Friday, December 31, 2010

Random plant event: Stapelia gigantea flower, again

As promised yesterday, today we have the "evil" flower. It's not actually evil, of course, but . . . well, you wouldn't know that from the smell. Especially by contrast with yesterday's Eucharis.

By the time I noticed the bud, it was already pretty well-developed. (I've seen a lot of buds get started but then drop off before developing fully, so it's possible I'd seen it earlier but just assumed nothing was going to happen.) This was taken on 22 December:

And by 25 December, it had opened. (Technically, I didn't notice until 26 December, but it certainly could have been 25 December, because I didn't check, and it's in a spot where I can't see the flower without going a bit out of my way to try. Plus, it's a lot more poetic to say that the fourth Eucharis bloom and the Stapelia both opened on the same day. One looks like the Star of Bethlehem, the other smells like a manger -- I guess I should be looking for a wooly, sheep-like flower to stand in for the shepherds, for next year. Can't actually think of one right now, but I know there must be some somewhere.)

This isn't really the ideal time for a Stapelia bloom, obviously, because they smell like dog shit and we can't open the windows. Fortunately, it's only the one flower, and the smell isn't that strong: I have to be pretty close in order to detect it, so it's not really a big deal. It's also unlikely to last very long: I think the previous flower from last April (which had better pictures, by the way) was only around for about a week. So I'm not unhappy about this.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pretty picture: Eucharis grandiflora bloom

We had sort of a good flower / evil flower thing going on here on Christmas Day. The good flower was, of course, Eucharis grandiflora, which I first noticed was blooming around the beginning of December. It eventually produced a scape (flowering stem) with four buds on it. The first of those opened on 20 December, and the fourth one opened on Christmas. (The evil flower is the subject of tomorrow's post; I'm not going to spoil the surprise.) Which as far as it goes, the buds are fairly ornamental in their own right:

The smell changes with the time of day, which might be the flowers and might be me. I'm not sure. But at least some of the time, the scent reminds me of a Gardenia, sitting on a table, which has just been dusted with Lemon Pledge: mostly a gardenia smell, but with a bit of something sharper and more citrusy. It's possibly the very best scent in the entire world. At other moments, Eucharis has a heavier, more perfumey smell, which I don't like so much.

One good and bad thing: the scape wasn't really strong enough to hold the flowers upright. It was good because the plant's on a high shelf already, and having the flowers standing straight up would have put them out of smellable range, but it was bad because the photos of the whole plant looked goofy. Eventually I had to tie the scape to a bamboo rod in order to get a whole-plant picture:

Unfortunately, particular flowers don't last very long: the one that opened on 20 December had begun to wither by 26 December, so it's a brief show. I still can't complain about the plant, though: it's been remarkably easy to take care of so far (and I've had mine since January 2009, almost two years), and I really like it as a foliage plant even when it isn't blooming. Plus, even if the show is brief, it could happen again in a few months, if I can figure out how to make it happen again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Re: Ads

Decision time on the ads. I didn't reach the amount I'd been hoping to reach, but 1) I only barely missed it, and 2) it has occurred to me that December is absolutely the worst possible month in which to be making traffic-dependent decisions, since traffic all but disappears for the last two or three weeks of December. So it's close enough.

Random plant event: Episcia 'Coco' leaf sprouting

Back when I did the list about plants that can be propagated from single leaves, I included Episcia in theory, because it's related to a lot of plants that can produce new plants from leaves, but I'd never seen it actually happen, and James Missier said he'd tried it but it hadn't worked, so I wasn't sure whether it was possible or not.

It turns out that it can happen, though:

This is a tiny plantlet from a leaf off of Episcia 'Coco' that Kenneth Moore sent me last summer; a few leaves fell off during transit or during the repot (don't remember which) and I threw them in a plastic container with vermiculite in it to see what would happen. They grew roots quickly, but showed no signs of sprouting new plants until earlier this month. So now I know that it's possible, at least. Whether it's a particularly good idea, I don't know: that's a long time to wait, and stem cuttings are much faster and give you full-sized plants as soon as they root. But at least it's not theoretical anymore.

The next obstacle is, will it transplant to real soil okay, or is it going to be traumatized? Check back in a few months and we'll find out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

List: Houseplants Which are Also Epiphytes

It's a lot easier to define the word epiphyte than it is to provide examples. The reason is that epiphyte is less a type of plant than it is a lifestyle, and with lifestyles, one can dabble, or one can commit. The line between regular plants and epiphytes, therefore, is kind of fuzzy.

