Friday, December 28, 2012

Unfinished business: Coffea arabica

Okay! The process of propagating Coffea arabica by seed has officially begun. Not that I'm trying to germinate them now or anything. Judging by the information I've found on-line, this is going to be a fairly long (potentially eight months?!) process, and we've only just begun. But, we're at least officially underway now.

First, I cut the cherries off the plant. Got ten of them in all; nine had two seeds, and the tenth had one seed, plus a tiny stunted seed that I threw away because it was obviously not going anywhere, for a total of nineteen.

Then, I cut through the skin and peeled it off of the seeds.

As I'd heard that coffee cherries were edible, I was excited to taste one for the first time. It was . . . disappointing. The husband and I agreed that the experience basically goes like this: first there's a brief initial mild pleasant sweetness that doesn't taste like anything in particular. Then there's a much stronger, longer-duration taste that strongly resembles a bell pepper, or bell pepper combined with freshly-mown grass. Then at the very end, there's a strong bitter aftertaste that doesn't last very long. The experience overall isn't terrible, but it didn't leave me with a strong desire to keep eating them, either. Schlumbergera fruits are better. (Though still not very good.)

The texture's also sort of a problem: the skin is tough (a little tougher than a cherry's skin: it might be closer to a plum), and just inside the skin there's a layer of stringy stuff that I can't think of a good comparison for. Then there's a clear thicker layer under that, with the approximate consistency of the interior of a grape. I don't know if you're supposed to eat that part too or not: I didn't try, because it was pretty firmly attached to the seed.

Top: skins without the seeds. Bottom left: fruits with seeds still inside. Bottom right: seeds separated from skins. The stunted not-quite-a-seed seed is at the top left of the pile of seeds.

The next step involved soaking them in water for two days. The grape-like stuff either partly dissolved in the water, or the seed inside expanded, because the layer got thinner. It didn't disappear entirely, though I think it was supposed to?

A lot of the seeds had some stringy bits attached; I don't know what it was, but it ran in between the two seeds in each fruit, and because the seeds were really slippery (also similar to the inside of a grape), I didn't bother trying to get it off of them. It came off after they soaked anyway.

After two days, I washed them off again (losing one seed down the sink drain in the process). The next step is apparently to let them dry, out of direct sun, for eight weeks, so nothing further will happen until 19 February.

The seeds stuck to the paper towel when I put them on, and some of the paper towel came off when I pulled them free so I could group them together for the picture. It looks like fungus, but it's not. Just so you know.

On 19 February, I get to pre-soak them in water again for 24 hours and plant them in damp vermiculite on the 20th. If any of them are going to germinate, they should do so somewhere between May 1 and late August, though a lot of people report very low germination percentages. I'm trying not to get my hopes up. This all feels like an awful lot of trouble to go to (If I want more small Coffea plants, they're easy enough to find, and not terribly expensive.), but . . . well, actually, I don't have anywhere to go with that: it's just an awful lot of trouble to go to.

This is all based on the recommendations of a page I can't find anymore, and may or may not be the best way to do this. It's apparently more standard for people to separate the seeds from the fruit, clean them up, and plant them more or less immediately. I'm going the long way around partly because the person who recommended this way said that they got better germination than the people who do it the other way (many of whom complained that they don't get much germination at all). We'll see.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pretty pictures: Masdevallia Tortoise 'Plum Petite'

Image search confirms the "Tortoise" part; I couldn't find evidence that 'Plum Petite' exists. Though I suppose now I'm providing evidence that it exists, for anybody else who's searching Google, even though I'm not sure about it myself. Tricky how that works.

According to the tag, Masd. Tortoise is M. uniflora (solid pinkish-purple) x M. angulata (dull red-brown, variously spotted or solid depending on the specimen).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rerun: LOL Cactaceae

This was the hiatus announcement photo two years ago. Every year, I intend to do another one -- last year was going to be the bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), but I didn't have a good place to set up for the photo, and wasn't sure what I'd do to make them festive (having done bows already, in 2008). This year, it was going to be the fig/mulberry family (Moraceae), and we had the decoration part of it covered, because we threw lights on the giant Ficus benjamina. But, the lights are "white" LEDs, and actually photograph kind of blue,1 and not particularly clearly, and we don't have lights for all the Ficuses in the house, and so it was just not possible this year. Again. Even though I'd started thinking about it in, like, September.

Therefore, a repeat.

Back row, L-R: Schlumbergera x buckleyi, Pachycereus marginatus, Echinocactus grusonii, Pilosocereus pachycladus, Astrophytum ornatum, Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Stenocereus pruinosus.
Middle row: Epiphyllum oxypetallum, Stenocereus thurberi, Isolatocereus dumortieri.
Front row: Cereus peruvianus, Rhipsalis teres var. heteroclada (?), Schlumbergera x 'Caribbean Dancer,' Browningia hertlingiana (?), Leuchtenbergia principis.

For the record, all the plants in the photo are still with me two years later, except for the Schlumbergera x buckleyi, which may or may not be (it was one of four or five plants, of which I still have two: the others have been sold or traded away, and I have no way to know which one was in the photo), and the Echinocereus grusonii, which just couldn't hack the low light, and I couldn't provide it with more light, so I wound up throwing it away in May. All the rest are still here, and a few of them are doing so well lately that you'd hardly recognize them, even. So.

Unlike in 2010, this isn't a hiatus announcement: there will be an orchid on Christmas. I just don't really have anything very interesting happening with the plants right now, so this was the best I could come up with for a blog post.


1Though it sort of coordinates nicely with the new blog colors: