Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

Less eventful than last week, as far as either Sheba or Nina are concerned, though our vehicle was diagnosed with some kind of cancer of the air conditioner compressor on Wednesday, which is unfortunate. Not really very relevant to the pets, who don't drive much (though Nina's been studying the driver's manual, so she can get her learner's permit), but it's kind of significant to my personal life, a little.

I also read something that made me think I needed to smell Sheba's feet this week. So I did. Turns out that she does in fact have "Frito Feet." It pleases me that there's a name for this.

This is a very bad picture of Nina, but it's the best I had, so it's what I went with. I was trying to get a picture of her all curled up inside her Vriesea at night, but she only does this when the terrarium light is off, which means there's not enough light to take a good picture. Even the flash doesn't help that much, because it needs to have a certain amount of light present in order to focus. So for this picture, I was holding a flashlight with my left hand while trying to take the photo with my right, with predictable results. Though the grainy, washed-out look kind of accentuates the "What? I was in bed, asshole," expression on her face.

The black dots are cricket droppings. Which I would attempt to clean out, if I didn't think the Vriesea probably likes having them there.

I need to remove about 3/4 of the terrarium's Stromanthe at some point; it's taken over, and not only has it managed to crowd out the Impatiens (still technically present, but it's got one root in the grave for sure), but it's growing leaves which are so much bigger now that they don't actually fit in the terrarium anymore anyway, and wind up bent at funny angles along the walls and top. I wonder if Plectranthus verticillatus would work. Or Pellionia pulchra.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The One About the Native Plants Purist, Part II

(This is Part II. If you haven't read Part I yet, you should do that before reading this. It has "Ghost Whisperer" jokes, carnivorous plants, and a hopeful but tragically misguided plan to solve the invasive species problem by making every species invasive.)

Ficus microcarpa. Native to: South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, some Pacific islands. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

6. You can't go home again.

Finally, I very badly want to know which past ecosystem my anonymous commenter wants us to return to. They've never been static. I grew up in an Iowa that had ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus torquatus), as did my parents and grandparents, and everybody around here thinks they're native North American birds, but in fact they've only been here since the late 1800s. Should we round them up and send them back to Asia? Honeybees aren't native to North America either, and were only brought over from Europe in the 1600s. It'd be an agricultural disaster for the U.S. if we lost them all, but a true native-species purist would send them back. Hell, human beings -- even so-called "Native Americans" -- are new as of about 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. And on bigger time scales, the continents have been sliding around for millions of years. Where does one draw the line and say, this is the ecosystem we need to preserve?

And even if one picked a time to reset the clock to, and even if all the rats and pheasants and honeybees and Ardisias could be rounded up and disposed of, the fact is that the ecosystems are already irreparably transformed. The ecological niche of "passenger pigeon" (Ectopistes migratorius), whatever it was, can no longer be filled by passenger pigeons. We've wiped them out. So in that sense, you can't turn back time -- the ecosystems cannot be restored exactly as they were. Indeed, were all humans to vanish, and all plants, animals, and other organisms to magically return to their original habitats, it would only cause more extinctions: some native plants and animals actually depend on the actions of non-natives right now. Avocados (Persea americana) are thought to have evolved to be swallowed whole by now-extinct ground sloths, who would then distribute the pits in their droppings. No such animal exists now, so if humans disappeared, we would likely take the avocado down with us.

Of course, we're likely to take a lot more of them with us if we're not magically zapped off the planet, as recent events in the Gulf of Mexico suggest. But still. If we're going to "restore" the ecosystems, then we should acknowledge that there have been several of them in any given location, and decide which one to restore them to.

Murraya paniculata. Native to: South, Southeast, and East Asia, Northern Australia. A Florida Category 2 invasive plant.

7. So in conclusion (You are getting to a conclusion, right?)

So what does it all mean, Mr. Subjunctive?

Oh, fuck if I know. I guess my first point, and the most important, would be that showing up on a stranger's blog to yell at them about their choice of posting topics is really rude and it's not going to do anything but make them defensive and sarcastic. Especially if you're a testerical asshole who gets off on telling people where plants "should" be grown.