But first things second. What epiphytes actually are, are plants that grow on other plants, generally trees. (Epi - on or above; phyte - plant) They're not parasites: they don't steal nutrients or directly harm the plant they grow on. They may get large enough to break branches off, but that's an accident, and doesn't serve the epiphyte's needs any more than it serves the host. There are a few sinister epiphytes that begin development growing on branches or trunks but eventually outgrow, overwhelm, and kill their host, notably the "strangler figs" like Ficus aurea.

A lot of the aroid epiphytes (Anthurium, Monstera, Philodendron) can either begin life on a tree branch and eventually drop roots down to the ground (primary epiphytes) or begin life on the ground and crawl until they find a tree to climb (secondary epiphytes). Either type of plant is sometimes called a hemiepiphyte. (hemi - half, partial) Some other plants can grow either terrestrially (in the ground) or as epiphytes, depending on where they find themselves, but any individual plant picks one or the other spot and sticks with it. On the other hand, some epiphytes are unable to live terrestrially, and either find themselves a branch as a seedling or they die.

Epiphytes are over-represented in the houseplant world. I suspect the main explanation for this is that epiphytes are naturally adapted to shade, so they adjust better to the lower light levels found in the home. The most common groups of epiphytic houseplants are found in the aroid, bromeliad, cactus, and orchid families.

The list that follows is far from exhaustive; I was kind of in a hurry. (This post is partly so I can be eligible for an epiphyte-centric plant giveaway Steve Asbell is doing; details on how to enter are at his post here.) I'll certainly add other plants if anybody wants to suggest some.

Aechmea fasciata.

Anthurium x 'Marie.'

Dischidia ruscifolia.

Guzmania NOID.

Hylocereus sp.

Oncidium Tsiku Marguerite 'NN #1.'

Platycerium sp.

Schlumbergera NOID.

Selenicereus chrysocardium.

Tillandsia xerographica.

I haven't grown some of the plants in this list (Anthurium, Tillandsia), and one I haven't had for very long (Oncidium), so I'm not sure the recommendations and anti-recommendations are going to be all that useful, but we'll try.

I'm a big fan of Schlumbergeras. They have slightly quirky needs, but they're less complicated than I'd been led to believe, the flowers are really pretty, and the plants can last forever.

Dischidia ruscifolia doesn't do a whole lot, but as far as I can tell, they're easy to keep happy.

Aechmea fasciata should be available a lot more often than it is, because it's a very nice plant, even when it's not flowering. I find them very easy to care for, too, which helps.

(I also suspect that I would probably like Tillandsia xerographica if I got to know it, but they're rarely available here, and when they are available, they're really expensive. So I don't have one yet.)

For the anti-recommend, I'd have to go with Anthurium x 'Marie,' even though I haven't actually grown it, because I've grown a couple other foliage Anthuriums and it hasn't worked out. They're not hard to keep alive, but they need a lot more light than I can provide: without it, the leaves get either enormous and thin (A. "hookeri") or small and twisted (A. podophyllum), and neither one looks particularly good. (I haven't had a good time with my Platycerium either, but I'm not sure which of us is more to blame for that, so they might work out fine for other people and I won't discourage you from trying one.)

All epiphytic plants have certain expectations for what kind of material they're going to find around their roots, and sometimes if you have trouble with an epiphyte, the soil is the problem, not you or the plant. I've recently started adding coarse, unchopped sphagnum moss to the potting mix I usually use, in about a 1:1 ratio, for my Anthurium andraeanums and bromeliads, and it seems to have made a world of difference there. (This may be why the Platycerium hasn't worked out: for it, I used the straight potting mix, with no modification, which is possibly too heavy.) Orchids are typically grown in mixed chunky pieces of bark but are sometimes also grown in 100% coarse sphagnum. For a lot of the epiphytic cacti, my regular potting mix seems to be okay with no modification most of the time.

