of mine at home, a NOID that I've had for about three and a half years now, started to produce flowers a while ago, I wasn't really all that interested. Been there, done that.

Then the plant started doing something brand-new, that I've never seen a Dieffenbachia do before: it looked like it was putting two flowers together, one on top of the other, with a narrower "waist" in between. I pinched the bottom one a few times, just to try to figure out what was going on in there, and it was actually mostly hollow, just a stem inside a big balloon of a spathe.

And but then it got weirder, because the top section worked itself free, and then lower "flower" opened up:

And I was like, ooooooh. I've heard about this.

'Cause you see, when you look up Dieffenbachia or Philodendron or whatever -- aroids -- there will usually be something in there about how the flower spike usually contains both male and female flowers, which are separated spatially. Male on top, female on bottom, with a zone of sterile flowers in between. Previously, I'd always seen inflorescences like the one below (taken from a previous post):

and I'd assumed that when I looked at the white part at the top, I was in fact looking both the male and female flowers, with a zone between the two of sterile flowers, and it just happened that male, female, and sterile all looked identical. And whatever the hell the yellowy stuff below that was, it wasn't really relevant: some kind of misdeveloped flowers, perhaps.

But no. It turns out that two things were happening. One, I was oblivious to anything that was going on inside the spathe, and two, I never happened to be paying attention when the action was happening.

Oh yes. There is action.

Here is the part I'd always assumed was the whole "flower," the male part. It had, at this point, just emerged from the spathe:

And the following day, it was doing this:

That lasted no more than a day, after which the spathe popped back up around the spadix and sealed it back in again.

Meanwhile, the female part, which you can just barely see in that first picture, was doing stuff as well. It's much harder to photograph, because I have to hold the spathe open with one hand while I take the picture with the other, and so the quality is kind of crappy here, but you get the gist. The basic structure is clearly visible in the first picture:

And then the coloring is more true to life in the second:

This is also a very quick process. The next day, the colors and textures had changed:

And then it sealed itself back up again as well.

In nature, my understanding is that beetles pollinate these flowers. The plant attracts the beetles, the beetles crawl into the chamber around the female flowers (hence the need for a lot of space around them: the plant's making room for the beetles), and then . . . magic happens?, and the flower is pollinated. No account of the process I've read so far explains how or why the beetles pick up the pollen from the male flowers in the first place (they're not self-fertile, so it'd have to be coming from another flower), or how the beetles get back out after the deed is done (the seal on the spathe is tight, actually: I found it difficult to open up to try to look at the male flowers again), or what they do while they're in there. But at least the male-female-sterile part makes more sense now. I'm a little bit amazed that I hadn't run into pictures of this stuff before, and I'm a lot amazed that my plant decided to do this while growing inside: clearly it's adequate, but I would never have thought this was the ideal environment for growing and flowering.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Question for the Hive Mind: Exciting New Insect Pest

Particularly proud of this picture: I got it by photographing a hand-held magnifying lens with a hand-held camera in front of a wobbly Sansevieria and still got something approximating clear focus. Of course I also had to take ten pictures, too.

We got a new batch of tropicals in from Florida on 6 Nov., and found some of these on this one Sansevieria trifasciata. This is not the first time I've seen these; they're the same bugs (pretty sure) that were on my Trojan Sansevieria (story is at the whitefly profile, even though I've since concluded that they were not whiteflies).

The above is the best picture I'm capable of getting. Normally you can't see that much detail.

We've seen these on a variety of things, most of them relatively new arrivals:

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii,' 'Hahnii' (snake plant / mother-in-law's tongue)
Zamia sp. (cardboard palm)
Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig Compacta'
Dracaena deremensis 'Limelight'
unknown palm (I wasn't present when the infestation was diagnosed)
Cereus peruvianus (pic below)
Agave lurida

It took a while to conclude that they were probably coming from Florida, because, you know, you hate to make these accusations unless you've been watching the plants in question really closely. They seem to be easy to get rid of on Dracaena and more or less impossible to eliminate from anything else, no matter what you spray or how often you wipe off the plant or what you use to do either of those things. The damage seems to be mostly aesthetic: when removed, the bugs leave yellowish spots where they were, which are permanent, but thus far none of the plants affected have looked like they were in imminent danger of dying.

Particularly bad batch on a Cereus peruvianus. There's actual scale in this picture as well, which I think is probably not related but might be.

I sent a picture to our supplier, who checked with the grower, who claimed that they'd never seen these before and they'd have to get back to us about what they were. Which I suppose might not be a lie, but I am deeply skeptical.

So. Anybody (especially anybody in Florida who might be a little less clueless than the growers) have any ideas? The last time I spoke to her, the supplier said the growers think it's not scale.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Random plant event: Anthurium crystallinum 'Mehani' flower

Anthurium crystallinum 'Mehani' is, obviously, grown for the white-veined velvety leaves, rather than the flowers, which are so uninteresting that it verges on tragedy.

Still, even ugly flowers can be nice to see, if it means the plant's happy.