Saturday, October 17, 2015

Anthurium no. 0361 "Willam Belli"

Initially pretty happy about Willam. The bloom photographed beautifully after it first opened:

and the leaves are very nice.

The plant as a whole has a tendency to fall over, but that could probably be fixed with some potting soil in the right places.

So you'd think I'd be happy with Willam, but: after the initial really nice bloom, the spathe flipped backward so hard that it all but folded itself in half. Not really what I was looking for.

This doesn't illustrate the folded-in-half problem very well, but it was the only photo I got that was even slightly in focus.

I think it's worth waiting for a couple more blooms, to see whether this is inherent or accidental. (And even when it's inherent, the plant can still be worthwhile: hell, 0234 "Ross Koz" does this a lot as well, and it's one of my favorite seedlings. Though it seems to fold its spathes more at some times of year than others.) Officially undecided, pending another bloom.

In other news:

There's been another purge: I decided to go ahead and get rid of five seedlings for being generally crappy,1 plus the scale situations on 0205 "Venus D-Lite" and 0267 "Natalie Attired" became hopeless, so those two were sacrificed for the good of the other seedlings.2 And I got sick of the long internodes on 0232 "Rhoda Badcek" and 0235 "Rowan DeBoate" getting tangled in one another, and everything else, so they're gone too. Way too much hassle for mediocre pink/pinks, even if they were early-blooming mediocre pink/pinks.

I have realized just how big of a project trying to tape all the leaves on all the Anthuriums really is, and am overwhelmed. The basic idea still seems good, but I'd initially thought I would be able to tape all of them, like, once a week or so, until the bugs were all gone, and then I actually tried it and it took me about an hour to do a dozen 6-inch plants. Which extrapolates to something like 24 full hours of work, every week. Obviously that's not happening. So: still planning to tape them all, but for the moment, I'm focusing on 1) trying to get all the plants completely taped at least once (progress so far: somewhere between 5 and 10 percent complete; I've been really busy with other stuff), and 2) taping the blooms more often than that, since the thrips like the blooms better than the leaves.

Finally, the annual Canna harvest has happened. Here are a couple pictures:

Last year, I'd guessed as a ballpark figure that we'd dug up about 400 pounds (~180 kg) of rhizomes, but I measured more precisely this year and came up with 438 lb. (~200 kg), so clearly last year's number was a bad estimate. I think they're more than doubling in weight each year, on average, but I don't have great information for how many we started with (I apparently didn't take any photos), so that's a guess. It does look, though, like if we really wanted to and it weren't a completely insane thing to attempt, we could have a literal ton (2000 lb. / 900 kg) of Canna rhizomes to dig up in the fall of 2017. As the planting and digging up mainly falls to the husband to do, I'm guessing we're not actually going to reach that point, no matter how appreciative the hummingbirds would be. But it's sort of fun to think about.


1 0058 "Betty Larsony," 0288 "Cookie Buffet," 0373 "Shangela Laquifa Wadley," 0558 "Amber Waves," and 0564 "Shannel"
2 Sorry, Ginny. But Natalie was really bad, and at this point mailing her anywhere would require me to keep her going all winter here first. There will be other pink/pinks.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pretty picture: Portulaca grandiflora

I've taken a lot of Portulaca photos this year, because I take a lot of Portulaca photos every year (I can't help myself), but this is the only Portulaca that's been at all new lately:

I've seen speckled blooms before (there's one in this post), but before, they've always been dark pink speckles on a light pink background. This orange on pink thing is different.

I don't actually like it that well. It looks nice enough close-up, I guess, because of the pattern, but the color doesn't quite . . . work with the other blooms. I mean, they're mostly pretty basic, simple colors: red. White. Yellow. Etc. A weird not-quite-pink-but-not-orange-either just doesn't look like it belongs with that palette.

I'm interested in knowing why there have been so many pink-speckled blooms, and only this one plant making orange-speckled blooms. I'd be all over a bloom that had dark orange speckles on a lighter orange background. Have I not seen that because the plants can't do it? Or because they won't?

This last photo is from a later blooming of the same plant, and gives the impression that maybe it's not actually trying to make pink blooms with orange speckles and succeeding, but trying to make solid orange blooms, and failing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Lunacy

I'm curious about the name on this one. I mean, it doesn't look crazy. Maybe the name is the reference to its overall white roundness? (lunacy --> luna --> moon)

This particular orchid may be one of the rare cases where it looks better in the photo than it did in reality, but the reality was still pretty nice.

