Friday, September 21, 2012

Random plant event: Stapelia variegata

Hey, remember this guy?

(June 2012)

This is the Stapelia variegata (more correctly Orbea variegata) I got from Cactus Jungle earlier this summer.

I'd said at the time that I didn't necessarily expect flowers ever, but I'd given it an outdoor spot, and we'd see what happened. Then at the beginning of September, I saw a couple buds:

(4 September)

And then there was an agonizing couple weeks while I waited for them to develop enough to open and hoped that they wouldn't fall off. At some point during this wait, I noticed the plant had grown a lot in the three months it's been here. I hadn't realized how small it was to begin with.

(10 September)

It also lost the red color it had when it arrived, as you can see. That was never very likely to last, considering how little light I can offer indoors, though I'm surprised that it couldn't keep the color on the west side of a house, outdoors, in a summer when it almost never rained.

In any case, the flower finally opened on 18 September, and it was worth the wait:

(This'll get a lot bigger if opened in a separate window.)

It's only about 2.5 in / 7 cm in diameter, much smaller than the S. gigantea flower. The smell was similar to S. gigantea: unpleasant, but not strong enough to be detectable outside a fairly small radius of the plant, though flies seemed to find it just fine. (In the ten minutes or so that I had it out in front of the house to get pictures, there were at least five flies buzzing around it. None ever actually landed on the flower while I was taking pictures, which is just as well for my purposes but makes me wonder whether the flower was perhaps not fully charged yet, or something. They may also have just been confused about the location: it was a windy morning.)

(Close-up of the bit in the very center.)

As is customary with Stapelia blooms, I let Sheba sniff it for a while. She was very interested, and sniffed pretty long and hard, then pronounced it plodding and pedestrian, without the playful, impish notes of squirrel carrion or the complexity and layering of feces. She'd been more enthusiastic about the S. gigantea smell. This will probably be the last time I ask her for a stapeliad review.

(The placement of the flower makes it difficult to photograph it in context of the plant: this was the best I could do.)

The back of the flower reminds me a bit of a hellebore:

The plant has a good six or seven more buds on it. This is a little worrisome. One flower's smell isn't intolerable, but I don't know what two, or four, might be like. The most compelling reasons to allow multiple buds to open simultaneously would be for 1) pictures and 2) the opportunity to get some seed pods. As for the latter: a quick skim of this page, which goes into considerable botanical detail about how stapeliads are pollinated, only revealed that it's too complicated to figure out from a quick skim. We have a lot of houseflies that have been trying to take shelter in the house, as the days have gotten colder; I may just leave the matter in their capable hands legs. Up to now, their only use has been as entertainment for Sheba; it'd be nice to see them doing more to earn their keep.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Random plant event: Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Zamicro'

So this story starts on 30 Aug 2011, in Cedar Rapids. We were at Frontier, my favorite Cedar Rapids garden center, and I noticed that they had a bunch of new Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Zamicro' plants in. Or possibly the cultivar was 'Mini:' I'm unclear whether those are the same plant under two different names or not. (There's a picture of 'Zamicro'/'Mini' from an earlier visit to Cedar Rapids here, if you're interested.)

Anyway. So the table in there was littered with a bunch of dropped leaflets from these plants, and I picked some up and asked the guy if he minded if I took some home, since they'd already fallen off and everything. And he said, essentially, knock yourself out. So then I felt obligated to buy something, and wound up getting a Sansevieria trifasciata 'Black Gold,'1 and took the leaflets home with me, and then realized: I don't even really like Zamioculcas. And 'Zamicro'/'Mini' is less attractive to me than the species, so I had no compelling reason to bring the leaflets home in the first place and what the hell had I been thinking.

But, you know how it is. When there is propagatable plant material, I will try to propagate it. It's my nature.

So it is with mixed emotions that I announce that those leaflets, after a year of cultivation, have begun to produce new growth:

(Side view.)

(Top-down view.)

Given that there's a year invested in these already, I see no reason not to keep going. Best-case scenario would be that they turn out to be much easier to grow than the species,2 in which case I will have to like them on principle, even if I don't like the look as well.


1 Which was doing unusually well for a S. trifasciata in my care until a couple months ago: the husband redid some shelves in the living room, so the plant wound up in a new location. Which it is most unhappy about. Really I should just learn the lesson already and stop trying to grow them, but that's a whole other story.
2 In my experience, Z. zamiifolia is easy to keep alive, but it's next to impossible to take a plant that looks bad and turn it into one that looks good. While it's true that they are very slow to drop leaves, they're also very slow to replace them. My longest-lived plant has about the same number of leaves now that it had six years ago when I got it. They may be a completely different set of leaves, but the plant didn't look good then, and it still doesn't look good now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pretty (?) picture: Maxillaria tenuifolia

Not sure how I feel about this flower. Are they easy to grow? I could probably manage to like it, if it's easy to grow.

The tag said "Max. tenulifolia," with an extra "L," so we get to add one more to the big Orchid Show Error Scoreboard:

wrong tags: 6
incomplete tags: 1
missing tags: 9