Saturday, June 13, 2015

Random plant event: Hoya bella

Hoya carnosa and I technically got along, when I had them: they grew, and didn't die (until they got Sudden Hoya Death Syndrome, which is presumably my fault somehow but I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation for it1), but they also rarely bloomed.2

Hoya lacunosa and H. bella, on the other hand, are super consistent about blooming: H. lacunosa blooms sporadically during the winter, and then produces a lot of blooms starting around March or April, when the angle of the sun swings around far enough to let some direct sun hit its window;3 H. bella blooms every year from about May to June. This year is blogworthy just because there are a lot more blooms than previous years. I didn't get a photo that shows that very well, but it's a tough plant to photograph,4 so you'll just have to trust me that it's a lot.

This is a better photo of some of the actual flowers, though it's still probably not as good as the pictures from 2013:


1 Though I have gotten a couple clues over the years: one, SHDS seems only to happen to plants which are not receiving any direct sun; two, SHDS has so far only happened to plants in plastic pots. So it's probably some variety of root rot, caused by a plant not being able to grow fast enough to take up the water in its pot, or something, in which case a different potting soil might make the difference. But I'm just guessing.
2 There was a single bloom last year, and then the plant was exposed to scale and I figured it was easier to just cut to the chase and throw it out, because by the time you see scale on a Hoya, not only is the plant riddled with them, but it's also given them to everything within six feet (1.8 m) of itself. Ask me how I know.
3 (and then proceeds to make me mildly ill every evening, beginning at about 8:30 or 9 PM, when the plant starts pumping out the fragrance. It's not that I don't like the particular scent (which is basically the scent of a florist's display case). It's just that the plant is in my office, where I spend the bulk of my time, so if it starts to be too much, I can't easily get away from it. This pretty much only happens on nights when I'm already starting to get a headache; I don't think H. lacunosa has ever actually caused any headaches.)
4 (large, floppy, lopsided, Flowers that tend to point downward, on a plant that's fairly large, with long stems, which is also very lopsided in the direction its light comes from)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pretty picture: Rhyncholaeliocattleya Kayla's Smile 'Sunshine'

We've seen Rhyncholaeliocattleya Kayla's Smile before (2014), but the 'Sunshine' part is new. Also the 2014 photos were better, alas.

Rhyncholaeliocattleya Kayla's Smile = Cattleya Sunset Beach x Rhyncholaeliocattleya Susan Stromsland (Ref.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Random plant event: Polyscias fruticosa

I don't remember how long ago it was, but at some point within the last year or two, I realized that the Polyscias fruticosa I'd purchased in February 2009 had officially become Too Big for the house, and something would have to be done. So I took a piece off the top of it, stuck it in vermiculite, and when it had started to root fairly well, I moved it into its own pot. (It's always good to have a spare of plants that you really like anyway, in case of pest attack or whatever. As in computing, so in horticulture: always back up your plants.)

But anyway. So both that cutting and the original plant are blooming now.1

We've seen Polyscias blooms before, and, frankly, they haven't gotten any prettier since 2008.

I figure this is still noteworthy, if only for the fact that it happened indoors (the cutting is even being grown entirely under artificial light, if you can believe it), and I have a (slightly) better camera now than I did in 2008 so I can manage (slightly) better photos.

What dandelions?

It's also a little weird, I think, that both plants bloomed simultaneously. The original plant and the cutting get different day lengths (the cutting is on a timer and gets the same amount of light every day; the original is in a window and so gets seasonally-varying light), the temperature in both cases should be more or less steady,2 watering has been the same. Even though I don't know what it could be, this still indicates that there's some kind of time-related trigger, maybe having to do with the age of the plant,3 or the time of year.4

I don't know whether Polyscias is self-fertile or not, so I don't know whether I'm going to see fruit from this. I've made sort of a half-assed attempt at self-pollination, just kind of waving a couple flowers around close to one another, and I guess we'll see what happens. (Like I need more seeds.) The plant at the ex-job did produce berries, but nothing happened when I tried to germinate them. Of course, I may have gotten better at germinating seeds since then. Whether it works to produce new plants or doesn't, I can be pleased about the blooming. It's nice when plants show they can do things you didn't expect them to do.5


