Saturday, November 21, 2015

Random plant events: the stapeliads

Stapeliads1 are just the best plants. Or, well, they fall just short of being the best plants, because they're difficult to grow from seed, and they're even more difficult to hybridize. But they're so weird, and so easy to grow, and, well, I was prepared to say "beautiful" but how about I just say "weird" again -- that you are almost certainly not growing as many of them as you should be.

I have five, at the moment, four of which have bloomed this fall. That's less impressive than it sounds, because Huernia schneideriana basically never stops blooming, and H. oculata only stops briefly, every few months, presumably to catch its breath. Here's H. schneideriana:

And H. oculata:

In previous years, I've seen blooms on Stapelia gigantea between September and December, but not this year. They look like this, when they happen, and are as stinky as they are enormous:

The two biggest surprises this year were Huernia zebrina and Stapelia variegata. Both have bloomed pretty prolifically for me when I've had them outside for the summer, but I never thought they could get enough light in the house to bloom spontaneously. I mean, I only got one bloom apiece, but still.

Huernia zebrina lives in a semi-obstructed west window:

And Stapelia variegata lives in a pretty wide-open east window:

Normally, stapeliad blooms have five-fold symmetry; I don't know what led the plant to produce a bloom with only four of everything.

I had a clue that the Stapelia variegata was blooming, but didn't realize it was a clue until too late: Sheba had started doing a lot of pointed sniffing in that part of the living room, which I'd noticed but not given a lot of thought to: it's not that unusual for her to sniff intensely around something for no obvious reason. I found the bloom when I went to water the plants in the living room. A single S. variegata bloom like this isn't particularly unpleasant, but when we had three flowers at once, over the kitchen sink, I was asked, kindly but firmly, to put the plant somewhere else.

All five stapeliads are pretty easy to grow. H. schneideriana is one of the easiest plants I have; H. oculata hasn't been here as long as the others, but has been easy so far. I have trouble getting enough light to S. variegata, which results in weak, etiolated new growth, which is sort of a problem. S. gigantea complains about being overwatered occasionally. H. zebrina is the problem child of the group, if any: the joints where new branches emerge tend to be weak, and are easily pulled apart. Often this happens without the stem noticeably changing position or location, so I usually don't notice that anything has happened until a stem starts turning yellow. Though this also makes it one of the easier ones to propagate, as I don't even need to intend to take a cutting a lot of the time: cuttings just happen.


1 The most commonly grown stapeliads are from the genera Stapelia, Huernia, and Orbea, and a few others are cultivated occasionally, or by specialists, like Caralluma, Edithcolea (which has amazing flowers), Whitesloanea, and Hoodia.
(This Hoodia is the same Hoodia as the hot new all-natural weight loss herbal supplement cactus hoodia you probably heard about a few years ago, when it was briefly a thing. We have since realized that no, Hoodia isn't a magical effortless the-pounds-just-melt-right-off pill either. But surely the next one will be. Or maybe the one after that. Or.)
The Stapeliae are a "tribe" within the subfamily Asclepiadoideae, in the family Apocynaceae. This makes them sort of close relatives to Ceropegia, Dischidia, and Hoya, and somewhat more distant relations to Nerium, Plumeria, Stephanotis, and Allamanda.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pretty picture: Oncostele Wildcat

I'm curious about what was going on at this year's orchid show that led to the selection of a brown backdrop for the orchids. It wasn't as rough on the photography as the blue background from the 2013 show, but I'm so used to adjusting the color for a black background that I had a lot of trouble getting the color right here. And I'm pretty sure I failed regardless, though it's possible that the photo wouldn't have been any better on a black background: I can't remember how far away I was or what the lighting was like.

This plant has appeared here previously as Colmanara Wildcat ('Cheetah,' 2012; 'Bobcat,' ex-job). Whatever we call it, it is still what it is.

Oncostele Wildcat = Oncostele Rustic Bridge x Oncidium Crowborough (1965) (Ref.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Random plant event: Polyscias fruticosa

Nothing huge going on with the Polyscias seedlings exactly, but I thought learning a little bit more about how Polyscias works was maybe worth a post.

