Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday afternoon Nina picture

There are many things crickets don't understand about the world.

They're coming. . . .

So brace yourselves.

Where I used to work, mid-October was about the time when the poinsettias arrived. There's a long list of things about the job I am happy to be rid of, but the points are somewhere in the top five, maybe even the top two. Miserable, wretched things.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Random plant event: Anthurium 'Pandola' seeds sprouting (!)

I know: you're thinking what? Already? The posts lag behind reality by a week or so, a lot of the time, either because I try to get them written well in advance so I'm not scrambling at the last minute for a post, or because the last stuff I'm interested in posting is already a week old by the time I get to it, or both. So I'm not sure what day it actually was that I planted the Anthurium 'Pandola' seeds from Wednesday's post, but it was more than just two days ago. Maybe more like nine or ten?

I swear, I didn't expect anything to come of this. And yet, take a look:

Sprouting! Already! This is kind of especially incredible because everything I've seen about growing Anthuriums from seed makes the process sound difficult. I forget all the details, but something about there being a low fertility rate, and seeds don't store well, or really at all, so you have to use them right away, and so on and so forth.

I'm going to try to refrain from counting any chickens just yet, because there's an awfully long ways to go before there are any actual new plants. But I'm still hopeful that there will be at least one plant that lives long enough to flower, because I'm really curious about what color that might be. The mother, 'Pandola,' is a light pink, but the father could be anybody. (Anthuriums, as we know from their profile, are kind of slutty.) So pretty much any color except light pink will be a surprise.

Also, just as a point of interest, the sort of clear jelly-like blob around the seedling in the picture is a real thing, not an artifact of the photography or a stray water droplet or something. They all have it. (You can see it especially in the last picture of Wednesday's post, as sort of a halo around the seeds.) I don't know exactly what it is, but it apparently absorbs water, which I guess would be a useful thing for a short-lived seed of a semi-epiphyte to do.

Pretty much everything about this event is weird and unprecedented for me. Nice to know that I can still be surprised.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

[Exceptionally] Pretty pictures: transmitted light -- Part XIX

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to congratulate me on the Blotanical wins (1st place for Best Iowa Blog, and then three third place finishes: Best Educational Blog, Best Blog Name, and Best Container Gardening Blog) yesterday. I was kind of unhappy with the event overall because very few people I voted for won: with five options per category, if I'd just voted randomly, without paying any attention to the quality of the blogs at all, 20% of my votes would have been for the first place winners. Instead, I only managed 17%. I apologize to the people I voted for, and promise not to do it again next year.

But so anyway, back to regular blog business:

I'm working on two plant profiles simultaneously, which is keeping me busier than normal. No idea when either will be done. In the meantime, it's been a while since I did one of these, I guess, so -- let's look at some leaves.

(The previous transmitted light posts can be found here.)

Cissus rhombifolia 'Ellen Danica.' What to say about this one? It's a leaf. A green leaf. That's about it.

Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa. (Previously identified at PATSP as a NOID Disocactus, but that is incorrect.) Believe it or not, this is in focus. I'm getting to be really fond of this plant, after seeing what the ones where I used to work have been up to: lots of berries, and they've turned bright red, more or less the color of this picture, and are much larger now. (I'll put up a picture sometime.) Not that anybody's buying them, still, but they are visually quite stunning, and are much better-looking than when we first got them in. Nobody appreciates the weird plants. *sigh*

Dracaena thalioides (previously Pleomele thalioides). Another green leaf. It's a prettier shade of green than the Cissus, though. It's also unusual for a Dracaena to have a midrib the way that this one does.

Canna NOID. This one I like. Plain, but detailed enough to be cool, and the lines are graceful and pleasant. If this doesn't do it for you, I've got another Canna picture coming up in some other set of transmitted light pictures that is pretty stunning. (Even I was impressed.) But this isn't bad on its own.

Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain.' I liked this one well enough to use it as the header photo until fairly recently. The leaves really are purple: you just have to see them by reflected light, instead of transmitted light.

Plectranthus oertendahlii. I'm really liking this as a houseplant lately. I got a few cuttings from a Garden Webber in a trade a little over a year ago, and they've turned into what would be a really full 6" plant, if I hadn't cut a lot of it back to propagate. It's more or less what you'd get if you crossed Plectranthus verticillatus with Saxifraga stolonifera: a fuzzy green trailing vine with veins highlighted in gray.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Quarterback.' When I had this plant indoors, it grew nice big leaves that were sort of lime green, more or less the color of this picture. The ones I moved outdoors, earlier this summer, have small leaves which have turned sort of gold and are way less attractive. I've learned from working on a Solenostemon scutellarioides profile that it's not unusual for a cultivar to change color or habits depending on growing conditions, age, soil fertility, and various other things.

