Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I don't post pictures of her that often, mostly out of embarrassment at how water-spotted her walls have gotten, but Nina is still here, and is doing as well as she ever was, as far as I can tell. The Pellionia has more or less taken over the tank, being more drought-tolerant than the Fittonia (though the Fittonia is still in there, which is good, because the cuttings I tried to take have failed, after malingering for months in the basement). I intend to replant the tank at some point, but you know how it is. It's never an emergency, and it's never my most entertaining option when I'm looking for something to do, so on the rare occasions when I think about it, I still don't wind up doing it.

Not that she seems to mind. I suspect she might actually prefer it this way, actually: the crickets are harder to find, but it's much easier for her to hide, when she wants to hide.

Sheba gets a bordetella shot on Monday, which is about all the news there is for her.

Sadly, I've discovered that the anti-vaccine people are opposing vaccines for dogs, too, though in this case it appears not to be about fears of autism (can dogs even be autistic?) as it is about selling people a specific brand of (I assume) high-priced dog food. No doubt this will do the same thing for pet dogs that it's done for children, i.e., result in more cases of completely preventable illness and death, while enriching the anti-vaxers.


As cynical and misanthropic as I try to be, I somehow never quite manage to be cynical and misanthropic enough.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unfinished business: Cyclamen persicum

The Cyclamen has in fact been successfully rebloomed. (It even has more blooms on it than it did when I bought it!) So it can be done.

The plant still makes me kind of nervous -- I'm afraid that at any moment it's going to fall to pieces and I won't know why -- but I never expected to get this far with it, so I'm feeling a sort of anxious pride about this.

Not that I ever feel any other kind of pride, it should be noted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Question for the Hive Mind: a Reader's Dieffenbachia

A reader e-mailed me to ask about a Dieffenbachia problem, which turned out to be something I hadn't seen before. Neither Google nor my books helped, and the few theories I came up with are mostly not borne out by the facts of the case, so I'm hoping someone out there has experience with this and can at least provide an ID, if not tell the person how to fix whatever it is.

The most alarming symptom is the weird bumpiness around the leaf midribs, often with a brown or tan slightly corky/woody top. This is reported on almost all the leaves, particularly the oldest ones, and are getting larger over time. It looks like the bumps mostly appear on the top of the leaf, but in at least one case, the reader provided a photo showing the woody/corky thing happening on the underside of the leaf too.

When I saw this initially, I thought maybe edema, or mechanical damage, but I couldn't find anything that talked about edema even happening on Dieffenbachia, much less an illustration of it, and anyway the environment would seem to be wrong for edema, since as far as I can tell, the environmental conditions are normal indoor temperatures and humidity.

My own plants have bumps like this on the midribs of some of the leaves, which I assume is mechanical damage of some kind (I've seen the same thing on my Anthurium "hookeri" and Zamioculcas zamiifolia), but in those cases, I already know the plant's been banged around a little, and the bumps are centered on the midribs and stems (particularly in spots where the leaf or stem has been bent, twisted, or stretched) and don't appear on other parts of the leaf. The reader says that the plant has not sustained any mechanical injuries while this has been happening, nor are there pets that might be causing this.

The reader also reports that the new growth is pale, yellowish, and sometimes shriveled, with margin burns on some of the leaves. (I didn't really see this in the photos, but bad-looking leaves could have been groomed off, I suppose.)

This has apparently been happening since spring, and is accelerating as it goes on.

There might be something like an insect or mite on the leaves, but it's hard to tell for sure; it could be dust or water spots. There's no webbing or stippling like one would expect from spider mites, and the specks don't look big enough to be aphids. The color and size is right for maybe an early mealybug infestation, but mealybugs don't cause leaf swelling and margin burn, in my experience. Thrips might leave streaky brown spots like this, but they wouldn't cause leaf swelling, and they're not known to be a particular problem for dieffs.

I did an on-line search for dieffenbachias with broad mites or cyclamen mites (which I at least know can cause weirdly distorted foliage and a dusty appearance), but didn't come up with anything there: if they infest dieffs, it must not happen very often. (Also, my understanding is that cyclamen/broad mite damage is mostly the result of the mites feeding on the foliage while it's still developing, not something they do to mature, developed leaves, as in this case.)

So I am stumped. Not only do I not know how to fix the problem, I don't even have any good theories about what the problem is. So I'm hoping someone else might have some theories. Even wild guesses would be better than nothing, at this point.

I asked the reader a few questions, hoping to find support for one of my theories (didn't get any), and the Q&A is below:


Has anything fallen on the plant within the last few months, or has the plant itself been knocked over?
NO. I really am careful with them and I learned to give them time alone :)

Do you have a cat that might like to bat at the leaves, or is there anything else in the house that might pull at or twist the leaves sometimes?
NO ...and I'm a dog person :)

Is it in a spot where a lot of people passing by the plant would brush up against it?
NO, it's on a shelf in a dead-end balcony.

Have you had the plant for a long time, or is it fairly new?
Fairly new, I think this is the second year I got it as a little-thin-young stem, and the first year it grew thicker and stronger after repotting the upper-stronger part of the original plant.