Not pictured:

Most other Aechmea spp. (epiphytic or terrestrial)
some Aeschynanthus spp. (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Anthurium andraeanum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Anthurium crystallinum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Anthurium podophyllum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
some Begonia spp.
most Billbergia spp.
Cattleya and Cattleya alliance orchids like Potinara, Brassolaeliocattleya, Sophrolaeliocattleya, etc.
some (?) Cryptanthus cvv. (?) (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Cymbidium spp.
most (?) Dendrobium spp.
Dischidia spp. including D. nummularia 'Pebble Beach'
Epiphyllum spp.
Ficus benjamina (not a lot of information about it being a strangler fig out there, but it comes up often enough that I think it must be occasionally)
Hatiora salicornioides and other Hatiora spp.
a few Hippeastrum spp.
some Hoya spp., including H. carnosa (?) (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Lepismium spp.
Monstera deliciosa (hemiepiphyte)
Myrmecophilia spp.
Nepenthes spp.
some Neoregelia spp. (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Oncidium and Oncidium alliance orchids like Miltoniopsis, Beallara, Odontoglossum, Vuylstekeara, Wilsonara, etc.
some Paphiopedilum spp.
Phalaenopsis spp.
Philodendron bipennifolium (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron hastatum (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron hederaceum (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron martianum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Philodendron mexicanum (hemiepiphyte)
Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa
most (all?) Rhipsalis spp.
Schomburgkia spp.
Syngonium podophyllum (hemiepiphyte)
Many but not all Tillandsia spp. ("air plants")
Vanilla spp. (hemiepiphyte)
Vireya spp.
some Vriesea spp., including V. splendens
Worsleya rayneri

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pretty picture: Buddha

We have a couple prisms in the kitchen windows, and a number of Buddhas around the house; both are the husband's deal, but I like the prisms and don't object to the Buddhas, so whatever. The above is what happens when one of the little rainbows from the prisms happens to land perfectly across one of the little bronze Buddhas. Without a regular-light photo to compare to, this is maybe not that impressive: the reader could be forgiven for assuming it was painted. But in normal light, this is mostly bronze, with black hair and accents.

The angle of the sun is now such that this can't happen again for a while, and I'm not in the kitchen that much during the morning to begin with, so getting this picture was mostly the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

How to Deal With Plants Which Have Been Chilled

I occasionally get e-mails from people who want to know what to do for plants that have been accidentally exposed to too-cold temperatures. Maybe they've picked up a plant that was abandoned next to a dumpster in a snowstorm, maybe they forgot to bring it in off the porch in the fall, that sort of thing. And it's occurred to me that I didn't already have a post about this, so maybe it would be worth writing one, since whenever I'm asked I wind up having to write a whole big thing from scratch.

The problem is, there's very little to say about this situation. There is no special fertilizer you can apply to reverse cold damage, and keeping the plant extra-warm for a while isn't going to help either. You pretty much just have to give the plant whatever care it would ordinarily prefer (or maybe slightly drier than it would usually prefer, if you think there may be root damage) and wait to see what it does. Sometimes plants will surprise you: I had a jade plant (Crassula ovata) once that was accidentally left outside, in Iowa, through I think mid- to late December. It was covered in snow when I saw it and brought it in, but it recovered and went on for several more years anyway.

I didn't have any plant photos of plants being exposed to cold, but I did have a photo of a dog being exposed to cold. I figure since there was no Sheba/Nina picture on Saturday because of hiatus, probably nobody would mind a late one.

Even in situations where it's clear the plant has been badly damaged, cold usually harms the extremities -- the tips of branches, the topmost leaves -- most severely. So, one can often just cut branches back to undamaged tissue and the plant will sprout new growth. (The resultant plant won't be as big and pretty as it was, but given enough time, it can come back.) Also anything that's obviously dead (black, crispy, mushy) can be cut off: whether it's an aesthetic improvement or not, those parts weren't going to spring back to life anyway, so you might as well.

Aside from those few things, though, mostly you just have to wait and see how bad it's going to be. And, obviously, not do it again. Within two or three months (probably sooner), whatever is going to happen will have happened, and you can decide what to do from there.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pretty picture: Vuylstekeara Melissa Brianne 'Shady Lady'

Boxing Day, at long last. In reality, there are a couple more weeks of Christmas-related events and music, but in my mind, Boxing Day is when stores and advertisements stop playing Christmas music, and the poinsettias get thrown out, and the Schlumbergeras get put on clearance if they're going to be, and the whole world just returns to normal after three months of force-feeding me red-and-green glittery holiday cheer. So Boxing Day is, like, the most wonderful day of the year to me. Hope everyone else is enjoying it too.

Oh! Speaking of force-fed glitter -- you know those spray-painted poinsettias, that have blue bracts, or purple, or whatever, usually liberally sprinkled with glitter besides? I saw green ones this year. Seriously. Someone went to the trouble of growing up a bunch of poinsettias, kept them under darkness for the prescribed number of hours per day so they would flower and their bracts would turn red (or possibly white: it's hard to tell for sure), and then spray-painted the bracts green. The color they would have been anyway.

