Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 18 PATSP Posts of 2012

2012 wasn't my, the blog's, or the plant collection's best year. I spent basically the entire year saying that I had too many plants,1 and trying to reduce the collection to a more manageable size, and somehow managed to gain plants anyway (919 at the beginning of 2012, 1029 at the end). And then the scalepocalypse. And then I started having problems with fungus, a problem which is ongoing.2 And then the scale came back.3

Also saying these are the top 18 posts is sort of misleading in two different ways: five of them are basically all the same post, so it's closer to the top 14 posts. Also "top" doesn't really mean anything except that I liked how they turned out and think you should see them if you happened to miss them the first time. They're not necessarily the most-viewed or most-commented or anything like that. Anyway.

18. Pretty picture: Cattleya aclandiae (16 April 2012)

I just liked how the photo turned out, basically.

17. Random plant event: Sansevieria cylindrica (4 September 2012)

Well, it was a big deal. You don't even know.

16. Pretty picture: Phragmipedium Peruflora's Cirila Alca (22 November 2012)

Also just a nice photo.

15. Random plant event: Spathiphyllum (5 December 2012)

In which I propagate a plant I don't even really like, at a time when I'm actually trying to reduce the number of plants I have, because I've realized propagation is possible. I still feel all conflicted about this.

14. Pretty picture: Rhyncholaelia digbyana (30 November 2012)

In which I attempt to liven up a dull blog post with an incomplete screenplay.

13. Random plant event: Aglaonema 'Maria,' with special guest star (8 March 2012)

The debut of the peat-bog-in-the-basement idea.

12. Cribplants, yo. (28 November 2012)

In which my thugged-out ass realizes that Snoop Dogg is a mothafuckin genius.

11. Elsewhere on the Web: Did We Win Already? (29 January 2012)

The sellers of the blue dyed orchids said, about a year ago, that they were going to admit on the tags that their plants wouldn't re-bloom blue. I wonder if that actually happened. Somebody should check.

10. Random plant event: Clivia miniata 'Aztec Gold' (22 August 2012)

The rumors are true: Clivias actually can be induced to bloom. I was beginning to doubt.

9. The Very Slow and Occasionally Sticky Inferno (14 August 2012)

The scale outbreak depressed me. And led to all sorts of incidental badness. Which was also depressing. And is continuing to be depressing. And will likely be depressing in the future as well.

8. Pretty pictures: Masdevallia Sunset Jaguar 'Night Breed' (24 April 2012)

I really love this flower, though I'm unable to read the name without thinking about the "night cheese" joke on 30 Rock.4

7. Random plant event: Epiphyllum NOID (26 August 2012)

In which an Epiphyllum blooms in Iowa, and a family is brought together. (No, really.) Also there are many pictures.

2 to 6. Missing From Retail series
(Part 1, 25 November) (Part 2, 2 December) (Part 3, 8 December) (Part 4, 14 December) (Part 5, 20 December)

Sort of a weird choice, I guess, but it was nice to expand the horizons of the blog for a bit and talk about a new group of plants. Plus I learned some things about plants I was otherwise unfamiliar with.

1. The Brick Joke (16 January 2012)

And no, Pierson's Flower Shop and Greenhouses, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, never did contact me in response to the post, so I assume I'm still banned from the store. We never have occasion to go to Cedar Rapids anymore anyway (I'm sorry, Frontier! I miss you!), so this hasn't had much practical effect on my life. However, my initial feelings of well they kind of have a point and I understand why they might not want me there have had a year to . . . curdle.

And so now we have 2013. May I have less fungus and scale, fewer plants overall, and the same number of kidneys, next New Year's Day.5


