Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Random plant event: Breynia disticha

I tried to come up with something else for this post. The Pilea mollis (?) 'Moon Valley' in my office is blooming, and if you get them wet and then put them back into bright light, the flowers will release little puffs of pollen for about fifteen or twenty minutes afterwards. I vaguely recall reading something attributing this to the change in humidity levels.

(Other Pileas do this too. P. microphylla is called "artillery plant" because the little puffs of pollen "smoke" are reminiscent of the smoke from artillery fire.)

I've tried to photograph the pollen-puffs a number of times for you by now. Just clicking the button on the camera and hoping to get a lucky shot of pollen discharging at exactly the right moment hasn't worked. Using the camera as a movie camera hasn't worked either -- whatever set of flowers I focus on will never erupt, even if all the others do, just out of camera range. I even tried using IrfanView to take out a series of frames from a movie, hoping that either I could stitch them back together into an animated .gif, or I could crop out the interesting parts and put them all together into a series of still images, side-by-side, but IrfanView isn't capable of creating .gif files, and the image quality wasn't good enough for the series of stills to show the process. So I guess I'll just have to keep trying. You'd find it really interesting, I'm almost certain, if I could figure out how to show it to you.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

I got a Breynia disticha 'Roseo-Picta' in October 2008. One of the appealing characteristics of 'Roseo-Picta' is that it has variegated leaves, in white, pink, red, and green. Mine, though, was pretty much always plain green. I assumed this probably meant that it had reverted to plain green (Sometimes the new leaves would come in reddish and turn green with age, but the white/pink variegation wasn't there.) due to lack of sufficient light.

However, all that's changed recently. The first cutting to start producing white and pink leaves got traded away about six weeks ago, but another one has started doing it too:

Still nothing from the parent plant (it occasionally produces leaves with a little bit of white flecking, but nothing as colorful as the above), but it's good to know the capacity is probably still there. The cuttings that have produced variegated leaves have been under shop lights in the basement, so I guess it must take a lot of light to get the variegation started.


Pat said...

I was out walking with a friend last year and he noticed that the nettles we were passing were erm... emitting pulses of pollen clouds. They are the same family as Pilea, of course.

Bom said...

*** Private / No need for posting

Are you still using your Olympus? Have you tried shooting using the sports preset mode? That might make your shutter speed faster. Hope this helps you capture your pollen.

PAul said...

If your camera has a "sports" or "action" you might try that. In such a mode, the camera keeps snapping shots if you keep the button depressed.

Are the cuttings getting a different light intensity than the mother plant?

mr_subjunctive said...

Bom / Paul:

My Olympus does have a sports setting, but the time it takes to focus and take the picture is just as long as on any of the other settings.


Yes, the Breynia cuttings and parent are in different spots -- the parent is in the northwest corner of the plant room, and the cuttings are in the basement under shop lights.

Sentient Meat said...

Maybe this is a job for the video capability of your camera.

Sentient Meat said...

Oh, whoops, you already addressed that. I read too quickly the first time.

Candace Davidson said...