Paphiopedilum Lunacy = Paphiopedilum Hellas x Paphiopedilum Skip Bartlett (Ref.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Animal: Hyla versicolor or H. chrysoscelis

So last week I had a bad dream. Bees in the attic of a former residence, with honey dripping through a hole in the bathroom ceiling and some tarantula hawks for good measure; the bees part of the dream was almost certainly triggered by this post at Root Simple, which I'd read the morning before the dream. (And the tarantula hawks? My brain's probably been waiting for a good moment to throw some tarantula hawks into a dream since about July, when I started playing Fallout: New Vegas and encountered the cazadores.)

It was bad enough to wake me up,1 and in my bleary early-morning daze, I started the coffeemaker and shuffled downstairs to the bathroom, and there was a . . . thing. Where there was not ordinarily a thing.

I got closer,

and closer,

and there was a miserable-looking frog, covered in dog hair, by the sink.

So I use the toilet and get some paper towels together to grab the frog, to take him (her?) outside, puzzling all the while about how it could possibly have gotten in the basement. The shower drain has a grate on it. The washing machine drain is covered by a mat. The dryer is always closed, so even if the frog had come in through the dryer vent, it couldn't have made it over to the sink. It surely wouldn't have crawled up through the toilet or sink or something. We'd surely notice if it hopped into the house while the door was open. Nothing made any sense. Plus it was sluggish, which made me think it had been in the house for a long time, starving, which made the whole thing even weirder. Got it outside, set it down, apologized, and went back in the house. So there was a whole animals-in-bathrooms theme going that morning, is the point.

The husband and I eventually figured out that the frog had probably come in the house by riding on one of the plants I brought in from outside, most likely the variegated Beaucarnea recurvata, which looked like this in early July2 --

pot diameter: 8 inches (20 cm)

-- and I just hadn't noticed it when I brought it in because I was more focused on getting all the plants in before it got cold than I was on examining them for hitchhikers. After coming in the house, it probably jumped out of the Beaucarnea, found itself near the top of the stairs, and went down toward the warmth and humidity, getting covered in dog hair along the way.

Or something like that, in any case. Maybe it was the big Euphorbia instead of the Beaucarnea -- I've seen frogs riding on Euphorbias before. (I was figuring the Beaucarnea because its top is big enough to accommodate a smallish frog, and it would have been hard to look in the top accidentally, plus it's been more or less at the top of the stairs ever since they came inside.3 But whatever.)

That would have been the end of the story, but there was a nice coda the following morning when I took Sheba out: I was collecting some Portulaca seeds near where I'd dropped the frog off, and something moved. I turned my head, and saw this:

I know that wouldn't have to be the same frog, but it was, literally, like six inches from where I'd put one down twenty-four hours earlier, so I figured probably. And then when I was adjusting the color on the photo, I noticed that the one in the picture had a wad of wet dog hair across its thigh, between the two yellow spots. So. Maybe hanging around to say hey, thanks.

Or else asking for assistance with the dog hair, which if that was the case then I guess s/he was pretty disappointed.

So now I'm thinking I have a business opportunity: an eco-friendly service for cleaning up pet hair in homes. When you sign up for the service, which I'm thinking of calling "Anura Maid," a customer service representative drives over, has you sign a liability waiver for Salmonella-related illness, and dumps a box full of frogs (I'm thinking like one frog per three square feet of floor space) into some central location, like a living room or kitchen. Three days later, we come and pick up all the frogs we can find (any that we can't find are yours, free to keep!), return them to headquarters, wash them off, feed them a few mealworms, and send them back out again. For a modest additional fee, one frog in every ten could be wearing a little maid's outfit. Obviously they'd double as exterminators.

The only part I haven't quite figured out is the re-collection process, which would be pretty labor-intensive unless I can come up with a way to call them all back to a central location. There's no such thing as a frog-whistle, though there are mating calls. Would they necessarily come back if they heard a mating call, though? Any time of the year? And how long would that take them? People might be less inclined to use the service if they knew we had to play high-volume frog mating calls for eight hours at the end, after all. And also there'd have to be a whole tadpole-production facility for replacements, which might get expensive. I don't know how much people would be willing to pay to have a box full of frogs dumped in their houses, but it's probably best to keep the price point as low as possible. What do you think? Worth a Kickstarter?


