Monday, September 11, 2017

Plant Find: Three New Succulents

The whole family went on a little reconnaissance trip to a local nursery to look at some shrubs and trees that we might use when we relandscape our front yard.  With a three year old and a five year old we're in a perpetual mode of one of us watching the kids while the other is trying to do something productive, at least until their antics require both of us to bring the universe back into order.  When it was my turn to watch the kiddos I followed them into a long, nearly empty hoop house where they decided to pick up the tiny gravel from the ground and start throwing it out over the empty mesh tables.  I stifled my persistent desire to ask them to stop and just asked that they not throw rocks at each other or at plants.

Huernia zebrina
Huernia zebrina

While they continued their onslaught of gravel flinging I wandered over to the only little patch of green in the hoop house.  It was a selection of small succulent plants with a sign that read "Priced as marked."  I looked around and was surprised to see about 8 little pots of Huernia zebrina, a Stapeliad that I have admired photos of for a white, but had not seen in person and had not yet added to my collection.  Price tag?  Nope.  Huh...


Huernia zebrina
Huernia zebrina

I picked out the best one of the lot, which was a tough choice, because they were all blooming, but some had more buds than others and some had more plant growth.  I selected the one with the most stems and buds I could find, not focusing as much on the current number of flowers.  The flowers are strange little things with a bright red ring that resembles an inner tube and leads to the common name of "Lifesaver plant."


Alluaudia
Alluaudia
Then I looked at what else was on the table.  An Alluaudia?  Can it be!?!  There were four of them - long, lanky succulent with alternating rows of spines and leaves.  I have admired a giant Alluaudia at the Myriad Gardens for years.  I've never once seen one for sale.  I looked at the four available and picked the best.  This plant was considerably bigger than the Huernia but since I had not seen it for sale before I set a maximum price of $12 in my head.  I'm not sure which species this is, but I am thinking it is probably Alluaudia procera.


Alluaudia
Alluaudia
I looked a bit more.  Nothing significant that I had been wanting, but there was a cute little plant with very strange leaves.  This was the only plant with a price tag ($3) and also the only one with a real label in it.  It read "Pink Ice Plant (Oscularia deltoides)."  I picked out the best one and proceeded to the cash register, hoping for the best with my unmarked plants.  I figured having one plant with a $3 price tag may help with the others.


Oscularia deltoides
Pink Ice Plant - Oscularia deltoides

Oscularia deltoides
Pink Ice Plant - Oscularia deltoides
I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier decided my three plants were $2, $3, and $4.  Definitely one of my cheapest plant hauls ever!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Native Asclepias

For several years I have been fascinated by Asclepias, one of the many plants given the common name of "milkweed."  This is a genus consisting of more than 140 species of flowering perennials native to North America.  Here in central and southern Oklahoma there is one species, Asclepias viridis (Green antelopehorn), that is prolific. There are three other species (A. tuberosa, A. amplexicaulis, and A. asperula) that I have seen in this area in smaller numbers. The USDA website lists 25 species of Asclepias that naturally occur in Oklahoma, which is surprising to me!  Some of those occur just in the western-most county of the Oklahoma panhandle.  Others occur just in the far eastern-most counties.  Oklahoma does have a lot of habitat diversity.

Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis

Asclepias asperula
Asclepias asperula
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias are interesting plants for several reasons. They are a host plant for the endangered monarch butterflies/caterpillars, as well as many other species of moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera). Gardeners interested in planting native plants that attract butterflies and other local wildlife are fond of several species of Asclepias. Some species have really beautiful flowers and others have really strange flowers. When you look at Asclepias viridis up close it reminds me of the metallic looking passionflower from the THX sound test video.

Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis macro photo

Asclepias amplexicaulis
Asclepias amplexicaulis
I have tried to transplant some Asclepias viridis from the wild into my yard on a few occasions. It is difficult because the root system of the Asclepias consists of a really large single tap root (like a paper towel roll that goes deep into the ground. Unfortunately the native red soil that these plants are growing in is hard and the root is brittle, so it easily snaps as you try to loosen the soil around it. Recently I dug up several species of Asclepias after we had had some rain, so the soil was a little more cooperative. I retrieved 3 viridis, 1 amplexicaulis, and 1 tuberosa.

Asclepias
An unsuccessful Asclepias viridis transplant from a few years ago.
Check out that root!