As of 10 November, 13 seeds have germinated (out of 53 sown). The first has already begun to produce true leaves, though they're not easy to see in this photo:

Maybe three or four others have visible cotyledons ("seed leaves"). There's still a ways to go before I can officially say that I've grown Polyscias fruticosa from seed -- the next hurdle will be transplanting to soil -- but I never anticipated getting this far with it, so even if no plants actually result, I think this is technically still a success.

For various reasons, it might be better if the seedlings fail to transplant. I was in the husband's office a few days ago, telling him that I had had nine Polyscias seeds germinate already, and he was all, cool, that's neat about it. And then as I was saying something else, can't remember what, I saw his eyes drift over to the parent Polyscias -- by now approximately 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide (2 m x 0.7 m) -- and he interrupted me. "You said nine? There are nine?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 054 (again)

Seedling 054A is "Helpful Gesture," one of the first seedlings to bloom, and one I really like. I'd figured that was all I was getting from pot 054, but it surprised me: a few orange buds started showing up in the pot ("Helpful Gesture" buds are magenta1), and it eventually became apparent that I would have a second seedling to name.

054B's color is along the same lines as 022A "Sad Tomato," a red-orange with a white tube. When compared side-by-side, 054B is a bit lighter and redder than "Sad Tomato," though it's subtle.

For this seedling, TinEye gave me 34 possible names, which I narrowed down to 10. Before I get to the name-selection, I want to take a moment to spotlight Butterfly Yoga Fertility. It's not under consideration as a possible name, but it's certainly the most extreme example of whatever it is that I've seen in a very long time.

In alphabetical order, the ten contenders:

Alberta (also)
Blood Orange
Cloud Six
Danger Shield
Fourth Amendment
Napkin Witch
Red Grapefruit (also)

So. A quick citrus-based image search reveals that this bloom is much closer in color to Red Grapefruit than to Blood Orange. So Blood Orange is out. (Though how cool would a blood-orange-colored Schlumbergera bloom be?)

Danger Shield appealed less and less the more time I spent thinking about it, so that was easy to eliminate from the list as well.

I reluctantly took a pass on Napkin Witch because, although it's certainly memorable and colorful, and I'm intrigued by the possible meanings (a witch who specializes in the manipulation of napkins and napkin-related paraphernalia? a sentient, two-dimensional witch who lives within the confines of a napkin?), the whole witch thing is just too fraught. There's no way I use that name without it eventually causing a problem.2

The Fourth Amendment3 is one of our better amendments, and certainly worth honoring, but involving politics at all is probably not a good idea either. Also I'm a little worried that in twenty years the name would read more like (In Loving Memory of the) Fourth Amendment, though I suppose that's not a reason to reject it as a possible name.

Onward has a nice optimistic, determined kind of sound to it, without being overly precious or cloying, but it's a little abstract. And it's not like "onward" is even always a good thing: sometimes you'd prefer not to move on but you don't actually get a choice. So I can lose this one too.

And Wildfire, though very color-appropriate, seems like the sort of name that's probably already been done by somebody.

After pondering Cloud Six for a while, I suspect I would find it annoying later down the road. Don't know why.

Which leaves Alberta, Red Grapefruit, and Boomerang.

Boomerang is a fine word, and concept, and more things should be named after boomerangs, but I'm discarding it because I can't come up with a reason why it fits, like I can with the other two. Like, maybe it'd be a good name for some Schlumbergera seedling sometime, but it doesn't feel right for this particular Schlumbergera seedling.

Red Grapefruit, on the other hand, fits in a totally obvious and straightforward way: the flower is exactly the same color as most of the pictures of red grapefruit that come up when you do an image search. It's basically perfect.

Then there's Alberta, which doesn't make any more sense than Boomerang did; however, I have some weird synesthetic thing happening where this bloom and the word "Alberta" are both the same color. Except I'm not actually synesthetic.