1 You know you've hit adulthood when you have a dream about an attic full of bees and what wakes you up is not the fear of being stung by the bees, but the fear of how expensive and inconvenient it's going to be to get the hive removed and the damage to the bathroom repaired.
2 And like this in December 2007, when I bought it:

pot diameter: 4 inches (10 cm)

3 Like two weeks ago. I never remember to take into account that if I put them outside, they're going to grow, so there's this long transition period every fall where I'm trying to figure out where they can all go.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Anthurium no. 0544 "Ida Claire Warren"

Ida was sort of pretty when she first opened her spathe:

Time and thrips have had their way with her, though. This photo is from four days after the first:

And by now, about a month later, the pink is mostly gone, due to whatever pink-bleaching process happens with the pink Anthurium seedlings, so she's just kind of a dull barely pinkish white with a bunch of scarring. Plus the bloom is really tiny. And the spathe is flipped back.

The leaves aren't bad, though:

And the plant as a whole is decent, if small.

So Ida could be worse. She's yet another seedling upon which I am reserving judgment, until I see a few more blooms.

But what I really want to talk about is the taping process, which I told you about a couple days ago.

It's been sort of a rollercoaster of emotions so far. Initially, I was very excited about it -- look how many thrips I'm getting! And most of these I would never have been able to hand-squish -- would never have known to hand-squish -- so I must be really accomplishing something! Go me!

Then the realization that there were pests everywhere, including a lot more scale insects than I would ever have guessed were still around, which was super-depressing: how could I ever have thought that I could get things under control? Look how many there are! And these are only the basement plants -- even if, by some miracle of miracles, I could eliminate all the scale and thrips from the basement, there are others in other parts of the house: I'd wind up re-infesting everything. Why even try?

And then I saw a few mite-looking things here and there, including one especially memorable light brown mite that had, to all appearances, been squished as I put down the tape, and vomited up something yellow in the process. And . . . the thrips are yellow. So . . . OMG, that was probably a predator mite! They're still here! They weren't all dead! Maybe that wasn't a total waste of money after all!

But wait -- even if some of the predator mites survived, I'm going to be killing them with the tape. Maybe the taping is a bad idea.

But look how many baby scale! And you'd given up on the predator mites already anyway!

Yeah, but look how widespread the baby scale! And surely it's better to be doing something, than to be passively waiting for the predator mites to get in gear?

Yes, but doing something is so tedious. And it can't even work.

Yikes! What is that shiny dark brown thing? It's not a mite. Is it a baby spider? How on earth is it managing to crawl across the sticky side of adhesive tape that quickly?


So I can't really say that it's going well, or going poorly. Things are happening. Thrips and scale are being killed. I'm more certain now, based on what I'm pulling up with the tape, and where, that the distorted Anthurium leaves I see a lot around here (examples: 0415 "Darby Dragons", 0416 "Holy McGrail") are caused by thrips and/or scale. My theory is that thrips aren't strong enough to chew holes in the mature Anthurium leaves, only in the thinner, weaker developing leaves. So if a thrips kills a patch on a developing leaf, the rest of the leaf continues to grow around it, the dead patch which is no longer growing causes the rest of the leaf to pucker around it, and (depending on where and when the thrips attack), you wind up with cupped leaves, weird bumps in the leaves, or sickle-shaped leaves. Scale probably can do something similar, except that they probably don't do it as often -- they can eat older leaves just fine, so they wouldn't have to focus so much on developing ones.

This doesn't explain why the plants seem to grow out of the distorted leaves as they get older and bloom -- maybe the blooms are more attractive and easier to eat, so once a plant has bloomed, the thrips tend to leave the new leaves alone and concentrate on the pollen and spathes instead? Or maybe the new leaves get more difficult to eat, somehow, as the plant gets larger?

Many things yet to learn. And oh, how I wish I could share pictures with you from the microscope, because I occasionally see some incredible things: big mother scale insects full of eggs, thrips flailing their legs wildly while upside-down on the tape, tiny red-eyed baby thrips, weird two-lobed objects I've decided must be the dead true flowers of Anthuriums, round yellow globes that are probably thrips eggs, the oddly-textured brown objects that I think might be layers of Anthurium scar tissue, possible predator mite corpses, oddly geometric vermiculite dust, etc. I've managed occasional microscope photos in the past, but I have to snap a lot of pictures in order to get a usable one, and the process takes forever. But I'll work on it.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Random plant event: Anthurium schlechtendalii

And now for something completely very nearly different.

