Friday, October 28, 2016

Pretty picture: Mediocalcar decoratum

This one is a little different.

I don't want one of my own, because orchids and I just do not get along at all.1 Even if we did, Mediocalcar decoratum is poorly-suited to living in the house. It's native to the cloud forests of Papua and New Guinea, which means lots of moisture and cool temperatures.

The flowers reminded me of Manettia luteorubra (candy corn plant or candy corn vine), which I occasionally see in stores around here, as an outdoor annual, which has blooms of similar size and coloration, though the shape on Manettia is long and tubular. I thought maybe the similarity could be explained by having a pollinator in common, but apparently not: though there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what species of Manettia it is, everybody agrees that Manettia is a New World family, and I doubt Manettia and Mediocalcar have the same pollinator, considering that they're separated by the whole Pacific Ocean.2

Much better photos of M. decoratum can be found here.


1 In fact, I've recently thrown out two orchids I'd had for a really long time -- a NOID Dendrobium and a Brassolaeliocattleya Helen Brown, both from October 2008 -- because eight years was long enough. The Dendrobium had bloomed before, so I know it was capable of it; the Brassolaeliocattleya was small when I got it but I felt like it was surely blooming size/age by now. The Dendrobium had been dropping leaves for a few months; I think it was probably unhappy with the watering frequency. One big leaf on the Brassolaeliocattleya turned half black basically overnight, and I have no idea what caused that: the only thing I can think of that had changed for it in the last year was that I changed its growing medium (replaced old bark chips with new bark chips, same brand and everything).
Had I held on to them for a few more months, I could probably have stuck them outside next summer and gotten blooms. And maybe I should have. But the reasoning was basically, 1) if they could bloom in the house for me, they would probably have done so already, 2) I've gotten no enjoyment from either of them for a few years now, 3) it looks like they're beginning to fall apart, and 4) I need the room for Schlumbergera seedlings.
So far, the only exceptions to the "orchids and I don't get along" rule are Phalaenopsis, which pretty much likes everybody (despite which it still only tolerates me), and Neofinetia falcata "Amami Furan," which actually seems to like me, and vice-versa.
2 Not that it still couldn't happen; both are believed to be pollinated by birds, and birds do get around. But there are probably not many species of bird living on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. Though I suppose there could be different species of bird from the same genus on opposite sides of the ocean, where both kinds of bird really like tiny, yellow-tipped orange blooms, in which case the Mediocalcar / Manettia resemblance could be an example of convergent evolution. I couldn't find a source that identified the species of bird responsible for pollination for either flower; it's possible that we don't actually know.
Of course, the whole thing could be coincidence, too. Only so many colors out there, and so many ways of arranging them: given enough species with flowers, some repetition is bound to happen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unfinished business: Polyscias seedlings

Time to check in with the Polyscias seedlings again. When we last saw them, in May, there were 11 seedlings in all, and they were about 7 months old.

They are now one year old, and three of them (5, 7, and 11) have died; one more (10) is a bit shaky, but still technically alive. I've moved all but one of them (#10 again) to 4-inch pots. The differences in their leaves are now pretty well-established, and I'm thinking that may be as pronounced as those get; instead I'm focusing more on differences in the overall plant shape, and their ability to retain their leaves. So let's take a look.


Seedling 1 has nice leaves -- finely-divided, with good color and well-defined midveins on each leaflet. It doesn't seem to have great leaf-retention skills, though. There's a side-shoot barely visible near the bottom of the trunk here, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I'd take the growing tip off the top if I thought it would help, but since there's only the one side shoot, I imagine I'd just replace one tall, bare-trunked stem with another. Not the worst of the survivors, but I'm disappointed; it looked really interesting in May.


Seedling 2 was my favorite in May, and it's still doing well in October. I worry a little bit about it, in that it's not as tall as some of the others, and it's dropped a couple leaves since this picture was taken, but it sure seems to have a lot more light-collecting area than the other ones,

also #2

so I'm hoping it will be all right. #2 is the only one I really care that much about, so keep your fingers crossed.


#3 has darker, flatter leaves than most of the seedlings did. In May, I liked that, but the flatness of the leaves makes it harder for the plant to look full in photos, it isn't branching either, and the petioles are all pretty long. It's okay, but unless it starts branching, I'm not expecting much to come of it.


Number 4, on the other hand, has really thick, fluffy leaves, holds them well, and has already branched at least twice. It looks enough like the parent plant that I find it difficult to get excited about, but even if it's not that original, it's still a nice-looking plant.


Seedling 6 is trying to branch, and might get there eventually. It looks kind of bare here because the newest leaf got partly broken off in the process of development, so there's just a petiole stump where there ought to be a leaf. 6 doesn't do much for me either, but it's trying.


Number 8 is the one with the really, really narrow leaflets. They're so narrow that they've become kind of a problem, actually: they get tangled in themselves, and then tear when I try to straighten them out. It doesn't strike me as pretty, still, but it's dense, it's branching on its own, and it's different from what I started out with, so I'm pleased. A plant that actively tears pieces off itself when the wind blows probably doesn't have much potential as an outdoor landscaping plant, but that's not as big of a problem indoors.