Also I've never been to Alberta, and don't personally know anyone from Alberta, and have no real connection to Alberta whatsoever, at least until k. d. lang and I become close personal friends like I assume is going to happen one of these days.4

Given the choice between a relatively straightforward description of a color, and a name that could only make sense to me (not that it does, but I'm the only person it could conceivably make sense to), I'm inclined to go with the latter. So Alberta it is.


1 All the seedlings' buds start out either pale peach or magenta. Peach buds always turn orange; magenta buds usually turn orange but are occasionally red.
2 Maybe it's an Iowa thing, I don't know, but I worked with one woman, who, upon hearing of my plans to move to the Iowa City area, expressed concern, and said she would never live there "because of all the witches," as if everybody already knew that the city was full of, I don't know, stillborn livestock and withered crops or something.
And then at a later job, I was asked, in total seriousness, whether I "believed in Harry Potter." (I have not read any of the Harry Potter series.) I was so thrown by the question that I think I managed to stammer out something like, well there's not, uh. Anything to believe in, really? I mean they're, like, books? For children? and he let the subject drop. And I don't think we ever tried to have any kind of non-work conversation ever again, though I might be misremembering that part.
3 "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
4 (I would also accept Nathan Fillion or Tricia Helfer. Possibly in a pinch Joni Mitchell, but for some reason I feel like she probably wouldn't like me, which ruins the fantasy.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Anthurium no. 0408 "Tex Messich"

You know, I'm beginning to think that maybe I don't even like Anthuriums that well.

I mean, that's obviously a ridiculous thing to say. You're thinking, "maybe I don't even like Anthuriums that well," says the guy with 750 Anthuriums, ha ha, it is to laugh. Which is fair. But.

Some of this is because the Schlumbergeras have just made their triumphant return, after a long period of fondness-making absence, so the Anthuriums look less interesting by comparison. Perhaps if they stopped blooming for a while, and then came back, I'd like them better.

Some of this is also because most of the first-time Anthurium buds still in progress1 are all tiny, already thrips-scarred, or both, and I don't have a lot of hope that they're going to be amazing, beautiful blooms. (And those are just the ones that still could open: a lot of the first-time buds I saw this summer aborted.2 Which is a whole separate disappointment.)

But the biggest issue is still, unsurprisingly, the ongoing thrips and scale problem. I have abandoned the taping idea, after it became clear that I didn't actually want to do it,3 but the problem is still there, and at this point it's been going on for nearly four years. I am tired. I'm tired, and I'm out of ideas. I would never get rid of all the Anthuriums, but I'm certainly considering trying to reduce their overall number. Probably by freezing the potting-up of new seedlings, to let the existing seedlings whittle their numbers down a bit, but I might also do another purge and get rid of some seedlings on purpose. Still trying to work out what I want to do.

About 30 Anthurium seedlings, ones I moved to 6-inch pots, are safe no matter what. (I wouldn't have up-potted them if they didn't have a lot going for them, including some level of thrips and scale resistance.) The question is how many of their compatriots will be allowed to try to bloom, and under what circumstances.

On to Tex:

Tex was initially disappointing, mostly from the amount of thrips scarring on the spathe.

Tex is also on the small side of average, and the peduncle is pretty short. Both are forgivable, but small, short, and attractive to thrips is a bad combination.

Initially, I didn't care for the color, either, which was reminiscent of its sibling 0416 "Holy McGrail," but as time's passed, I've sort of come around about the color. It's not that I think this is a particularly pretty hue -- I'd call it "dirty pink" -- but it's at least interesting.

The plant as a whole is a good size, and the leaves are large and shiny. Without all the pockmarks, they might actually be pretty.

So about Tex: my head says there will be something better later, just throw him out, and my heart says but he's pretty cool; at least it's sort of a new color. So we're deadlocked. I'll have to revisit the decision later, when I have more information.

Whatever happens to Tex in the long run, I am a little more firmly decided that some of the space presently occupied by Anthuriums should be switched over to Schlumbergera production, though. There are almost three times as many Anthuriums in the house as Schlumbergeras, but I'm certainly not getting three times more enjoyment out of the Anthuriums. So there's a course correction on the way.


