Friday, January 20, 2012

Random plant event: Nautilocalyx forgetii

I mentioned a while back that the Nautilocalyx forgetii was beginning to produce something that looked like branches, coming out of the leaf axils, and there was some speculation that they might have been flower buds instead of branches. It's taken a couple months to find out, but it turns out I had both -- branches down low, around the base of the plant, and flower buds up higher.

I tried in multiple lighting conditions and on multiple occasions, but wasn't happy with any of the photos I got, so you may have to use your imagination a bit.

The flowers aren't especially ornamental, and are actually pretty difficult to see at all, because they form underneath the leaves. The color is a light, buttery yellow that I sort of feel doesn't look quite right with the dark green, glossy leaves. The texture is decidedly unbuttery --

-- and doesn't really look right with glossy leaves either.

Individual flowers don't seem to last very long, but the plant's been producing new ones continuously since at least late December, maybe mid-December. (I'm not sure precisely when blooming started.)

The plant had been drying out too quickly, so I repotted it in November; it's now in a 6-inch (15 cm) pot. That made it too big to fit into its spot in my office, so it got moved to the basement. I don't know whether the move or repotting have anything to do with the timing of the flowers.

Shortly afterward, the new leaves started coming in with dead patches or distorted shapes. I don't know what caused that, either, though my best guess is that the new location was too close to a shop light, and the leaves were getting burned as they developed. I relocated the plant, to a shelf with a bit more clearance, but it's too soon to tell whether that's going to stop the leaf problems.

I intend to try to propagate some of these eventually, though I'm not sure whether I'll have any ready by spring/summer. If you're in the U.S. and think you might be interested, let me know, so I'll know whether and how many to attempt to start. Aside from the leaf issues, I've found it to be a very easy houseplant (under fluorescent lights, temp above 65F/18C at all times, moderate humidity, water when slightly wilted, feed lightly year-round); however, it's not widely grown, and other Nautilocalyx species are apparently fairly difficult outside of terrariums. So I can't promise that it'll be equally easy for anyone else.


Ed Kramer said...

I'm wondering if this isn't N. bullatus as described by V.F.and G.A.Elbert in their book on Gesneriads "The Miracle Houseplants" (a publisher's title if there ever was one!). N. forgetii, they say, is similar in flower and habit but the leaves have "rich brown color and often reddish veining ... and the reverses are reddish purple". Fotos on the web of forgetii look a little different too.

mr_subjunctive said...

When I first got the plant, it was considerably redder than this (q.v.). The leaves still have a reddish center on their undersides, and you can see a reddish cast to the light coming through the leaves in the photos. It's possible that the distinguishing characteristics merely failed to photograph well.

The pictures of N. bullatus I found on-line look like the leaves have a rougher, bumpier texture, and maybe a looser habit to the plant overall. (e.g.)

Long Haired Lady Rider said...

Mr. S, I'm thinking that it would like either more humidity, more warmth,or more constant moisture. Perhaps the most likely is humidity.

Of course i lost mine to aphids last summer so you wouldn't necessarily want to listen to me... :-/