But also, look. Invasive species are a real problem, and I think governments should be taking them more seriously. If we're going to eradicate them, though, we should commit the resources to doing so that are necessary.1 I'd also like to think that eradication is possible, but honestly, I'm not sure I do. In the same way that total elimination of spider mites from a large collection of houseplants is all but hopeless, complete elimination of Ardisia from the Everglades is all but unattainable too. All it takes is one missed pregnant female spider mite, and a distraction. All it takes is one overlooked Ardisia seedling, and complacency. Even with the full backing of local government, community organizations, national environmental groups, President Obama, Wonder Woman, all the angels in Heaven, and Mr. Anonymous shrieking threats at every blogger in creation, I don't see Florida getting rid of its Ardisia problem. I don't think they want it badly enough. (I don't know that they ought to want it that badly, either. There are other things the state could do with that money.) Unless Ardisias can be made valuable enough to be worth digging up, they're Floridians now.2

Which means that I think it's all the more important that people pay attention to the evaluations of organizations like HEAR. If it's impossible to get rid of the invasives we've got, we could try not to bring in any new ones. I'm not optimistic about that, either, because I well know the gardener's longing for novelty, and the logical impairment that goes along with it.3 But perhaps it's worth a try anyway.

In the long run, I'm not sure any of this matters. Mr. Anonymous berated me quite a bit for growing plants that "shouldn't" even be on this continent, but the fact is, "should" is a meaningless word in this context. Plants and animals have always moved around as sea levels rose and fell, as land bridges appeared, as volcanoes created new islands, as birds flew from place to place. I mean, it's not a good thing that so many plants and animals are disappearing: the Everglades are a distinct and interesting ecosystem, and it's a shame to have them changed at all, but that was all done well before I ever wrote a damn thing about Ardisia elliptica. In fact, the first introductions of Ardisia elliptica to Florida were in 1947, when I was in my negative mid-twenties. And, even if all the world's Ardisias were to pop out of existence all at once tomorrow, the Everglades has a dozen or more other invasives in it which are all just as bad or worse.

So perhaps we should be taking the long view. In another 250 million years or so, South America and/or Africa4 are going to crash into Florida and ruin the Everglades anyway. Even if Mr. Anonymous is standing there astride the little trickle of water between continents, commanding them not to merge, they still will. But hey, a bright spot: maybe Ardisia elliptica and all its descendant species will begin to die out in the process, and the sentient, plastic-and-oil-eating molluscs who rule the earth at that time will be beside themselves with worry about how to preserve the fragile, precious Ardisias. Stranger things have happened.

Syngonium podophyllum cv. Native to: Central America, Southern Mexico, Caribbean, Northern South America, Brazil. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

8. Questions for discussion.

1. Do you feel, in your heart of hearts, that efforts to eradicate invasive exotic species are worth the time, money, and collateral ecological damage they cause?
2. Particularly since there's a good chance that we'll wind up covering the ecosystem with oil before we get all the invasives out anyway?
3. Have you ever deliberately planted something you knew might escape cultivation and become invasive? If so, why?
4. Isn't Mr. Anonymous an enormous testerical jerky douchebag?
5. "Rape" as ecological metaphor: for it or agin' it?
6. What, specifically, is lost, when a native species is outcompeted and driven extinct by an exotic? Why should anybody care? Why do you think people don't care more? (Or, if you think people care too much: why do you think people care so much?)
7. What do you suppose is up with people being able to mass-produce plants in Florida that are known to wreck Florida ecosystems? Why is this permitted? And why don't they just go pick them up in the wild and throw them in pots to ship north?
8. Am I totally wrong? Is Mr. Anonymous right to criticize me for encouraging production of an ecologically dangerous plant? Does it still matter, sixty-three years after their introduction to Florida, if I tell people Ardisia elliptica makes a good houseplant? Why or why not?

Ardisia crenata. Native to: East and Southeast Asia. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

Additional reading:
The Garden Professors: Are Natives the Answer?


Photo credits: all my own.

