Friday, November 9, 2012

Anthurium seedlings update

I've been working on a couple of large posts lately, and I'd hoped to be ready to post one of them today, but I didn't quite finish in time. So, instead, please enjoy this photo of about 250 Anthurium seedlings:

This picture is from mid-September; there are 274 seedlings now, out of 288 started (95% success rate). My plan to give them all drag queen and/or roller derby names is still in effect, though it's harder than you'd think to come up with 274 of those.1

As you can see from the photo, all seedlings are not doing equally well; the ones closest to the center of the flats seem to be happier than those on the ends. This is probably because the ones on the ends dry out faster (the air is more humid if you're surrounded by other plants), and the lights run down the center of the shelves too, so those in the middle get more light than the others. This has since changed for the oldest sets: I've had to spread them out a bit, into every other square on the flat, because they were getting so big that some of them were shading out others. This naturally results in some of them occupying different spots on the shelves, though some of them get to move more than others.

The basic set-up is visible here. This picture and the one following are also from September 2012.

Looking at the first photo, I'm actually struck by how much they've grown in the last six or seven weeks. The oldest ones are now about a year old, and although they're not producing adult-sized leaves yet, there are several individuals with leaves four inches (10 cm) long. The pots are only two inches (5 cm) on a side, so a four-inch leaf does seem pretty big.

It'll be another two years, minimum, before I start seeing flowers. Probably more like four years. Assuming they all live that long. There are already observable differences between the plants: the new leaves of some seedlings emerge plain green; others are green with a little bit of red along the main veins; others come in dark red and slowly lighten up to green. The first time I noticed that, it pleased me, so I can't imagine how I'm going to be with them once they start producing flowers.

Finally, because I know someone will ask if I don't address it now: the tags are handmade, by me, in a really time-consuming process.2


1 Presently only the first 198 have names. Ten favorites, in no particular order:
• Nathan Ofithlam
• Frieda Runamuk
• Aurora Boreanaz
• Vanna Rocking
• Zach Treplica
• Phil Endeblanc
• Jay Gerschatz
• Mario Speedwagon
• Yvette Horizon
• Roxanne DeBree
2 1. Cut up milk jugs into more or less uniformly-sized rectangular pieces of plastic with a point on one end.
2. When seedlings are ready to be started, print a piece of paper from the computer listing the ID number, ancestry, and date germination started for each of the new seedlings.
3. Cut up the paper into strips of text.
4. Place a strip of paper on a manageable length of packing tape.
5. Set a plastic milk jug strip over the paper.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until there's no more usable length on the packing tape.
7. Cover the packing tape with a second piece of packing tape.
8. Cut around the plastic and discard excess tape.
9. Repeat steps 2-8 until there are no more seedlings to be tagged.
Though time-consuming, this poor-man's-laminator process was deemed necessary because nothing else was working. It had to be plastic from milk jugs because there wasn't anything else cheap and abundant enough that was also easy enough to shape. Sharpies are the only things that would write on the plastic, but they fade after a few months. So there you go.
When starting seedlings, I make similar tags, but hand-write the information on the paper instead of printing it. The paper tends to get wet anyway (perhaps because of the higher humidity in the germination chamber?), so the ink runs, but the germination-chamber tags don't have to last as long as the individual seedling tags do, and the ink doesn't run to the point of illegibility, so that still works out fine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Random plant event: Cryptbergia x rubra

Discovered this on Saturday (3 Nov); the pot contains multiple rosettes, but only the one is blooming. I don't have a particularly good idea what the flowers are supposed to look like when they appear: Google comes up pretty much empty on photos, and what photos it does have are tiny, just barely large enough to show that they take more after the Billbergia side of the family (green with blue margins, on a tall stalk with red or pink bracts) than the Cryptanthus one (typically white, short, and bractless).

So we'll see what happens. If I am spectacularly lucky, there's a possibility that I might be able to cross this with a Cryptanthus that's starting to bloom in the basement and get seedlings, though 1) it's kind of a long shot, and 2) I'm not even sure that this is something I should be hoping for, considering the current seedling situation.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pretty picture: Dendrobium sulcatum

This was tagged "Onc. sulcatum," a species unknown to Google. I can't imagine anybody who knows anything about orchids looking at this and thinking that it's an Oncidium, so it's probably a case of whoever was making the labels being distracted. Which is fine. Happens to all of us. But this is why one proofreads, no?

wrong tags: 8
incomplete tags: 1
missing tags: 10

I'm not thrilled with this picture, but the way the flowers hung down made it difficult for me to get a better one (this is the best shot of 4). Oh, well.