Has it been exposed to any extremes in temperature?
Yes, I think so. There were some days last month when temperature approached 40C - 104F, but the problems started before that.

Does it stay inside year-round, or do you put it outside for part of the year?
Only in the closed balcony. No low temperatures in the winter.

Do you leave windows open during part of the year, and if so are the windows screened?
Yes, but not wide open. There is only glass-filtered sun, and yes I use shades when sun gets too strong (3-4 hours in the second part of the day).

How long ago did you first notice it, and has it gotten worse, better, or stayed the same since then?
This sping. At first there were only few bumps and small. Now there are present on almost every leafs (especially the old and mature ones) and seem to grow steadily.
The general aspect of the plant is worsening. Leaves wither and partially coil, the color is paler and yellowish, and almost all old leaves developed on their brims yellow-brown dead areas. (see the pic in the message before).

My impression is that there is a systemic problem that affect the whole plant. Something metabolic. Coming from an infection or infestation or the soil.
I have to mention that I used universal solid fertilizer from COMPO. One stick, once (made in Germany).


Any of this ring any bells? Anybody?

Pretty picture: Odontocidium Tiger Crow 'Golden Girl'

This whole week's posts, with the possible exceptions of Friday's and Saturday's, are all being written last Saturday, on 23 July, because I am hopeful that if I have a whole week to work on it without being sidelined by other blog posts, I might actually get the Ficus elastica post done by Friday. (UPDATE: I didn't. But it's up now.) (I still haven't figured out how to juggle the blog, profile-writing, and watering in a satisfactory manner.) I promise nothing, but that is my hope.

Meanwhile, are these not the most sickeningly cheerful orchid flowers you've ever seen?

I don't mean to disparage. I could use something sickeningly cheerful about now -- the heat wave for most of last week, the whole shooting/bombing thing in Norway on Friday, Amy Winehouse's death Sunday, plus whatever fresh new nightmares have happened in the world between Saturday and today. Feels like a good moment to go play with Sheba.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random plant event: Pachypodium geayi lamerei

My Pachypodium lamerei (which I've been thinking was a P. geayi for years, but apparently not) has responded well to the fertilizer this spring. It's retained its leaves longer, and put on more vertical growth, than in previous years. The leaf tips still scorch, which I'm thinking is probably a signal that it's too hot or too dry (?), but aside from that, it looks pretty healthy and happy. I noticed on Friday while watering that it's even growing a new side branch (circled above).

I was slightly shocked when I checked the spreadsheets and found out that I've had this plant for a little over four years now. I got it at Wal-Mart in May 2007 for 53 cents, though it was tagged $3.97. Never did figure out what happened there, but it's probably the best plant-related 53 cents I've ever spent.

Pretty picture: Tagetes patula 'Durango Bee'

Two years ago, when we moved into the house, I bought some Tagetes patula 'Durango Bee' plants along, which performed nicely and which I enjoyed. At the end of the season, I went out and collected a bunch of seeds, intending to plant them the next year and see what happened, and then last summer I didn't wind up planting anything anywhere, for what were no doubt noble and logical reasons, so the seeds wound up sitting in my file cabinet. This spring, I remembered that I had this container filled with hundreds of seeds, and figured that even though they were probably no good anymore, I could try to sprinkle them around outside and see if anything grew. If it worked, hooray, and if it didn't, at least I'd emptied out the container.

I didn't get very many at all: maybe 20 or 30. And the ones I did get all look like the originals, which is both good (I liked the originals) and bad (unsurprising). But that's still better than I'd expected, so I'm happy with this. Next year I'll know to try to start them earlier, inside, and have a designated place to plant them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Random plant event: Canna flowers

I first noticed flower buds coming up on the Cannas last week, which surprised me: I wasn't expecting them so early. Yesterday, I saw the first open flower, too.

The reader may recall that I had started a bunch of Cannas from seeds; these are not them. The seedlings never made it out of the basement, because I couldn't come up with a good place to plant them in the yard. It was easy enough, though, that I figure I can do it next year, perhaps with a bit more planning. Or, you know, any planning.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unfinished business: Oenothera (presumed biennis)

The possible primrose (Oenothera sp.) has started to flower, and is confirmed as a primrose. There may be some question about the species still, but O. biennis, the common evening primrose, looks enough like this that to make it the leading candidate as far as I'm concerned.

As to why it grew with multiple shoots, instead of the single upright stem that's (I gather) more typical of the species, I couldn't tell you. There are pretty definitely multiple stems radiating away from a central point, though.

Am I happy about having let it grow? I dunno. It's something new to me, and it was interesting to watch, if nothing else. I'm not sorry I let it stay.

It did attract Japanese beetles, which would matter more to me if I had anything else outside that Japanese beetles seemed to like, but as far as I can tell, there haven't been many and they've only been on the Oenothera. (No doubt the neighbors on the other side of the fence would prefer I not be attracting Japanese beetles.) I'll pull up any seedlings I see next year, but this was an okay experience.