1 Though this obviously excludes the brown anole (Anolis sagrei), which is invasive and causing all kinds of problems in Florida and Hawaii, but should nevertheless be allowed to run free and unfettered as long as Felipe is still down in Florida somewhere.
2 If I have a plan for getting rid of invasive plants, that's pretty much it. Find something they're good for, and then turn business loose to exploit and despoil. What Florida needs is a George Washington Carver of Ardisias.
3 It would be really interesting to stick a hardcore gardener (like most garden bloggers and PATSP readers, I'm guessing) in an MRI machine and show pictures of unfamiliar plants to him/r. What would happen in the logic center of the brain? Is there a part of the brain devoted to novel plants? What about a taxonomic center, that tries to figure out what the plant is most related to? Does activity shut down in the ethical department, as the gardener plots how to find and take the plants? Does the spatial-relationships area go wild as the gardener tries to figure out where s/he could fit the new plant into his/r garden? I think there are some interesting neurological questions to be answered here.
4 Predictions vary. On one map I found, it looked like South America crashes into North America; on a second, North America and South America kind of both slam into Africa at the same time. Either way, the Everglades are in the middle of it all, and presumably go through some changes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pretty picture: Convallaria majalis

Just a little post today so anybody who wants to catch up on yesterday's invasive species post can do so before tomorrow's invasive species post.

We have a small patch of Convallaria in the back yard; it came with the house. I've heard things described as smelling like lily of the valley all my life, but had never (as far as I can recall) smelled the actual flower, so the information didn't really have any meaning for me. (I'm the same way about honeysuckle -- people say things smell like it, but I don't actually have a mental reference for that, never having knowingly smelled honeysuckle.) Now that I have smelled lily of the valley flowers . . . well, it's a "nice" smell, I guess. I would describe them as smelling like soap. Basically.

I bet honeysuckle probably smells like soap too.

I'm more a fan of the leaves than the flowers. By the end of the summer, they look a little ratty, but I like the bright green in the spring, and the perfectly parallel veins. As a bonus, they're really excellent for transmitted light photos.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The One About the Native Plants Purist, Part I

Ardisia elliptica. Native to: South Asia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

1. PATSP is attacked!

On December 7, some anonymous person showed up on the Ardisia elliptica profile and dropped a big ol' douchebomb on me for owning one and writing a profile about it. I was called irresponsible, stupid, ridiculous, and silly, because of Ardisia's potential to become invasive and "rape" (his/r word1) ecosystems. It's so rapey, in fact, that its sale is actually illegal in Florida. I actually spent quite a bit of time on the plant's invasive tendencies in the profile itself, which you'd think would let this person know that, minimally, what s/he2 was telling me wasn't news, but you know how people get.

When I pointed out that I live in USDA Zone 5 Iowa, and Ardisia elliptica is not cold-hardy past Zone 9, and that furthermore the plant has been indoors for essentially its entire life, and was therefore not going to be raping anything, much less an entire ecosystem, his response was that it didn't matter, because his stumbling across my blog "proved" that I had South Florida readers,3 and what if one of them were moved to buy the plant because of my profile?

Which, you know, whatever. If its sale is in fact illegal in Florida, then South Florida readers won't be buying it anyway, so I don't quite get how this is a concern. But if you actually read the profile, it's not even especially glowing. I mean, yes, the plant makes a good, possibly even excellent, houseplant. It really does. I'm not going to apologize for saying so. But I think it's clear that I'm not advocating planting it in South Florida, or Hawaii, or anywhere else it might become invasive, and in fact am specifically telling people not to, at some length. So, you know, what the fuck, dude?

Tradescantia spathacea. Native to: Tropical and subtropical North and South America. A Florida Category 2 invasive plant.

2. North American plants.

The conversation went on from there, various rudenesses were fired from both sides, and if you want to see the blow-by-blow you can go to the Ardisia elliptica profile and read the comments for yourself. But the reason I bring it up in the first place, aside from the obvious pleasure it will bring me to see other people join me in calling him a jackass and douchebag,4 is because he did say one thing that surprised me a little: I don't understand why you can't just be happy with North American plants.

It hadn't really occurred to me that this was something especially desirable, because, again, it all stays indoors, all the time, and so it's totally irrelevant where any of the plants come from. But okay, fine, let's see.

And it turns out that there are very few North American plants suitable for indoor cultivation. The bulk of those which are tend to be cactus and succulent species from Northern Mexico and the U.S. Desert Southwest;5 to get anything at all lush and green, you either have to go south, to the rainforests of South Mexico,6 or north, to the U.S.7 And anyway, since when do native plant purists consider it good enough merely to get the right continent? Species from North America can and do become invasives when planted in other parts of North America; for example, Syngonium podophyllum is invasive in Florida, but native to Mexico and Central America. So to be really satisfactory, I'd have to limit myself to plants native to the Upper Mississippi Valley, or maybe even the state of Iowa specifically. And you know what? Iowa doesn't have a climate much like the modern American home, so the modern American home isn't a good place to grow plant species native to Iowa. Not saying it couldn't be done, but it wouldn't be very comfortable for the humans involved.