Number 9 is the one where a couple of the leaves suddenly developed a bunch of yellow spots and then dropped off; I figured it for an overwatering error at the time, and I don't have a better guess now. It hasn't done it again, though as you can see, there aren't many leaves, the leaves it does have aren't very interesting, and there's a lot of space between the leaves, so it's not likely to ever become my favorite.


And then, finally, number 10, the only one that hasn't been moved up to a 4-inch pot yet. It was growing along okay for a while, and then the growing tip died and all the leaves fell off. It started a new growing tip from the side, but that doesn't seem to be doing so hot either, and it's so much shorter than all the others that it has a tough time getting any light, so I imagine #10 is going to be dead before the next update.

I don't know if I trust these enough to give them names quite yet, but it would be sort of nice to have something to call them besides numbers. I have an idea for a series of names but part of my brain is like, no, Jesus, that's a really bad idea, don't do that, so if you have suggestions, I'm listening.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Anthurium no. 0758 "Miles Long, Esquire"

Miles resembles 0721 Chandelier Divine Brown, in that both have an exceptionally vivid color, practically glowy at times, that doesn't photograph particularly well. Miles started out as red, and slowly turned more to hot pink, while Chandelier is and always has been red, but they're both really intense colors, and stand out well against the leaves. So there's that.

18 October 2016.

20 October 2016.

The foliage isn't particularly striking, but it's okay. Mostly clear of thrips damage, at least.

And it seems to be offsetting reasonably well for its age.

I'd be happier with Miles if his spathes were larger. That might happen with the second and third blooms, so we'll see. Even if this is as big as they get, though, he's still probably a keeper. The color really is quite striking in person, if nothing else.

While you're here, I intended to say something about this a long time ago, but I forgot, and now it's no longer relevant but I still want you to see it. The now-deceased 0335 Donna Fanuday produced this bloom a month ago:

That lighter, pinkish streak near the center of the spathe isn't a reflection; the spathe actually did that. Just the one stripe, and it had never done this before, so I don't want to make too much out of it, but that could, hypothetically, be spontaneous speckling. (Donna's seed parent was 'White Gemini;' I don't know who the pollen parent was, but it couldn't have been 'Peppermint Gemini,' my one speckled parent variety, both because I didn't have 'Peppermint Gemini' yet when the seed that would become Donna was sown and because I'm pretty sure 'Peppermint Gemini' doesn't even produce pollen. The pollen parent was probably the NOID red.)

We'll never know, of course. Donna had been doing really well for a long time, but then a bunch of scale appeared out of nowhere. I thought I'd beaten them back with imidacloprid earlier in the summer, and it'd been a while since I'd seen any in the basement, but they came back, and there were so many of them that I thought it better to sacrifice Donna than to leave the scale to roam and spread themselves while I tried another round of pesticide. Donna had reproduced already (no official seedlings yet, but I have a bunch of her seeds in the basement in germination containers), so if I'm extremely lucky, maybe one of her offspring will pick up some of her better traits (nicely-shaped blooms, decent thrips resistance, lots of blooms, long-lasting blooms, strong but common color, fantastic new leaf color1) and do some spontaneous speckling besides. I don't expect it to happen. I'm not even sure it can happen. But maybe. We'll see.

I have so many Anthurium seedlings that I don't ordinarily care much when one dies, but Donna is missed.

I do still have a couple seedlings with slightly variegated leaves. They probably won't produce variegated spathes, and in fact I suspect that the variegation probably means they're sick in some way or another, but 0405 Crickett Bardot is hanging in there anyway:

24 May 2016.

Her most recent leaves, produced since that photo, appear to be reverting back to solid green, alas. And there's still no indication that she's even thinking about blooming, despite being three years old.

A few much more recent seedlings have done things sort of similar; 1415 Sister Dharma Gettin is producing leaves which are basically normal in texture2 but have the same speckling on them. Sister Dharma is even more interesting, though, because her new leaves are orange:

I'm not sure I'd even like a speckled bloom or variegated plant if I could get one: from a distance, they tend to just look kind of dirty or faded. But it'd be interesting to have one or two around anyway, just because.


2 0405 Crickett Bardot and some of her (deceased) variegated siblings' leaves were thicker, and often kind of . . . I don't know how to describe it exactly. Blistered? They weren't blistered in the ways that Anthurium spathes are sometimes blistered, where the larger veins are sunken relative to the rest of the leaf; it was more like the areas of the leaf with lots of variegation also grew slower than the rest of the leaves, so the variegated parts were slightly puckered. You can kind of see it in places in the photo of Crickett.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pretty picture: Cymbidium Atalanta (?)

[NOTE: today's post is not safe for work due to a 372-year-old painting and some language; proceed accordingly]

The only Cymbidium from the 2016 show was pretty, but kind of a nightmare to research.