1 (Though I did not get photos of the original plant because it's unpleasant to move around. Watering it is bad enough.)
2 Though all the lights in the basement mean that it does get warmer down there during the day, and cooler during the night. I've never tried to measure how much of a swing in temperatures this is, but it's certainly noticeable when one goes up and down the stairs a lot. The upstairs keeps a steadier temperature, though some rooms still fluctuate perceptibly.
3 Though the cutting has only been around in its present form for a year or two, sometimes cuttings seem to "think" they're as old as the original plant, or at least they'll act more mature when potted up than a seed-grown plant will -- Schlumbergera cuttings will bloom earlier than those grown from seeds, for example, even if you take cuttings and start seeds on the same day.
4 Though the cutting in the basement wouldn't have day-length cues to know what season it is, some plants seem to be able to keep track of the time of year regardless of their lighting. Probably by making tally marks on the inside surface of the pot. Marking days off on a very, very small calendar. Something like that.
5 There's actually an even better example of this coming up soon, from another plant which is neither an Anthurium nor a Schlumbergera. Yes: more than one non-Anthurium/Schlumbergera doing something -- at the same time! Doesn't seem possible, right?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Anthurium no. 0112 "Dottie A. Rebel"

Dottie presents me with an interesting question, and maybe also answer, about genetics.

The first thing I noticed when the bloom opened up was that Dottie's ID number is very close to other seedlings that have bloomed -- 0108 "Deena Sequins," 0110 "Delta Badhand," and 0116 "Eileen Dover." Which suggested that maybe they were all from the same cross.

And when I looked, I found that three of the four (Deena, Delta, and Dottie) had the same seed parent (NOID purple) and sow date (21 December 2011), so they are definitely from the same cross. Eileen, though, is from a different seed parent ('Orange Hot'), with close to the same sow date (7 December 2011). So possibly there was a reciprocal cross done between the NOID purple and 'Orange Hot' during the summer of 2011, which resulted in these four more or less identical-looking seedlings.

Two other seedlings resemble 0108, 0110, 0112, and 0116. 0046 "Aurora Boreanaz" fits the theory fine, or at least doesn't contradict it: Aurora's seed parent is also the NOID purple. 0132 "Eve Stropper" is trickier. Eve's seed parent is 'Gemini.' None of the seedlings can have the NOID purple, 'Gemini,' and 'Orange Hot' as its parents simultaneously, so obviously more than one cross is capable of producing a bloom like this.

So what's the most distinctive thing about these six? It's not the color -- I've seen plenty of red spathes, after all -- it's that the spadices match the spathes. So I looked at all the blooms so far where the spathe and spadix match, and what the seed parent was in those cases. There were three from 'Gemini,'

five from the NOID purple,

one from the NOID red,

five from 'Orange Hot,'

and seventeen from 'White Gemini.'

The parent plants 'Gemini' and the NOID red have contrasting spadices. So they're probably not where this characteristic comes from. I suspect that although the spadix and spathe match on 'White Gemini,' it probably has the genes for a contrasting spadix, since it was supposedly discovered as a mutant of 'Gemini.'1 It's certainly imaginable that 'Gemini,' the NOID red, or 'White Gemini' might have recessive matching-spadix genes or something, since they're all hybrids, but if we're just making a guess anyway, it seems simpler to assume that the matching-spadix genes are coming from plants with matching spadices.

There's another hint in that as far as I've seen, 'Gemini' and 'White Gemini' have never produced pollen for me. Which means that unless they're being super-sneaky about it, they're probably not the ones introducing the matching-spadix genes.

The NOID red can probably be ruled out on the grounds that it has some pretty distinctive characteristics (large, wide, flat dark green leaves which are sometimes red or brown while developing, green spadices, sometimes a peculiar angle to the way they hold their leaves), which it tends to impart to its offspring, and none of the plants from the red/red group have any of those characteristics.