I've had Anthurium schlechtendalii since May 2010, when I got these tiny little seedlings as part of a plant trade:

pot size: 4" (10 cm)

The last decent photograph I have is from March 2013.

pot size: 8" (20 cm)

The seedlings have grown since then, obviously, but the plant still looks more or less like the 2013 photo, so there's really no need to get more pictures, plus the leaves are big and easily torn and the whole plant flops around wildly when I pick it up to water it. But I've had to get some new close-ups recently, because it has bloomed.

Now, A. schlechtendalii isn't genetically compatible with A. andreanum,1 so this post isn't about my plans to fold A. schlechtendalii into the breeding program here. And it's not a pretty bloom at all, so this isn't a behold-the-beauty post either.

No, this is a describe-the-odor post. The one super-notable thing about this inflorescence is that it smells.

None of my Anthurium hybrids have had a detectable fragrance. I've noticed this, but hadn't really thought about it one way or the other -- I hadn't even known that it was theoretically possible for them to have an odor until I got the breeders' guide (which says that A. armeniense, one of the species which will hybridize with A. andreanum, has a pleasant fragrance), and apparently that's not easy or profitable to do because I don't think I've ever run across a scented Anthurium. But A. schlechtendalii definitely has a smell, which the husband and I puzzled over for some time (vinegar? solventy? sort of the odor of certain aisles in a home-improvement store, where lots of stuff is off-gassing heavily at once? like how a coffeemaker smells when you've run some vinegar through it to clean out hard-water deposits and it hasn't been completely rinsed out yet?) when the husband nailed it.2

It smells like the bottom of a heavily-used and never-cleaned garbage can. Like, if you have a big 50-gallon garbage can in some public space that people have been throwing crap into all day long, and it's full, and you pull out the bag to change it -- the odor that you smell when you lean in to position the new bag at the bottom of the can is what the inflorescence of A. schlechtendalii smells like.

Almost as surprising as the smell itself is the fact that nobody seems to think it's worth mentioning. I looked for other descriptions on-line, but I could only find one other one. claims "a ripe banana-like fragrance." (!)

There is nothing banana-like about this inflorescence.3

Fortunately, as sharp as the odor is, it's not actually very powerful. I can't smell it at all, unless my nose is within a few inches of it, and the odor is less intense during the day. (The garbage-can description is most applicable at night; in the mornings, the solvent/floral notes are stronger, and it's much less vinegary.) So it doesn't make the room it's in (the husband's office) uninhabitable, which is good.

I should probably note that my plant differs from outdoor-grown specimens in several ways (narrower leaves, duller-colored inflorescence, etc.), and it's possible that it might have a different scent if it had been grown outside. Additionally, while I have reason to think that the ID is correct, I'm also taking someone else's word for it, so it's possible that I have a hybrid, or another species, and the real A. schlechtendalii really does smell like bananas. I mean, I doubt it. But it's possible.

Anyway. I have several posts in the works after this which aren't related to Anthuriums, Schlumbergeras, or orchids, which I'm hoping to put up on the days when I don't do Anthurium or orchid posts. If I can pull that off,4 we'll be back to daily blog posts for about a week or two, starting nowish. See you tomorrow for another Anthurium.