This is a terrible picture; I was trying to get a couple photos and then get away as quickly as possible, because it was crowded and busy and I felt really self-conscious. In reality, the spray-paint was a slightly bluish, deep emerald green, which the color settings on the camera completely failed to capture properly: the photo makes the coloration look a little more realistic than was actually the case.

A line of some sort has been crossed, here.

But anyway. None of this is the point of the post; there is an orchid to be looked at. I don't have a lot to say about it, but I like the color. Comment or don't.

Meanwhile, all kinds of things have happened over the last week -- lots of random blooming going on, just like last year (also, also, also). Winter is a curiously eventful season for indoor gardening.1 So I spent a lot of the hiatus writing posts in advance, and therefore haven't really had a winter break yet, but I will, eventually.


1 (Especially by comparison to outdoor. At least in Iowa it is.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LOLCactaceae / Hiatus Announcement

Back row, L-R: Schlumbergera x buckleyi, Pachycereus marginatus, Echinocactus grusonii, Pilosocereus pachycladus, Astrophytum ornatum, Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Stenocereus pruinosus.
Middle row: Epiphyllum oxypetallum, Stenocereus thurberi, Isolatocereus dumortieri.
Front row: Cereus peruvianus, Rhipsalis teres var. heteroclada (?), Schlumbergera x 'Caribbean Dancer,' Browningia hertlingiana (?), Leuchtenbergia principis.

Not present: Selenicereus chrysocardium, Selenicereus anthonyanus, Hatiora salicornioides, Mammillaria spinosissima, Parodia microsperma, Hylocereus sp., Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa, Rhipsalis ewaldiana

I was hoping to make this, like, a regular thing, after doing the first one back in 2008 (when it was the Aroid Family with bows, rather than the Cactus Family with Santa hats), but for reasons I no longer recall, it didn't work out last year, so the tradition kind of stopped before it got started.

But a few weeks ago, I was thinking of Santa hats for some reason, and it occurred to me that I could make my own tiny, plant-sized ones from construction paper and cotton balls. One thing led to another, and a couple hours later, I was taking the above picture. I have no idea what I'll do next year. (Maybe I could knit a bunch of little Christmas sweaters?)

This also begins the winter hiatus. As in 2008, I wish my readers a (in some cases retroactive) happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Gurnenthar's Ascendance, Festivus, Boxing Day Eve, Cephalopodmas, Monkey, mundane but not-unpleasant day of no particular significance, or combination of the above, in accordance with your religious beliefs and preferences or lack thereof.

PATSP will return on 26 December.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Random plant event: Lenophyllum texanum flowering

If I were going to write a plant profile on Lenophyllum texanum, I think I'd go with "Stalker" for the person, because it's a weird creepy plant that's always winding up in other plants' pots but has few redeeming qualities of its own. It's like, if plants could talk, this plant would always be saying JUST GO OUT WITH ME THIS ONE TIME AND I'LL LEAVE YOU ALONE FOREVER I PROMISE.

I talked about it in the Bryophyllum daigremontianum profile without knowing that I was talking about a different plant: both B. daigremontianum and L. texanum reproduce by dropping bits of themselves off of a parent plant: for Bryophyllum, the bits are plantlets, and for Lenophyllum, they're leaves. In either case, at work, they tended to land in the same pots as cacti, where they grew more or less unperturbed, because nobody wanted to risk getting stuck by the cacti in the process of removing the weeds.

Much like this, actually.

But I'm not going to write a profile about Lenophyllum texanum, because I haven't actually tried to grow it on purpose. Maybe it actually is a nice guy, deep down, and we'd be very happy together, but I'm not willing to risk finding it popping up in all the other plants' pots around the house for the next seven or eight years. That position has already been filled, by Sedum morganianum1 and S. x rubrotinctum.2


It turns out that L. texanum really does have at least one redeeming quality, if you leave it to its own devices for long enough, which is: there are flowers.

They're not huge or gorgeous or pleasantly-scented or anything, and I don't know how often they bloom (these pictures were taken at the ex-job in mid-November), or for how long, but now I'm feeling a little bit bad that I didn't let a Lenophyllum go wild just once at the ex-job, to see what it would do. And who knows what other really cool things I never got to see because I was all busy with the "working" and the "talking to customers" and "earning a paycheck" and everything.