Perilla frutescens 'Magilla Purple.' For some reason, I remembered this being a really bad picture, but it's not so terrible. I remember I had to try more than once, though. Maybe the first attempts were really bad.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Kong Aline.' (Just to get this out of the way: I know the picture is kind of unimpressive. It needed to get the brightness tweaked a bit more than it did, I'm afraid.) 'Kong Aline' is the joke name I gave a sport of 'Kong Rose' I found at work in May, and subsequently bought. It's still here, and still alive, but I haven't been able to give it enough light, so it's not really clear whether this color pattern is stable. It's also been trying really, really hard lately to flower, which could signal the beginning of the end.

Zingiber malaysianum. The way light shines through the leaves was most of the reason why I bought this one. So far it's doing . . . okay. Not great. There's new growth, but some of the old growth has gotten dry margins. I didn't up-pot it as quickly as it would have liked, so it got overly dry a few times; I'm hoping that's all the dry-margins thing means. Obviously this would be my favorite picture from this batch.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Random plant event: Anthurium 'Pandola' berries

I bought an Anthurium 'Pandola' last March that had a ton of flowers on it, mostly because I really like Anthuriums. It hasn't been very good about re-flowering since then, but it has done something even more interesting: I've gotten to watch the flower produce berries. This is something I'd seen the beginning stages of before, at work, but at work somebody always cut the flowers off before the berries got very far along.

Anyway. I have only vague ideas about how to start Anthuriums from seed, and my understanding is that it's not all that easy to do even when you know what's going on, so I'm not expecting to get plants out of this, but I planted some in vermiculite I was using for other things anyway, and if something does sprout, that'd be awesome. But on to the pictures:

This is the flower early in the process of growing berries: an Anthurium spadix is actually a stack of very small flowers, which is maybe slightly visible in this extreme close-up of a dying spadix:

Any one of these flowers can be pollinated, as far as I can tell (With some aroids, flowers are distinctly male or female, which are located at opposite ends of the spadix, usually with a zone of sterile flowers in between, but that does not seem to be how it works with Anthurium. I'm also still waiting to see Anthurium pollen, though I'm sure it must exist.), and in the first photo above, most of the flowers have been: you can see the most mature berries are orange, with the less-developed ones being greenish, and so on down to the smallest ones, which are little more than small whitish bumps. (It will probably help to open the image in a new window.)

I didn't get a picture of the flower with fully-developed berries on it, but it's basically like the first picture, except that there are more fully-sized orange berries. They don't all ripen at once, by the way. I'm not sure at what point they're officially ready to come off, so I tried to pull off a range of them, from some that were full-sized and plump to a few that were slightly shriveled and wrinkled.

It's at this point that I start just randomly guessing what you're supposed to do. I popped the seeds out of the berries, which may or may not be right, and then tried to separate the pulp from the seeds. It's not easy to do. The pulp has the approximate texture of a raisin: kind of gummy and sticky. It's a lot easier to get out if you wipe it on a paper towel.

The pulp also has an interesting smell. It's not unpleasant: what it reminded me of was the light, sweet scent of corn pollen. I thought about tasting it, and really wanted to, but didn't. (Partly because although death by Anthurium would be a poetic way to go, I didn't especially want to die, or even get sick, and partly because I figured the taste would be disappointing.)

Anyway. I put the seeds in a glass of water to try to dislodge any remaining pulp --

-- and then planted them in damp vermiculite in a sunny spot, and we'll see whether anything comes of this. Even if it doesn't, I figured dissecting Anthurium berries was worth a post anyway.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Iowa City Graffiti: Free the Slaves

Date: September 29, 2009

To: Graffiti artist / stencil designer

From: Iowa City Dumpster Journal

Re: "Free the Slaves" design

Thank you for your recent contribution to the 700 block of South Gilbert Street. Here are our thoughts with regard to your submission:

Although your graphic design is clear and effective, the message of your graffito is unclear on several counts.

1. We would like specifics about which slaves are to be freed.

2. We would like to see a more precise definition of "free" in this context. Do you mean "having nothing left to lose?" The ability to attend, or not attend, a church of one's preference? Unregulated capitalism? The capacity to make a living?

3. We would like some kind of guidance as to how this freeing is to be accomplished (at what time? Using what methods? In conjunction with which, if any, governmental or international agencies?).