1 Anthurium is a gigantic genus, with about 1000 species in it. With some genera of plants, you can safely assume that any species in the genus can hybridize with any other, but that's not the case for Anthurium. Instead, the genus is divided into smaller groups called sections, which are more closely related to one another and therefore more likely to interbreed successfully. (And even then the sections aren't divided strictly along lines of genetic compatibility; the whole thing's a mess to explain.)
Commercial hybrid Anthuriums like the ones I've been playing around with are related to A. andreanum, and get most of their genes from the section Calomystrium (plus a few species in Porphyrochitonium).
A. schlechtendalii, unfortunately, is in the section Pachyneurium, and is completely incompatible with my hybrids, so there's no chance of me being able to breed any of my seedlings with it to get pretty blooms on a plant with three-foot-long leaves. (I do still have the Anthurium "hookeri"a around, which is probably also in the section Pachyneurium, and it blooms occasionally, so there's a non-zero chance that I might someday wind up with a handful of seedlings from a cross between the two of them. But they're both gigantic plants, so their offspring probably would be too, and it's probably just as well that that hasn't happened yet.)
     a (in quotes because it's probably a hybrid, not an actual A. hookeri, but that's the only name I have for it so that's what I call it)
2 He's much better at naming smells than I am, though he claims to have a terrible sense of smell. He was the one who came up with "like a florist's cooler" for Hoya lacunosa, which was exactly right.
3 Except to the extent that bananas do sometimes wind up in garbage cans. But that's the only point of overlap. You'd never smell this and think "Hey! Banana!"
4 It's been a while since I attempted daily posts, and have a few new demands on my time lately, so I'm not at all sure that I will be able to do this. Hence if.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Anthurium no. 0362 "Dennis Office"

Dennis is a bit of a disappointment, though that's more my fault than his. I saw a dark red bud appear in late July, with an odd orange tint to it, and I got all excited because it seemed like maybe it was going to be something new and different, but . . . not really.

Not dark slightly orangish red; just a dull normal red, with a slightly greenish yellow spadix. Not nearly as pretty or weird as I'd hoped for. And thrips damage is a lot more visible on him than most red spathes, so he can't even do an ordinary red spathe right.

The foliage would be pretty, but it has some marks here and there from thrips, drought stress, mechanical damage, or whatever it is. That's conceivably something he could grow out of: sometimes they do.

One small point in his favor: he's a fairly compact seedling, with short internodes.

He might be useful for breeding anyway; the seed parent is 'Gemini,' and 'Gemini' genes are a dime a dozen, but the pollen parent is likely the NOID red, which brings with it darker leaves, green spadices, and the potential for bronze/brown and green spathes. Which are all things I'd like to see more of.

And even if he doesn't have any kids, he might be sellable if the thrips can be brought under control. So I'm not throwing him out or anything. Just disappointed.

As for the thrips:

After I mentioned "taping" the thrips (pulling them off with a piece of adhesive tape) on 5 October, I got even more into doing it. At first it was just recreational, a way to make myself feel slightly better about how many thrips I was still seeing, but then I noticed that I was seeing a lot more thrips on the tape, under the microscope, than I had been seeing with my naked eye before taping. Maybe even eggs, though I'm not sure what thrips eggs look like so maybe not.1

Anyway. So one thing led to another, and now taping the thrips is my Plan E2 for getting rid of them. It's already more effective than imidacloprid or predatory mites, which didn't work at all,3 it won't cost me blooms like white oil, and it's sort of self-evidently an improvement on hand-squishing if it's catching thrips I otherwise couldn't see. Even if it doesn't eliminate them, it should reduce the visible damage on the blooms, which is worthwhile. The main down side is that it's time-consuming, but I can probably live with that if it helps.

Taping also has the side benefit of being somewhat useful against scale; it's difficult to pull up mature scale insects with tape (you have to make sure that the tape is coming into contact with a lot of the insect or else the bug stays attached), but it gets younger ones easily enough, including scale too small to see with the naked eye. The depressing part of that being that there are still so many scale insects around to be caught.

Maybe taping will be useless as well, but it's something else to try. Sooner or later, something has to work, right?



1 The thrips are bright yellow under the microscope, and I've seen yellow roundish objects on the tape, so it's not too much of a stretch to think that maybe those are eggs.
2 Plan A: hand-squishing (somewhat emotionally satisfying, but very little effect on the infestation)
Plan B: imidacloprid (expensive and completely ineffective)
Plan C: white oil (effective, but didn't eliminate the thrips, and caused most of the Anthuriums to drop buds or blooms as well)
Plan D: predatory mites (expensive and completely ineffective)
Plan E: adhesive tape.
Plan F will probably be spray pesticides. Pyrethrins, perhaps.
3 The more I think about it, the more I doubt that the shipment of predatory mites contained as many live mites it was supposed to. (If I had it all to do over again, I would check them out under the microscope after the bottle arrived; I sort of can't believe the idea didn't occur to me at the time.) Though I'm also thinking that trying to use them indoors was probably a doomed idea from the beginning, if they really do need high humidity.