The tag said "Atlanta," like the city in Georgia.

That's a perfectly sensible thing to name a Cymbidium, but the International Orchid Register didn't have it in their database. And it's ogooglebar, because any search for (Cymbidium + Atlanta) mostly gets you lists of places you can buy Cymbidiums in Atlanta, or photos of Cymbidium flowers that were taken in Atlanta.

If the IOR doesn't have an "Atlanta," that doesn't necessarily mean that no such plant exists: they're thorough, but I wouldn't expect them to have every single grex listed the moment it's official. So it's possible that this is, in fact, Cymbidium Atlanta, but I doubt it. In the seven months between first looking it up and writing this post, the IOR didn't add an "Atlanta," and they seem to be pretty on top of the names, in general, so there probably still isn't a "Cymbidium Atlanta."

There is, however, an AtAlanta, named after the mythological figure instead of the city in Georgia, and my guess is that that's probably what we're looking at here.

Atalanta is interesting.

She was a huntress and virgin, sworn to the goddess Artemis (the goddess of hunting and virgins, among other things,1 so kind of a natural fit, there), but her father wanted her to get married. This, obviously, would have fucked with the whole virgin thing, plus there may have been a warning from an oracle that marrying would prove disastrous for her, so she declared that she would only marry a man who could beat her in a footrace, and that any man who failed to defeat her would be put to death. And everybody, apparently, nodded and was like, yup, that seems reasonable.2 So. Many races and a pile of corpses later, eligible bachelor Hippomenes gets the idea to seek some outside assistance, so he goes to the goddess Aphrodite3 and says, hey, I want to get with this chick but she's not into me and I know I can't outrun her so what can I do?

Aphrodite says here, take these three irresistible golden apples, and when you run against her, just throw one of the apples in front of her whenever she gets ahead of you, and she'll stop and pick them up, giving you time to get back ahead of her. (And if you're wondering how he's supposed to be able to resist picking up these irresistible apples himself, I refer you back to footnote 2.) So that's what Hippomenes does, and he manages to win the race by a hair,

The Race Between Atalanta and Hippomenes, 1644, Nicolas Colombel, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. From Wikipedia.

and Atalanta's like, well, a deal's a deal. So long, Artemis, see you when I give birth. And eventually Atalanta and Hippomenes have a son, who I'm guessing they didn't like very much because they named him Parthenopeus.

And then some time after that, Atalanta and Hippomenes both get changed into lions, because of course they did, though the details and reasons vary.4

Atalanta is, according to the IOR, a very old grex, dating to 1918, and a primary hybrid of Cymbidium erythrostylum (pink to white sepals, with red and white-striped petals) and Cymbidium lowianum (yellow to greenish-yellow, with some orange striping on the labellum). (Ref.) If the plant at the show was in fact Atalanta, then she mostly takes after Cymbidium erythrostylum.

I found a possible picture of Cymbidium Atalanta on an eBay-like site in Australia when I was researching all this in March, showing a pinkish-purple bloom with a white and dark red labellum. The tepals were longer and narrower than this plant, but the red spotting was in more or less the same location, so this is plausibly a different clone of the same cross. On the other hand, one never wants to put too much faith in photos posted by people selling stuff on-line, especially not at sites like eBay, so I'm not willing to treat that photo as confirmation of this plant's identity. But that photo was at least not wildly different from the plant I've got here, and Atalanta seems like a reasonable guess.


1 (Confusingly, the goddess of virgins was also the goddess of childbirth and midwifery.)
2 It may help to think of ancient Greek myths as comic book / superhero movies: meant to entertain, so there are certain premises you just have to accept, and certain plot holes you just have to ignore, if you want to enjoy the story at all.
3 (the goddess of sexual love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation, who as you can imagine had some issues with the goddess of hunting and virginity)
4 Mostly the stories agree that being turned into lions was punishment for boinking in a god's temple, though their motivation, and whose temple, vary from story to story. The most complicated of the stories has Aphrodite mad at Hippomenes because he failed to give her the proper respect after she helped him out with the apples and everything. So, as Atalanta and Hippomenes traveled somewhere together, they wound up stopping at one of the goddess Cybele's temples. Aphrodite, being the goddess of sex, made them super-horny, knowing that Cybele wouldn't like this. A. and H. boinked in the temple, and then Cybele was like HOW DARE YOU and turned them into lions.
Why lions? Well, apparently the thinking at the time was that lions couldn't reproduce by having sex with one another; you only got more lions if a lion got it on with a leopard. So changing a couple of people into a pair of lions because they had sex as humans was a way of ensuring that they would never be able to have sex with one another again. Which makes the whole thing sadder than it sounds at first. Though Cybele also appears to have just been really, really into lions, so maybe she changed everybody into lions, I don't know, I didn't look into it.
Why did the ancient Greeks believe that lions didn't / couldn't mate with other lions? Fuck if I know. My go-to theory for this kind of thing is that ancient people were drunk a lot and also not good noticers.