Which Anonymous might counter with, well why do you even need houseplants at all? Can't you just be happy growing stuff outside? Which is such an obviously stupid question that it shouldn't be dignified with a response, so I won't.8

Schefflera actinophylla. Native to: Australia, New Guinea. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

3. Invasiveness is predictable.

The thing is, though, this is all idiotic. Most plants aren't invasive. I mean, I think there's been so much of a fuss made about invasives in certain circles that people honestly think that anything introduced is bad.9 Also, invasive plants share certain characteristics: rapid growth, ability to self-pollinate, production of a lot of seeds, seeds that spread to new places via bird droppings or via wind, poisonous or inedible foliage, the ability to regenerate from a piece of root or rhizome, that sort of thing. These are measurable and observable qualities of the plants, and it's possible to make pretty solid advance guesses as to how big of a problem a plant is likely to be. Indeed, there are sites on-line where one can see the results of such assessments, like for example (HEAR = Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk).10

And most plants, native or not, behave themselves just fine. On-line conversations get heated about natives vs. exotics, and people get defensive about whether or not they should have the right to plant potentially invasive non-natives in their garden -- because of course they are good and responsible and would never let such a plant spread in ecosystem-damaging ways11 -- but whatever benefits there are to native plants, it's still not useful or accurate to be treating all plants like invasives just because they're from elsewhere.

(I've seen one person, who apparently meant it, say in a blog comment that "every plant is invasive somewhere." This is not even a little bit true, alas. It's a shame it isn't, because then we'd have the endangered-plant problem completely solved: all we'd have to do would be to introduce the endangered plants to all the available ecosystems until they found one they liked, and voila, endangered species saved! I mean, of course they'd be saved by becoming invasive and endangering something else, but that's easy enough to fix -- we'll just move the newly endangered plants around until they find something they like. Reshuffle the deck fast enough, and none of the cards will disappear.)

This hypervigilance against exotic species reaches amazing new heights of stupidity and dogmatism when you're talking about an "invasive" that can't freeze, being grown in Iowa, or when you're talking about the invasive potential of a plant that stays inside year-round. Plants that don't go outdoors don't become invasive, even if they might really, really want to. Plants that die from freezing temperatures aren't going to invade anything even if they're thrown on the compost pile. So, you know, chill the fuck out already.

Epipremnum aureum. Native to: South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Northern Australia, Solomon Islands. (I was surprised by this, as I'd always heard that they were native to the Solomon Islands and that's it. But GRIN says otherwise.) A Florida Category 2 invasive plant.

4. Is the Florida Legislature in the pocket of Big Ardisia?

My anonymous persecutor12 did make one point which is very nearly valid, which was that because the plants I buy are mostly grown in Florida, it doesn't matter whether I'm right or wrong about Ardisias being invasive in Iowa.13 By buying the plant and encouraging others to do so, I'm creating a demand for a plant which may harm the area in which it is being produced. The reason this is only very nearly valid, and not actually valid, is that I am not responsible for writing and enforcing legislation in the state of Florida. Ardisia elliptica is supposed to be illegal in Florida: you can't plant or even own them, if you're an ordinary Florida citizen.

So how is it that certain companies are permitted to mass-produce Ardisia for sale?14 Indeed, if Ardisias are that abundant in the wild, to the point where they're wrecking ecosystems and stuff, why not just send people out to pull them up, throw them in pots, and ship them to zone 5, where they will eventually die an ungainly death? You get rid of the plants, you get money back for doing it. Why bother growing them in greenhouses, on purpose, at all?