Three other parent varieties with matching spadices could have been part of the genetic mix when 0112 was being conceived -- a NOID pink which sometimes produces pollen but has been mostly unsuccessful at producing seeds and seedlings,2 and 'Red Hot,' which looks a lot like the 0046/0108/0110/0112/0116/0132 group, but has only ever produced one seedling, which didn't even survive. And which I can't remember ever producing any pollen. In fact, it's been at least a couple years since 'Red Hot' even bloomed, and it's never been a strong bloomer for me. So 'Red Hot' is probably not where these seedlings came from, however much they may resemble it. The third possibility is 'Pandola,' which does a weird thing where the spadix is initially pink or orange-pink at the base and yellow towards the end. (The two-color thing isn't distinctive, but the specific colors involved are.) 'Pandola' definitely produces both pollen and seeds both, but the two-tone spadices are distinctive.3 And the red-red group doesn't have those.

Consequently, I conclude that 0046, 0108, 0110, 0112, and 0116 are all probably 'Orange Hot' x NOID purple, and 0132 is probably 'Gemini' x 'Orange Hot,' though 'Gemini' x NOID purple can't be ruled out.

That's what I'm guessing from looking at Dottie. Am I right? Am I wrong? Probably some of both. Perhaps plant paternity testing will be cheap enough someday that I can find out for sure. In the meantime, I can entertain myself by guessing.

As far as deciding whether Dottie specifically is a keeper or not, well, I have no particular problem with the bloom.

I often don't like matching spadices, but I find red/red and orange/orange a lot less objectionable than pink/pink.

The leaves are perfectly typical, mostly unblemished Anthurium foliage,

and the plant as a whole is notable mostly for how long and unmanageable it is, though I guess it's also worth mentioning that it's done some spontaneous branching, which not all Anthuriums will bother with. The branching is completely obscured in this photo, but trust me it's there:

So on balance, I guess I'm fine with Dottie and would expect to keep her around for a while -- at least long enough to see whether she'll reproduce -- except that she has also had the bad luck to be living on one of the three shelves in the basement with scale-infested Anthuriums. I can't remember for certain, but I don't think I've seen scale on Dottie specifically yet,4 so there's hope, but I also periodically think maybe I should just sweep the whole shelf clean and start over. So we'll see what happens.


1 'Gemini' and 'White Gemini' both have spadices that are often initially white and then change to light yellow. The seedlings with contrasting spadices mostly either start out white and change to yellow or start yellow and change to white. (Also 'White Gemini' frequently has a little bit of pink in the spathe as it ages.) So even though 'White Gemini's spadix does initially match, I don't think it should count as a matching spadix for genetic purposes, because it otherwise behaves like a contrasting spadix, and it's a mutation of a plant with a contrasting spadix.
2 For various reasons. 1) I generally don't try, because why would I want more pink? 2) although I have four plants from the NOID pink, they don't bloom very often, so I rarely have any opportunities to try. 3) seedlings from the NOID pink have a worse than average survival rate (63% for NOID pink; the overall average is 68%).
3 This is all very tough to prove, or even illustrate well, because of differences in the way the plants photograph at different times, and the ways that blooms change over time, but I think it's very likely that, say, 0083 "Carmen Adairya" is 'Gemini' x 'Pandola,' because that is totally 'Pandola's spadix:

4 The problem with this is that seeing scale and not seeing scale both mean the same thing: that there could be scale. So it sounds like good news, but is not. There is never any good news.
The scale situation has consumed an enormous amount of my emotional energy over the last three years, which is all the more remarkable considering that as far as I remember, scale have never directly killed any of my plants, and rarely even accumulate to the point of making the plants unsightly or sticky. What kills the plants is me deciding to throw them out because they have scale; what makes them sticky is me spraying soybean oil all over them in the course of trying to kill the scale. Scale are sort of my own little horticultural autoimmune disease.
*blink* I'm not sure what to do with this realization, now that I've had it. I mean, surely the answer is not to embrace the scale.