But, you know. I was young and stupid then.

I still don't want to grow L. texanum myself -- you'll notice that even when it's getting enough light to flower, it's still kind of gangly and awkward, and the leaf-droppage problem would be an issue regardless -- but hey! It has redeeming qualities! Party on, Lenophyllum texanum!


1 Which I encourage, because S. morganianum is frequently cooler than the plants whose pots it is hijacking.
2 Which is less welcome, but better now that I know it has to be under extreme -- like, MOUNTAIN-DEW! extreme -- artificial light if I want it to look good and do well. We may yet be able to reach an agreement.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pretty picture: Strelitzia reginae flower

I think I've probably seen more artificial Strelitzia reginae flowers than real ones, in my life. At least if we're talking about real flowers that are still attached to the plant. (They're not extremely common cut flowers in Iowa, but one sees them occasionally -- the flower shop in the garden center where I used to work had them fairly often.) In the garden center where I worked, on the few occasions when we got Strelitzia reginaes in, the suppliers had usually (always?) stuck a fake flower into the pot. They were surprisingly good fakes, too: I was fooled on two different occasions that I remember.

I wasn't tempted to buy this particular plant (it had scale, alas, plus I have so many BOPs -- mostly the white-flowering S. nicolai -- already that it actually seems excessive to me1), but the flower was still noteworthy. How long before I get a flower of my own, on the BOPs here in the house? Years, probably. Maybe never. It's not really something that happens indoors and in containers, not often. Do I care? Not especially. They're still cool houseplants.


1 Technically, I only have five: three S. nicolai, one S. reginae, and one that I haven't decided what it is yet but really really hope is S. reginae because nobody needs four S. nicolais.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I am pleased to report that I have achieved control over the weather. Within 24 hours of my announcement last Wednesday that I would be shunning winter until it stopped being so cold and dry, we had a nice overnight snowfall that left a couple inches of snow on the ground and covered up all that unsightly dead grass. And then it warmed up by like 10-15 degrees (F; this would be 6-8 degrees C) also, so we're now having high temperatures in the 20s (-2 to -7C) instead of single digits (-13 to -18C), which is considerably more comfortable.

Obviously my first project as the controller of the planet's weather will be to fix that whole global warming thing (you're welcome), but Eastern Iowans should be warned that I'm fond of watching tornadoes, and I won't know how good my aim is until I've practiced a bit. Consequently, early in the spring of 2011 might be a really excellent time to get those walls reinforced, fix the weak spots on the roof, and check the fine print of your homeowner's insurance.


How does Sheba feel about the snow? It's hard to tell. I know it makes it harder to play fetch-the-tennis-ball. She's not good at finding them when they're under snow, though I think that's partly an issue of not knowing they're there to be looked for unless she actually sees them fall in: I tried rolling one around in her dog food before we went out, to see if the smell would make them easier to find, and although she did eventually find the ball once when it went into a snowdrift, it took her a pretty long time, and was pretty obviously a case of her just plowing through the drift at random until it turned up. Plus she kept stopping and looking back at me, as if to say you really want me to keep looking? Is the ball worth that much to you?

Anyway, it's technically Nina's turn for a photo, but I'm doing a Sheba picture again because I really wanted a good snow/Sheba photo last week but had insufficient snow for what I was imagining. Behold and marvel:

And whatever it looks like, that's not, I repeat not a photo of Sheba getting hit in the face with a miniature soccer ball: it's a toy, and it has a loop of nylon or something that comes out of one side. She's carrying it by the loop.

We were going to enroll her in an after-school soccer program, but we don't have the money to buy a minivan right now, which I understand is required, so we're going to wait and see whether she wants to play, first.

Also, it's time for -- *sigh* -- the weekly update about Nina's new place. It was improving when I soaked the sides in vinegar the first two times, but I did it a third time -- for something like three hours, on the theory that if a little vinegar is good, then a lot must be awesome -- and I swear, if anything, it came out of that round looking worse.

There are two main kinds of crud present here, and because it's very hard to photograph something transparent with an auto-focusing camera, the pictures are not going to be great at revealing what's going on. But this is the best I could do after taking many photos.

First there's the fine-grained, cloudy stuff that looks like hard-water stains but doesn't come off with CLR, razor blades, vinegar, or anything else I've tried. It's most visible as a diagonal line in the lower right-hand corner of this picture:

And then there's the stuff that looks like it used to be some sort of horrible mucusy slime. It's coarser and clearer, and feels rough to the touch, but again, CLR, razor blades, etc., don't touch it.