Or! For my purposes as a consumer, it really doesn't matter to me whether my plants are grown in Florida, Texas, or on the third moon of the planet Zecuponia 7.15 There's every reason to think that they could be grown right here in Iowa, in fact: my personal plant has bloomed and formed berries, and I'm assuming that the seeds within the berries can be germinated if they ever get around to ripening. There's no reason why someone couldn't start a greenhouse in Iowa to produce Ardisias for other people in cold climates; I imagine the main reason that nobody does is because nobody could compete with Florida prices.16

If escaped Ardisias really are despoiling the natural Florida ecosystem -- and I'm not saying they aren't -- then I have to wonder why they're still being cultivated there. Is the Ardisia industry bringing in that much money and that many jobs? Do Floridians just not care that much about their ecosystems? Are sinister lobbyists for Big Ardisia convincing Florida legislators that there isn't really a problem, and any government oversight on Ardisia production would ruin Florida's economy forever? Is my anonymous anti-invasive friend perhaps a little overwrought and testerical?17 I don't know. But in any case, the state of Florida has it in its power to completely remove the apparently grave threat posed by PATSP and other Ardisia advocates, by not cultivating them there on purpose, and they don't do it.

Lantana camara 'Landmark Yellow.' Native to: Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Northern South America. A Florida Category 1 invasive plant.

5. Can the toothpaste be put back in the tube?

Finally, even assuming that I accepted the premise that Ardisias are ruining everything, and stopped writing about them in any but the most disparaging terms, destroying them in garden centers whenever I came across them, exactly what would be accomplished? It's like telling someone not to say anything pleasant about starlings, lest someone be moved to keep one as a pet. That particular toothpaste is already out of the tube, and unless the entire state of Florida mobilizes to find and destroy Every. Single. Ardisia within its borders, and search every vehicle entering the state from top to bottom, it's now part of the Florida ecosystem. Period.

Complete eradication of an invasive species is the sort of thing that really requires a commitment from an entire state's government and population in order to be successful, and that's clearly not happening in Florida. Also, I'm not even sure that invasive plants and animals are ever completely eradicated. Maybe on small islands, where the chances of re-introduction from outside are minimal, and the population is constrained by the limited land area. Maybe then. But for all the effort put into trying to control and remove Asian carp, sparrows, Caulerpa taxifolia, garlic mustard, kudzu, multiflora rose, pigeons, gypsy moths, purple loosestrife, Hessian fly, cane toads, nutria, zebra mussels, lampreys, rabbits, cottony cushion scale, rhesus monkeys, rosy wolfsnails, monk parakeets, varroa mites, spotted knapweed, English ivy, gray squirrel, leafy spurge, brown tree snakes, dandelions, fire ants, tree of heaven, northern snakeheads, water hyacinth, crown of thorns starfish, and the many, many other problem species out there, in the various places they've wreaked havoc -- have any of them actually been eliminated? Is this a problem that ever gets fixed?

I don't exactly mean to say that since Ardisia elliptica is already in the wild, we ought to just give up and let it take over, just that there is a choice to be made here. Either Floridans specifically, and the U.S. in general, need to commit to eradication of the species, come up with a way to make controlling them more economical, or give up and let them take over. Because if you don't put enough money toward fixing this problem, you may as well just be throwing it away, year after year after year. And this is never, ever going to be dealt with properly if special exceptions are made for commercial plant growers. Hurricanes do happen, buildings do get knocked down: any plant being cultivated or mass-produced can get out and start the whole thing over again.

(Come back on Friday for the exciting conclusion. I promise a solution to the Ardisia elliptica problem, sentient molluscs, and wild speculation on what happens to gardeners in MRI machines.)


Photo credits: all my own.