1 (0091 "Bob Sharunkle," 0424 "Jen Antonic," 0459 "Heather Marie Rose," 0516 "Brooke Enhart," 0537 "Bridgette of Madison County," and 0547 "Cate Sedia")
2 (0039 "Honey Mahogany," 0045 "Lineysha Sparx," 0072 "Beth Rowe," 0115 "Erlene Adopter," 0152 "Jay Love" (twice), 0178 "Kate Thulu," 0250 "Sheila Blige," 0277 "Zach Treplica," 0300 "Monica Beverly Hillz," 0339 "Johnny Lufchachi," 0414 "Trudy Vocean," 0467 "Regina Fong" (twice) 0470 "Heather Haldane," 0480 "Walterina Markova," 0488 "Regina the Gentlelady," 0512 "Landon Sky," 0527 "Ms. Lucia Love" (at least three times), 0534 "Celia Putty," and 0593 "Torian Debonair." Which is a lot of times to get excited about a bud and then be disappointed.)
3 This became clear when I noticed that every time I had a block of time large enough to permit taping, I found something else to do instead. Eventually I took the hint from my subconscious, and stopped feeling guilty about not doing it.
In retrospect, I would probably have found it easier to do if I hadn't also convinced myself that it wasn't likely to work. I mean, I truly do think it wouldn't have worked, there's no way it could have eliminated all the thrips and scale, but it might still have been helpful. I've noticed some (not all) of the flats I taped are doing better since. It may not have been worth the effort, but the effort wasn't entirely wasted.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In which the Schlumbergera seedlings make me crazy

Two things. First, if anyone out there bought Schlumbergera seedling cuttings from me earlier this year and happens to be reading this, I'm curious whether you've seen any buds yet. Diana says 088A "Cyborg Unicorn" is budding for her (though not 023A "Stoked"), so I know it's at least possible. Anybody else?

The second thing:

Oh my god, was "Tease" ever the right "person" to pair with Schlumbergera when I wrote its plant profile. The Schlumbergera seedlings have buds everywhere (see the end of the post for photos), but very few have actually opened a flower yet. As you're aware from last week, I saw a full bloom from 018A "Nudibranch," on 29 October,

018A "Nudibranch," 29 Oct 2015

followed closely by our old pals 082A "Strawberry Madeleine" (30 October) and 025A "Clownfish" (4 November),

082A "Strawberry Madeleine," 30 Oct 2015

025A "Clownfish," 4 Nov 2015

and a few days later, 099A "Dessert Room" joined the party.

099A "Dessert Room," 9 Nov 2015

So it's not like the schlums are actually failing to deliver on their promises. They're just doing it so slowly, and I'm impatient. This is what five of the flats1 look like at the moment (the others are harder to photograph):

The "green" flat.

The "cyan" (left) and "red" (right) flats.

The "red" (left) and "orange" (right) flats.

The "yellow" flat.

The photos are blurry enough, and the buds small enough, that they don't show the buds that well, so here's that last photo again, with all the visible buds (remember, there are probably a lot of buds hidden by the segments of other plants) covered with red dots instead:


And the others are just as bad.2 When the explosion finally happens, it will be glorious. But the wait is killing me. (How's Schlumbergera season going where you are?)

[EDIT: I should have noted in the original version of the post that I was writing it on 9 November. By the 15th, when it went public, things had accelerated. We're not yet at peak Schlumbergera, but I've stopped complaining that they're slow.]


1 Confusingly designated by color names; the name of the flat has no relationship to the color of the blooms in it. I just find that it's easier for me to remember things if the mnemonic tags I use for them don't overlap. Which is to say, I find "seedling 018, in flat 05" harder to remember than "seedling 018 (blue)."
2 The other Schlumbergeras in the house have variously led (NOID yellow, 'Caribbean Dancer,' NOID magenta), trailed ('Stephanie,' 'Exotic Dancer,' NOID lavender-pink), or bloomed simultaneously with (NOID white, NOID peach) the seedlings. I'm actually a little concerned that the NOID yellow will have finished blooming by the time most of the seedlings begin.