Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stupid Plant Tricks: Plectranthus oertendahlii

You are probably aware, if you've grown Swedish ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus) at all, that the sap turns orange when exposed to air. It'll even stain skin orange, in fact, which is one of the more annoying things about the plant.

Plectranthus oertendahlii, slightly past its prime blooming period.

Plectranthus oertendahlii, on the other hand, doesn't do that. As far as I can tell, its sap starts out clear and then stays clear. But it does something similar. When the flowers get wet, like for example when you're watering them in the bathtub, they'll turn the water blue.

I realize this photo doesn't show the blueness coming from the flowers. You're just going to have to trust me that that's how it happened. I first noticed this a few weeks ago, and wondered about it, but so many things get sprayed around the shower when I'm watering that I thought possibly it was unrelated to the plant. But, lo and behold, there the blue water was again the next time I watered the plant.

I doubt this has any practical applications. I don't know whether it will dye fabric (I'd bet not); I know it doesn't dye skin. I have no idea what part of the flower is responsible. I don't know how dark the color can get. It's pretty pointless to know this, or to tell others about it. But there you go anyway.


Pat said...

Many flowers can be used as a litmus, with the colours and pH values varying according to the species. Just add a little lemon juice or vinegar or bicarb. Not much use but fun. My idea of fun, anyway.

Paul said...

I wouldn't be surprised if they could impart a dye if you used a LOT of flowers and a mordant. But no doubt you could get better blue w/less from other plants, like hyacinth, cornflower, or maple. Still neat.

Unknown said...

My Swedish Ivy plants have never bloomed (produced flowers).... Am I doing something wrong?

mr_subjunctive said...

April Brower:

If it's important to you to see them bloom, then I suppose you're doing something "wrong," but I don't know why it would be important to you to see them bloom. I mean, the blooms aren't spectacular or anything.

What kind of light are the plants getting now? What kind of fertilizer? It's probably one or the other of those.