1 Which for various reasons kind of bothers me: I tend to think that, all else being equal, the word rape should mean rape, and not being defeated in video games, made to pay taxes, or any of the various other things it is sometimes intended to mean. It's not even a very good metaphor for those things, as metaphors go. This use of the word, w/r/t the environment, has some historical precedent, and I used it right back in my reply, in the same way, so I'm probably not the best person to be raising objections. But even so, it does seem like there should be a line somewhere.
2 I'm almost positive that the anonymous commenter was male, due in large part to "his" use of the rape metaphor and obvious comfortableness in wandering onto a stranger's blog and calling its author irresponsible without, apparently, actually reading the post "he" was objecting to. Technically, I don't know, but I'm going to go with "he" for the rest of the post, because . . . he's obviously a guy.
3 If you want to be nitpicky, it really only proves that I have had one South Florida reader. Though I know I've had others, so fine, point taken.
4 (Well, you'd better.)
5 Examples: Echinocactus grusonii, Pachyphytum ovatum, Agave victoriae-reginae, Beaucarnea recurvata, Leuchtenbergia principis.
6 Anthurium podophyllum, Syngonium podophyllum, Chamaedorea metallica, Dieffenbachia spp., Selenicereus chrysocardium.
7 Tolmiea menziesii is native to the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A lot of carnivorous plants, for some reason, are from the continental U.S. and/or Canada, though none of them are particularly well-suited for cultivation indoors in someone's living room or office. (Dionaea muscipula is from the border between North and South Carolina, but also Sarracenia, Darlingtonia, Pinguicula and Drosera are all partly or totally North American genera.)
There are also a number of species which are occasionally claimed to be from the continental U.S., though the evidence is sketchy. Philodendron hederaceum, Phlebodium aureum, Peperomia obtusifolia, and Pedilanthus tithymaloides might be native to South Florida, Stenocereus thurberi may be native to Arizona, and Tradescantia zebrina and pallida might be native to South Texas.
8 And anyway, I shouldn't have to defend myself against things I imagine some jackass might ask. We'd be here all damn day.
9 An argument could be made that any introduced species is technically harmful to the native ecosystem, because even if it's behaving itself, it takes up space which could belong to a native. I mean, domesticated corn (Zea mays) is all but helpless to reproduce itself without human intervention, because we've bred them to be like that, so it's about as far from invasive as you could get. At the same time, the big cornfield at the end of my back yard is still taking up space that could be native Iowa prairie, full of native trees, butterflies, birds, leeches, or whatever, and so it still hurts the environment even if it were being cultivated with the most attention possible to fertilizer runoff, pesticide use, erosion, and so forth. (Which I doubt it is, but that's something for another post.)
I forgive this loss to the environment because, basically, I like to eat food. I find it helps me to stay alive, and staying alive has been a goal of mine for a good fifteen years now. Which is also a matter for another post.
10 HEAR assesses Ardisia elliptica as having a high risk of invasive and disruptive behavior (see assessment page), which is a lot like closing the barn door after the horse has already become an invasive plant. (A. elliptica is already all over Hawaii in the way that "Ghost Whisperer" is all over basic cable.) But it's cute that they're trying.
11 Which is no doubt perfectly true of many of the people saying this. However: everybody thinks they're responsible and conscientious people who would never do anything harmful, even the people who are obviously not. So we can't really go by someone's self-assessment.
Also, even people who are responsible citizens can be distracted away from taking care of their gardens, for example by dying, or having to move suddenly, and there's no way you can guarantee that these things won't end up happening to you. I.e., I'm not trying to call anybody irresponsible or immature exactly, just saying that if you deliberately plant something known to be invasive in your climate or climates similar to yours, or a plant which strongly resembles known invasives, your intentions and plans don't count for shit, because you are not in absolute control of what happens.
12 (Help, help, I'm being oppressed!)
13 (SPOILER: I am right.)
14 This is not a problem specific to Ardisia elliptica, either -- the same supplier was sending us a number of different plants which were Category 1 invasives in Florida. (Category 1: plants that have been determined to cause ecological damage in the state already. Category 2 invasives have expanded their ranges but have not yet provably hurt anything.) The Category 1 invasives they were shipping to us: Ardisia crenata, Ficus microcarpa, Lantana camara, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Schefflera actinophylla, and Syngonium podophyllum.
We also got the following Florida Category 2 invasives from Florida: Chamaedorea seifrizii, Epipremnum aureum, Jasminum sambac, Livistonia chinensis, Murraya paniculata, Pteris vittata, and Tradescantia spathacea. The full list of Category 1 and 2 plants as of the year 2009 is available as a .pdf file here.
So it's not just a matter of the Florida horticultural industry having a special exemption for Ardisia: they apparently have an exemption for everything. One hopes that this is because they have tough-as-nails regulators breathing down their necks at all times to make sure they don't accidentally do anything that's going to harm their native ecosystems -- I mean, aside from the harm that happens when you pave over large expanses of native ecosystem in order to construct gigantic greenhouses on them -- but it's probably actually that they get a special exemption because the city leaders want to be business-friendly or some such, or because they've convinced the regulators that there isn't really a problem, or because the regulatory agencies are so underfunded that they don't even try enforcing the rules for these plants. America is frequently fucked-up in this way.
But either way, what this tells me is that either 1) the citizens and elected officials of the state of Florida are just not that into their natural ecosystems, or 2) that the problem is not nearly as serious as Anonymous indicated, and Ardisia is not raping the environment so much as making unwanted sexual comments to it. I lean toward #1, having had some experience watching politicians ignore environmental issues.
15 (But not the seventh moon of Zecuponia 3! I mean, there's carnivorous plants, and then there's carnivorous plants, amirite?)
16 Heating a greenhouse in Iowa is not cheap, as I was informed way more often and emphatically than necessary while working at the garden center.
17 Testerical. (tess-TEAR-ih-cull) (from testes, by parallel with hysterical) Adj. 1. Exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion; irrational. Said of men. See also n. testeria.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Random plant event: Centaurea volunteer