Chinese Bushclover (Lespedeza cuneata)
Successful transplant of Chinese Bushclover (Lespedeza cuneata) - an introduced species.
While I was digging up these plants my eye was drawn to some small-leaved flowering plants that were growing in good numbers nearby. I dug up a couple of these to try as well. I used my new favorite app, iNaturalist, to help me identify the unfamiliar plants and found that both are Lespedeza (Bushclovers). One is a native (L. virginica) and the other is a semi-invasive introduction from Asia (L. cuneata). Although I shouldn't be, I'm always a little surprised when I come across an introduced species in a place that I think of as undisturbed by humans. The truth is that humans aren't the only ones to introduce new species to a property. Birds, furred animals, and even the wind are perfectly capable of transporting seeds that were introduced anywhere on the continent.

transplanted Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa successful transplant

transplanted Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis successful transplant
I am hoping that my transplants survive this time around.  They all wilted within the first day, but some had the appearance of "I'm just thirsty and don't appreciate the change in scenery" wilted, whereas some had the "you killed me!" wilted.  Now that they have been in the ground for a couple of weeks I can tell that three have survived, two viridis and one tuberosa.  The others are most likely deceased, but could surprise me by putting up new growth from the roots.  You just never know.

transplanted Asclepias amplexicaulis
Not so successful Asclepias amplexicaulis transplant

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trip Report: Muir Woods

While on vacation in California in March we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and drove through the beautiful Marin Headlands to Muir Woods. There is a really nice trail that heads back from the visitor's center into the woods.  This was the most crowded National Park I have visited in recent memory, but it was still enjoyable.

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Yours truly looking up at the giant Coast Redwoods

Trillium
Trillium sp.
The woods are made up of giant Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), a smattering of understory trees that shrink in comparison, and a lot of ground cover plants (ferns, Trillium, and others). I was really taken with the Trilliums, having admired photos of them for a long time and having tried unsuccessfully to grow some myself. I uploaded my observations to iNaturalist and it appears most, if not all, of these were Pacific Trillium (Trillium ovatum).

Trillium
Trillium ovatum

Trillium
Trillium ovatum
There was also a really pretty flowering plant whose white flowers hung from the plant like those of Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum).  Someone identified it as a Fairybell (Prosartes) on iNaturalist, but I'm not sure which species - Prosartes hookeri or Prosartes smithii.

Prosartes sp.
Prosartes sp.
Oh yeah, I also saw a few neat birds and a really cool banana slug.  That thing was big!  I probably would have seen more birds had there been fewer people, but I was really happy to see so many people enjoying the park.

Banana Slug
Banana slug (Ariolimax)

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Happy Trails!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Baptisia seedlings

In late June I participated in the Butterfly Count for Cleveland County, Oklahoma with some of my birding friends. We came across some large Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo) plants that were covered in seed pods.  I collected some of the pods, took them home and soaked them in water for 24 hours.  I filled an old plastic to-go food container with moist vermiculite and then scattered the seeds in the container and covered them with a thin layer of more moist vermiculite.

Baptisia seedlings
Baptisia australis seedlings

Baptisia seedlings
Baptisia australis seedlings
I put the container out in the greenhouse in indirect light and left it alone.  After a few weeks I had a bunch of seedlings.  I didn't count planted seeds and sprouted seedlings but it appears the germination rate was pretty high.  As with my past experience, the easy part is done and maturing these little plants from their fragile seedling state is the real challenge.  I hope I am successful.  This is such a beautiful native plant.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

unidentified Huernia in bloom

[UPDATE 2017-09-15:  I have been informed that this plant is Huernia bayeri. ]

The unknown Huernia that I purchased at the cacti and succulent show and sale this year is now blooming.

Huernia sp.
Huernia sp.
Maybe this will help me identify the plant to species level.  The flowers are small bell-shaped pale yellow stars. 

Huernia sp.
Huernia sp.
I almost overlooked it when watering.  There is just one flower open so far, but there are a few more buds on the plant. 

Huernia sp.
Huernia sp.
I'm glad to see it is happy in my care.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Huernia keniensis in bloom

A few weeks ago my family went on vacation for a week.  While we were away Oklahoma experienced our hottest week so far this year.  Upon our return my plants were very thirsty.  In my hurried watering of the backyard plants I noticed one of my new Stapeliads had flowered while we were gone.

Huernia keniensis
Huernia keniensis

This is one of the plants I purchased at the cacti and succulent show last month.  I took some photos, but the flower was on its final day, so it's pretty sad looking.  Typically Stapeliads will produce multiple flowers, sequentially.  Maybe I'll get another one soon.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lycoris in bloom

Years ago a friend and fellow plant blogger gave me some Naked Lady/Resurrection Lily (Lycoris squamigera) bulbs.  I planted some in a pot and some others in the ground.  They grew well for me for years and for the first couple of years I expected to see some blooms, but they never came.

I'd nearly forgotten there were some planted in the ground until I walked around the side of the house last week and saw this:

Lycoris squamigera
Lycoris squamigera
I don't know what spurred the flowering this year.  It's been pretty hot and dry lately and I wouldn't have thought July would be the time of year for these to bloom.  After a bit of googling I learned that August to September is the typical bloom season, so I guess late July is not far from the norm.  I look forward to seeing these bloom each year now.  Hopefully this was the first of many.