1 (Absolutely true, though!)
2 The fungus story so far:
First I tried neem oil. That makes leafy Euphorbia and Pedilanthus types defoliate, and doesn't seem to have much lasting effect on the non-leafy stuff.
Then I tried spraying with basic copper sulfate in water, which seemed like the least nasty thing available for fungus control at the ex-job. Not only did that not help much, it clogged the sprayers almost immediately.
Then I asked for help from Cactus Jungle. They said hydrogen peroxide, so I've been doing that, but this doesn't seem to be helping either, especially since I can only do it every 14 days or so. And it makes the Pedilanthus defoliate.
The next thing to try is baking soda. That's not going to work either, but it's another thing I can spray inside the house that won't kill us all, so I'm going to try it anyway.
When baking soda has conclusively failed -- and it will -- only then am I going to allow myself to use an actual hardcore, mid-20th-century-type fungicide. I bought a bottle of chlorothalonil at the ex-job some time ago, then looked it up when I got home and kind of wished I'd bought something else, 'cause I don't want to use it in the house and it's too cold to use it outside.
If the chlorothalonil doesn't fix things -- and it's a polychlorinated benzene ring with two nitrile groups, so it ought to be able to kill everything -- I'm going to go back to the ex-job and buy some captan.
And if captan doesn't work either, I am going to burn the goddamned house down. THE MILDEW WILL NOT WIN.
3 (Truthfully, I'm depressed about all this. Probably going to take a hiatus for a while following today's post. I'd rather not think about plants any more than absolutely necessary right now. Plus, I have a bunch of plants in the basement that I need to dose with imidacloprid granules, and that's going to take some time.)
4 It's a throwaway gag where Liz Lemon is home by herself eating cheese. Getting the rights to use the song, even though it wasn't the whole song (or the right lyrics!), apparently cost the 30 Rock producers $40,000. That's some commitment to a joke, that is.
5 (For the record, I would also be okay with an increased number of kidneys, at least within reason.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum sukhakulii 'Nina' x Paph. Grand Illusions

I approve of this one. Though the tag was mildly incorrect (it said Paph. sukhakuli, not sukhakulii), the name Nina is in there, so it can't be all bad. And it's a pretty minor error, in the overall scheme of things: Google can still find it. So we'll count it as half an error.

wrong tags: 9
incomplete tags: 1
missing tags: 13

Both parents look a lot like this, which is a bit disappointing. (I realize there are reasons for crossing orchids besides their appearances, and that people who are interested in orchid hybridization might well have super-specific goals in mind when they do their crosses. I just enjoy it more when the parents are more distinct, is all.)

Meanwhile, in Scalepocalypse news, after about 6-7 weeks without any new sightings, leading me to think that maybe it might actually be over, I've found scale on Anthurium baby #48 ("Autumn Bahn"). So not only is the scalepocalypse not over, but it's continuing to spread -- the Anthuriums hadn't been affected before this. Goddamn. The really depressing part is that the reason I noticed this was because I was up-potting a set of Anthurium seedlings that had been growing particularly well. So I went from feeling good because some of the Anthuriums had been doing well enough to graduate to bigger pots, to being depressed anew about the scale.

I threw some of the imidacloprid granules into as many of the Anthuriums as I could; the rest will have to wait until I can buy more imidacloprid. Probably I'll end up dosing everything in the basement before all this is over.

It's not like I was expecting 2013 to be a great year for me or anything, but I don't normally get a shot across the bow like this on the very first day of a new year. We're going to have to keep an eye on 2013.

(EDIT: And then I found scale on two of the Alworthia 'Black Gems,' and the Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips.' Then I stopped watering 'cause I didn't want to find any more.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Walkaways: Citrus edition

Okay. So there's this disease, called citrus greening or (in Chinese) huanglongbing. It's caused by a bacterium, and spreads between plants via insects (the Asian citrus psyllid or the African citrus psyllid). And it is a big deal.

Plants affected by huanglongbing produce stunted, inedible fruit, and a lot less fruit than usual, so the disease makes plants economically worthless. Then it kills them. Affected plants typically die within 3-5 years after infection. Infected plants can also spread the disease to other plants before they die (if the psyllids are present to transmit the infection between plants), and don't always show symptoms immediately. Huanglongbing is also, at the moment, incurable. So this has some obvious bad implications for the U.S. citrus crop.

I tried pretty hard, but was unable to figure out from the USDA site exactly what products are being quarantined, where cases of citrus greening have actually been reported, or how long the quarantines have been going on. It looks like the first U.S. cases of the disease were in Miami-Dade County, Florida, in 2005, and the disease then spread to basically the entire state by 2008. Citrus fruit itself is not considered able to transmit citrus greening, so the fruit can still be shipped around the U.S., so long as it's been carefully inspected for leaves and stems that could conceivably spread the disease.