The husband was supposed to pick up a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser last time he was in town, but he forgot (which is fine), so I'm still going to try that eventually (honestly, it was kind of nice to have a week wherein I didn't have to think about the stupid aquarium so much), but otherwise I'm out of ideas. I haven't tried muriatic (= hydrochloric) acid, per reader recommendation, because we don't already have any and I'm a little skeptical about it. (If vinegar, a mild acid, makes the situation worse, then what's a strong acid going to do? Also: would toilet bowl cleaner be essentially the same thing? 'Cause I'm pretty sure we have that already.) But I'm filing it away for consideration if the Magic Eraser thing doesn't work out.

I am quickly losing hope, though. The aquarium might still be a good thing to have around -- even if I can't use it for Nina, I could move the fish, or use it as a high-humidity plant hospital, or something like that -- but honestly, I fell into despair about moving Nina into it when the acetone failed. Granted, I fall into (and out of) despair pretty easily. But still. I didn't think there was anything acetone couldn't dissolve, or at least loosen. Seeing it fail was like finding out Snuffleupagus isn't real.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pretty picture: Prosthechea cochleata

This has also been called Encyclia cochleata, which is what the file name on the photo says and what the tag on the plant at the show said. Encyclia still outnumbers Prosthechea by two to one on Google, but it's a new plant to me, and I figure as long as I'm learning a new name, I may as well make it the right one.

One of the common names is "clamshell orchid," from the appearance of the petal at the "top." It's actually sort of the bottom of the flower, though: P. cochleata flowers are upside down, developmentally speaking. Usually, an orchid flower's labellum, or lip, is an enlarged petal which serves as a landing platform for insects, like the "slipper" of a Paphiopedilum. In P. cochleata, the labellum hangs over the rest of the flower like a hood instead, but it's still the labellum. Hence, upside-down.

Whether or not the labellum looks like a clamshell is a matter of opinion, I guess: I'm not impressed with the resemblance myself, and would prefer "octopus orchid." But they still don't consult me before giving plants common names, so clamshell (or sometimes "cockle-shell") it is.

Supposedly the flowers smell like lemon/citrus; I don't remember there being a smell when I took the picture, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time, either.

A version of this plant is native to Southern Florida: it has three anthers, instead of the usual one, and is self-fertile. It's also, unfortunately, endangered, which is what happens when you're an orchid trying to coexist with the five and a half million people in the greater Miami metropolitan region.


The usual one-anthered version is the National Flower of Belize, but is found throughout Central America, Columbia, Venezuela, and the West Indies, and is consequently in much less danger of extinction.

P. cochleata has also been crossed with another orchid to produce the hybrid Prosyclia Green Hornet: different sites give different parentages for Green Hornet, but I'm inclined to go with P. cochleata x Encyclia trulla. Green Hornet is very similar to P. cochleata, but the flowers are bigger.

Supposedly they're fairly easy, as orchids go. I don't know whether that's true, but if I see one for sale and have the money, I may very well buy one to try. There's some sound-seeming advice about their care here.


1 The opening credits for "CSI: Miami" are set to the song "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who. The song starts off with a long, drawn-out, overenthusiastic YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! that's fairly over the top all on its own, but comes off as being even more over the top when it follows, as it usually does, a scene involving David Caruso, who is usually trying to be dramatic by putting on his sunglasses and pausing a lot, but they don't give him very interesting lines to end scenes on, so the drama tends to fall flat. Adding a YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! after someone says something relatively uninteresting, or something interesting that falls flat, turned into a minor internet meme.
This explanation really wasn't worth the joke, and in fact the joke probably wasn't even funny: I suspect it only seemed funny because I'm in a strange mood at the moment.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Random plant event: Echeveria coccinea buds of some kind

I'm not quite sure what's going on here.

When I got this plant (as unrooted cuttings), it had some flowers still on it: they were solid red and fairly close to the stems, not on tall stalks like some Echeverias get. So there's the possibility that these are flower buds in progress. It could also just be branching, making these stem buds, not flower buds. It might be a while before I find out, because I'm scared to water it now. It's on a (south-facing) windowsill in the plant room, which gets cold, and I'm afraid that after a couple cold, wet nights it will up and die on me. So I don't water, but the lack of water might be why the plant's not growing, too. You see how complicated it all is.