And of course we have a Scalepocalypse 2012 update:

Ardisia elliptica (1 Nov 2012, basement) -- neemed.
Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum' (1 Nov 2012, basement) -- neem + imidacloprid granules.

Rough week in the fight against scale. The Ardisia is the one I grew from the seeds of the original plant; the Phlebodium had been looking exceptionally impressive in the last few weeks, and I was feeling quite pleased with it. So naturally it should get scale so bad that several of the fronds would need to be cut off.

The only bright spot is that I thought I saw scale on one of the Ficus benjaminas --

-- but it turned out to be something else. The bumps don't break when squished, they're present on both sides of the leaf,

and there's reason to suspect edema. The plant has been doing very well for me in the last year or so, well enough that I'd repotted it in August. Because it's now in a larger pot, it's staying wet longer, and because it's on a table next to the south window in the living room, it tends to be a bit on the cold side. The most reliable way to cause edema in susceptible species is to leave them simultaneously cold and wet, and that's what I think I've done. (Similar things have appeared on a few other plants in the house: Yucca guatemalensis, Billbergia nutans, Pachycereus marginatus.)

There's still the chance that it's something other than edema, but at this point I'm thrilled anytime something goes wrong that isn't scale.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Scale Poetry

(after William Carlos Williams)

This is Just to Say

We have spread to
the orchids
that are in
your basement

and which
you were probably
would bloom

Fuck you
they were delicious
so sweet
so juicy


This is not factually accurate. There are no orchids in the basement, and as far as I know there are no scale on the orchids elsewhere, knock wood. I needed it to be the orchids so the "hoping would bloom" part would make sense. The photo is real, and was one of my plants, but it's a year and a half old.

Poetic license aside, this is precisely the sort of note I imagine scale insects would leave, were they capable.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

[Exceptionally] Pretty pictures: transmitted light -- Part XLVIII

Hey, you know what we haven't done in a really long time? Transmitted-light pictures! (There are reasons for this, but they're really boring and not worth explaining, so let's get directly to the pictures.)

(The previous transmitted light posts can be found here.)

Ipomoea purpurea? I really like the way this one turned out. Plain though it is, it might be my favorite from this set.

Fragaria x 'Fort Laramie,' autumn. Will next year be the year we get to eat some of the strawberries our plants produce? 2009 didn't work because we'd just moved and everything was crazy-crazy. In 2010 and 2011, there were a few strawberries, but various animals got to them before we did, and there weren't that many in the first place. In 2012, they didn't produce any, because we moved them to a new spot and they needed time to recover. So 2013 might be the year that buying the plant finally pays off. Or, you know. Not.

Verbascum thapsus, with mildew. Unsurprisingly, the mildew does not improve the photo.

Philodendron 'Imperial Red.' I no longer have this plant; it never did very well for me, even though 'Imperial Green' did. I suppose they're not necessarily related, despite the names. This parallels my experiences with Philodendron 'Moonlight' and 'Autumn:' the red one limped along, the green one thrived. Coincidence?

Pilea pumila. Not sure why I thought this would be interesting. Possibly just the novelty of seeing a Pilea that lives in Iowa.

Episcia NOID. A nice range of colors, at least. Gesneriads rarely make for good transmitted light subjects.

Solenostemon scutellarioides NOID. Not sure what happened to this picture. It definitely doesn't look right.

Musa 'Zebrina Rojo.' (possibly Ensete 'Zebrina Rojo;' I don't know what specific botanical characteristics distinguish Musa from Ensete) Banana leaves are always nice.

Synadenium grantii var. rubrum. Probably the best houseplant on the list, though it's not like there's a lot of competition. And the picture doesn't do justice to the plant.

Alocasia amazonica 'Polly.' The venation here is a little ridiculous, and whoever thought chocolate brown and fluorescent lime green go together should be pointedly questioned, if not actually punished. But it's okay.