For the most part, what's come up in last year's vegetable garden has been no big surprise: it's mainly dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) and goosefoot (Chenopodium album) and other weedy stuff. I haven't been very interested in looking at it, as a result (we haven't even been sure we necessarily want to try growing anything in it again this year: an argument could be made that neither of us actually have the time), but I do remember seeing a plant come up in its center early in the spring, that was much bigger much earlier than anything else, and wondering idly what kind of weed grows that fast.

Well, as you'll have deduced from the title, it's turned out to be a volunteer Centaurea, presumably the descendant of a plant I bought last year for the garden but wound up potting in a container because trying to decide where to plant things was just too much pressure. (Although I recognize that plants can be dug back up and moved around, it's still a lot more commitment than my plants indoors are, where if I don't like where something is I just pick up the pot and move it.) The container in question was nowhere near the vegetable garden, ever, but apparently they don't have to be.

It's not the prettiest plant when not in flower. It's not even the prettiest plant when it is in flower. The flowers look . . . undercooked, somehow. But I'm inclined to leave this plant right where it is. We've been having a terrible time coming to any kind of decisions at all about what plants we want in the yard, or how many, or where that part of the yard should be, whether we want to build raised beds or just dump a bunch of dirt on the low part of the yard in the back of the lot and plant them directly in that, and so on and so forth. If this particular plant thinks that this is a good place for it to be, well, that's one decision I don't have to make.

The down side? Some Centaurea species are known to be invasive, and this is probably one of them, something I didn't know when I bought the plant. So it may not get to stay after all. This will be discussed in considerable detail tomorrow and Friday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pretty picture: Potinara Dick Smith 'Paradise'

Potinara is an intergeneric hybrid in the Cattleya Alliance. It is a cross of four genera: Brassavola, Cattleya, Laelia, and Sophronitis. I've recently discovered that the term for names like Potinara, which are given to intergeneric hybrids, are "nothogeneric names." I'm not sure what the point of having a term for this is; "intergeneric" worked just fine for me. But I suppose it's maybe useful as a way to distinguish between intergenerics that are man-made, as opposed to naturally-occurring intergenerics. I really don't know.

But hey! Pretty!

When I was very young (we're talking in the 5-11 year old range), the ice cream place closest to us had a "rainbow sherbet" that looked very much like this flower, that I still think of whenever I see dark reddish-purple and orange in close proximity like this.

Calling it "rainbow" when it only had two or three colors was kind of a stretch, obviously, but standards were different back then. We didn't even have red or blue M&Ms. And Lucky Charms "marshmallows" were limited to pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers, and blue diamonds. (Things have gotten more complicated since then.) It was a simpler, more innocent time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Random plant event: Dracaena reflexa 'Riki' flower buds

Dracaenas tend not to flower in containers; I've run into, and posted about, flowers on D. deremensis 'Janet Craig' (link), D. surculosa (link), and D. reflexa (link) in the past, but I've never seen flowers on D. sanderiana, D. marginata, or D. fragrans before (though flowers on D. fragrans happen fairly often, just never when I'm around: I get the impression that they're more or less inevitable once a plant reaches a certain size and age).

I'd never seen them on D. reflexa 'Riki' before, which is not surprising, since the plant hasn't existed for very long. I was, unfortunately, a little too early still to catch the actual flowers on this particular specimen at the ex-job, but I now know what the buds look like:

This was about a week ago; I'll check up on the plant the next time I'm in town and see if they've opened yet. I'm especially interested in the smell: I hear the smell of Dracaena flowers described a lot, but the only ones I've ever personally experienced were those of D. surculosa. Hopefully the plant will still be around; when I was actually working there, plants doing interesting things tended to sell before I could see them finish.