I'm fairly certain I'll find out what's going on sooner or later, and my money's on flowers. Which would be -- for an Echeveria in my care -- fairly miraculous.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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

Hey, remember last Saturday, when I was complaining about how cold and dry it'd been so far this winter? Well, on Saturday and Sunday, we were having an actual blizzard, officially, with the National Weather Service issuing Blizzard Warnings and making increasingly overwrought pronouncements about the inadvisability of trying to go anywhere: slick roads (there was rain for a few hours before the snow started), strong winds (20-30 mph / 32-48 kph sustained, with gusts to 50 mph / 80 kph), heavy snow coming down and then blowing around creating "near-whiteout conditions" and life-threatening wind chills (to -20F / -29C) and so forth.

But: not only did most of the actual snowfall happen at night when I wasn't awake to watch it, but we hardly got any snow at all, maybe two inches (5 cm) at most. (They had been predicting 3-4 in / 8-10 cm.) And, now it's that much colder, so I didn't get a warm-up or a snowfall, thanks a lot, Mr. Blizzard.

So I'm shunning winter until it decides to straighten up and be more reasonable. At least for today, it's summer on PATSP. We've got sunflowers, crotons, cannas, corn, all kinds of summery stuff.

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

Helianthus annuus. Not much of a photo, but the leaves aren't the photogenic part of the plant.

Platycerium sp., perhaps P. bifurcatum. Mine isn't doing so hot lately: possibly this is not a good indoor plant. Or maybe it's a great indoor plant and I'm just growing it badly.

Phytolacca americana. I was really impressed with pokeweed last summer this summer right now, in the summer, summer being the season it is presently. Weedy, sure, but also impressively ornamental -- I saw at least one eight-foot (2.7 m) specimen that was either deliberately grown or deliberately not cut-down, and it looked good. Hot-pink stems, multi-colored berries, birds like it: we could do worse, for weeds, is all I'm saying.

Ledebouria socialis. Yeah, this one's just kinda ugly.

Zea mays. There's something kind of Op Art about Zea mays photos: all those parallel lines that aren't parallel. I like it.

Synadenium grantii. Yes, you've seen this plant's leaves before, but so what? I like it.

Codiaeum variegatum NOID (most likely 'Petra'). This reminds me of photos of the Sun's surface: all yellow and orange with a few dark spots.

Ficus elastica 'Tineke,' or similar cv. I'm not sure what to say about this one either.

Ctenanthe lubbersiana. I passed up buying this plant at Lowe's this summer, repeatedly, because 1) it was very large and I didn't have room for it and 2) I wasn't sure I could keep it happy even if I found a way to make room for it. Lowe's is still the only place I've ever seen one, and I wonder occasionally whether I made the right call.

Canna 'Tropicanna.' Holy crap. It's a little over the top, I'll grant you, but this is my favorite. None of the others are even close.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Random plant event: Euphorbia milii flowering

In May 2009, I bought a Euphorbia milii. I was never all that crazy about them, but I like Euphorbias in general, and Plowing Through Life (who was still Water Roots at the time) spoke highly of them, so I figured it was only sensible to give them a try. I picked out one with lots of salmon-colored flowers on it, brought it home, and watched as it dropped all the flowers.

And then, for another seventeen or eighteen months, basically nothing happened. The plant got taller. It grew some new leaves, it dropped some old leaves, but it wouldn't rebloom. Did it need fertilizer? I fed it, then fed it again. Nothing. Did it need more light? Well, too bad, because I didn't have a brighter spot for it, and anyway it was in a pretty bright spot already. Was it, perhaps, rootbound? Pulled it out of the pot to check and found that, if anything, its pot was too big, that either some of the roots had died or it had been over-potted from the start.

So this, though only a single flower, and not even a particularly interesting flower at that, is a huge deal:

What changed? One of the plants in a spot with really good light got big and had to move, freeing up some space, so the Euphorbia milii has had maybe two or three months of some sun, plus supplemental artificial light. Apparently the problem was light all along, even though it was in what I thought was a pretty bright west window. Live and learn.

Monday, December 13, 2010


If you don't get it immediately: Selenicereus is pronounced Seh-LEEN-ih-SER-ee-us. "Dion" is pronounced "DEE-on."

If it still doesn't make sense, do a Google search for "near, far, wherever you are."

If it still doesn't make sense after that, well, it wasn't a very good joke anyway, so don't worry about it.