4. We would like clarification as to whether you mean "the slaves" to be understood as all slaves, everywhere, or some particular subgroup of slaves.

We encourage you to resubmit a piece which addresses these concerns. You may find it useful to revisit our guidelines for new submitters, currently located on the dumpsters in the Kum & Go parking lot at the corner of E Burlington St and S Gilbert St, in Iowa City. We appreciate your interest in publication in the Iowa City Dumpster Journal.

Pretty picture: Wilsonara Pacific Panache 'Keenan'

Wilsonara is a cross of Cochlioda, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium; I don't know much about it beyond that. These flowers were at my ex-job a few weeks ago (possibly the same visit when I got all the Phalaenopsis pictures: set 1, set 2, set 3).

This is a cool color for orchid flowers, but the size and shape don't do a lot for me. I'm still more of a fan of Beallara and Goodaleara, with the medium-sized star-shaped flowers. I'd rather have one biggish flower than a spray of tiny ones. I suppose I'd make an exception if it were an Oncidium 'Sharry Baby' or something: fragrance has priority over flower size.

Which reminds me: I still want to get a 'Sharry Baby' sometime. I should write this down.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Random plant event: Stephanotis floribunda 'Variegata' fruit

This is not my personal plant; it's from where I used to work. I've never tried Stephanotis indoors and think it's unlikely that I ever will; according to WCW, they tend to be buggy. But this was still pretty damned cool.

I don't know much about this besides what's obvious from the picture; they wouldn't have deliberately tried to pollinate it, so I assume it was already doing this when it arrived a few months ago. Either that or something pollinated it while it was in the greenhouse (which is uncommon, but did happen sometimes). The fruit is approximately three inches long (a guess), more or less the size and weight of a Roma tomato. I saw it again a couple weeks after taking this picture, and it seemed to be about the same size, so either this is as big as they get, or it develops slowly.

If the plant doesn't sell right away, I'll try to check in on it from time to time and give you updates, but I bet it sells sooner rather than later.

QUICKLY REVISED LAST NIGHT TO ADD: Well, it hasn't sold yet. As circumstances had it, I needed to go in to buy some stuff yesterday, and I checked on the plant while there. You can see it's gotten a little longer since the first two pictures were taken. (I'm not sure, unfortunately, how long ago that was: the photo is dated 17 Sep, but that's just the day I named and saved those particular pictures, not necessarily the day they were taken. Maybe it's been a month?)

I also talked to WCW about it; she said that when the current greenhouse person talked to our supplier about this, the supplier sounded all amazed and said that this never happens, nobody'd ever seen it before down there in Florida, and she wanted to see a picture. Possibly the actual conversation was different than that, but in any case I get the strong sense that this is something unusual. Some googling turned up a few references to it (and one YouTube video of a Stephanotis fruit being dissected), including a UBC Botanical Garden Forum thread which included instructions for how to harvest and sow seed from Stephanotis fruit, so it's something that has happened before in human history. Though I could believe that variegated ones don't fruit very often. In any case, it's something I'd never seen before.

Rumor has it that the fruit is not edible, alas.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pretty picture: Eupatorium sp.

This came very close to being included in the last roadside flowers post, but I didn't use it because it wasn't exactly a roadside flower. Or at least it's not a roadside flower in the usual way; this one was in Iowa City, along the route I used to walk to work, not out in the country minding its own business like they usually are.

The main reason it didn't get included in that last post, though, was because the last post was already plenty long and I didn't want to make it even longer.

I'm not sure on the ID; I'm pretty sure it's a Eupatorium, and I was pretty sure it was E. rugosum, too, until I looked at the illustration of this plant in Wicked Plants. The pictures at look like this plant, but the illustration for WP has leaves which are a lot narrower.

If it is E. rugosum (Wikipedia claims E. rugosum has been renamed Ageratina altissima, by the way; I have no idea whether this is to be taken seriously), I'm surprised that it can be found in Iowa City, and more surprised to find it growing spontaneously: this was just in a bunch of other weeds along a drainage creek. The way Amy Stewart makes it sound in the book, people put a lot of work into trying to eradicate this plant, because it caused "milk sickness" (the plant poisons cattle that feed on it, and the poison is excreted in the milk, in sufficient quantity to poison humans who drink the milk; Abraham Lincoln's mother is thought to have died this way). If it's popping up in the middle of town, though, either the eradication was kind of half-assed, or it's just really prolific and weedy. Or both.