Currently, the only thing anybody's really able to do is try to prevent the disease from spreading, by quarantining states in which the disease has been found. There's also increased pesticide use, as people try to pre-emptively wipe out any populations of the psyllid before they manage to spread the disease. Neither of those are great long-term solutions, though.

As for a cure, well, we don't have one yet. They're experimenting with antibacterials like penicillin, so we should have penicillin-resistant huanglongbing bacteria any day now. I don't get the impression that that's been working out terribly well so far. Adding systemic pesticides to affected plants doesn't work so well either.1 There's a more promising-looking plan to genetically engineer citrus plants with genes from other species (spinach was the one mentioned on the one page I saw), which would render them resistant to the disease and make the whole problem commerically irrelevant.2 There have been some promising results from growing guavas in the same fields as the citrus; the theory is that the guavas may produce compounds that confuse the psyllids and leave them unable to locate new citrus plants to infect. There is also a parasitic wasp, which has been introduced in some citrus-growing areas and seems to be potentially useful for keeping psyllids in check. So one way or another, we should have this problem solved eventually. And maybe guavas will suddenly be abundant in the stores as a side benefit.

However, this has caused a few troubles in the tropical plant industry as well. Our supplier, at the garden center where I used to work, is based in Florida. So when the quarantine went up in January 2008, we lost the ability to bring in pretty much anything from the whole citrus family (Rutaceae). So no Citrus, no Fortunella, no Murraya, and that was still the case when I quit working there. Customers didn't like that at all, so the garden center scrambled to find replacements. They got a few citrus plants from California, through the outdoor shrub and perennial suppliers, but not very often, and the ones they did manage to get were often more expensive than the Florida ones had been.

I've also seen citrus a few times at Lowe's, though I assumed that those were probably also from California or Texas.

But the point is, I had more or less given up on seeing anything citrusy in the garden centers up here, and especially anywhere that I knew got most of their plants from Florida. And yet, a month or two ago --

Citrus x meyeri, Meyer lemon.

I'm left scratching my head over what this might mean, though. I'm pretty certain the quarantine on Florida citrus plants hasn't actually ended; the text of the regulations (or what I think must be the relevant text, anyway) is pretty opaque to me. It appears that there are new exceptions made for certain facilities if they're inspected often enough and found to be pest-free on each inspection. And possibly the ultimate destination for the plants is also relevant.

Citrus aurantifolia (lime)? It was identified as a lime, but there turn out to be a lot of different species called limes, and I don't know which one this is.

It's hard to see how citrus greening could get much of a foothold in Iowa, for example, even if somebody screwed up and sent infected Floridian plants here. There aren't that many susceptible plants in the first place, the plants we do have don't generally stay close enough to one another to transmit diseases, and the odds of transporting the psyllid and an infected plant at the same time, and having them wind up in the same place, seems like a long shot. On the other hand, people do move south from Iowa, all the time. So I just hope the USDA knows what they're doing.

Citrus x meyeri (mis-saved as C. aurantifolia; ignore the file name)

In any case, it's nice to have them around again. I don't have any particular desire to own one, and couldn't afford the money or space for one even if I did, but considering that I never expected to see them for sale again at the ex-job, this was a pleasant surprise all the same. And it's also nice to have a chance to smell the blossoms again -- Murraya paniculata is similar, but it's not the same.


1 Not for the reason you might think. Remember, if a plant has huanglongbing, it's not going to be producing usable fruit in the first place, so nobody's going to be eating the fruits that are full of insecticide. The depressing truth is that the imidacloprid doesn't work fast enough to kill the psyllids before they jump to another tree, so it doesn't actually stop the problem.
2 Though if you've got a citrus tree growing in your backyard, you'd still be totally boned. I imagine regular citizens aren't going to be able to get the transgenic trees.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pretty picture: Dendrobium Green Wonder

"Green" is a stretch. Actually now that I think about it, "Wonder" might be too. The plant comes by both names more or less honestly, though: it's a cross of Dendrobium Wonder Nishii and D. Green Elf, therefore Green Wonder. I might have preferred Wonder Elf, but them's the breaks.