Question for the Hive Mind: Reader NOID

A reader has, once again, managed to stump me on a plant ID question. This particular plant:

  • was originally purchased via an ad in Town and Country
  • has been around for several years
  • blooms "all the time."

My only guess is that maybe the plant is in the Malvaceae -- that pistil (?) sticking out of the flower looks a lot like certain Abutilon and Hibiscus varieties I've seen. Though the leaves completely don't match.

So how about it? Even if you don't know a precise species or variety, confirming a family or genus would still be helpful in tracking it down.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Quad City Botanical Center, Part 3 of What Turns Out to be 3

This last post (Part 1; Part 2) on the Quad City Botanical Center (QCBC) doesn't really have a lot of organization to it, unlike the other two. I'm just trying to cover the plants I think you'd want to know about that I hadn't already covered, basically.

The plant I found most interesting was one I hadn't heard of before:

Dichorisandra thyrsifolia.

Dichorisandra thyrsiflora is in the Commelinaceae, the family of such easy indoor plants as Tradescantia pallida and Callisia fragrans, and yet I'd never heard of it. That's probably because it's a little big for a houseplant:

and there could be cultural issues I'm not aware of besides. I mean, I would be surprised if it were particularly hard to grow indoors -- I can't think of anything else in the Commelinaceae that is -- but maybe.

Glasshouse Works does sell them, and claims they're easy to grow. Perhaps someday I'll try. The flowers are pretty impressive:

The camera continues to have difficulty reproducing certain blues: the flowers are more of a rich, dark blue-violet than the medium blue they show as in the photo.

I also saw a plant at the QCBC that I'd previously only encountered in a specialty website that sold plants for terrariums (I no longer remember which one):

Kaempferia pulchra.

I initially thought it was yet another Calathea, but a nearby sign identified it as Kaempferia pulchra, which is in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). I've never seen anyone growing it as a houseplant, so I can only assume that it's exceptionally demanding. Or maybe it's exceptionally slow to propagate, making it not worth the effort. Something: there must be something wrong with it. But, hey, pretty.

I was also impressed with the "red tower ginger," Costus barbatus, though it looked like the blooming was over a while ago:

Still, though, it was a nice big plant, which is impressive enough all on its own.

Costus barbatus.

The QCBC is very, very light on succulents, unfortunately. The only plant that was new to me was Euphorbia viguieri, which looks sort of like someone threw E. milii (thorns, flowers) and E. leuconeura (tuft of leaves at the top, longish, spoon-shaped leaves, narrow base that gets wider with height) together in a blender and split the difference between the two. It's not a very good picture, but that's okay, because it's not a very pretty plant:

Euphorbia viguieri.

Glasshouse Works sells those too.

There's one NOID that I'm particularly interested in: it was near the Carica papaya, and resembles it, but the leaflets are a lot narrower and more completely divided.

It's not impossible that it's just a Carica at a different stage of development, but I couldn't find any Carica leaves that looked like this in a Google image search. I also considered Schefflera, but couldn't find any of those that were particularly pointy except S. elegantissima (still better known as Dizygotheca elegantisisma), and these leaves should be much darker in color than S. elegantissima. (Cannabis sp. would be a possibility too, if not for the fact that, you know, it's not legal. Also I don't think Cannabis has leaflet margins that are that fancy.)

I know, it's one of those cases where looking more intently for an ID sign at the QCBC might have saved me a lot of trouble. But still. Any ideas?

UPDATE: Grower Jim identifies it in the comments as Jatropha multifida.

And while I'm asking: I'm pretty sure I've seen a bromeliad inflorescence like this recently on another blog (Garden Adventures? The Rainforest Garden?), but when I tried to find it again, I couldn't. I didn't remember seeing anything like it before, when I saw it at the QCBC, so wherever I saw it must have been fairly recent. The plant itself didn't look like anything special: I would have thought it a Guzmania if I'd seen it without flowers.

UPDATE: Both Grower Jim and Rainforest Gardener agree that it's probably an Aechmea, even without seeing one another's comments.

Finally, a NOID orchid in bloom. The QCBC didn't have very many orchids at all, and this was the only one I saw that was blooming, but the color impressed me.

I'm leaving a lot of photos unposted, of course, but they may show up at some point later on. Or I might go back later and take new, better pictures. I think you get the general idea of the place regardless. Considering that it's only an hour away and I'm in a small rural Iowa town, I think it's a remarkable place.

Even if they won't let you buy the plants.