Monday, October 30, 2017

Pellionia in bloom

I have had two species of Pellionia in my collection for a long time, but don't remember seeing either of them bloom before.  The flowers are small and could be easily missed, so it's possible they had flown under my radar in the past.  Regardless, I was very happy to see these little flowers on my Pellionia pulchra plants recently.

Pellionia pulchra
Pellionia pulchra buds

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Plant Find: Bauhinia galpinii

From the moment I first saw one, I have loved Orchid Trees (Bauhinia).  Bauhinia is a genus of more than 500 species of tropical flowering plants, many of them trees, but some are more shrubs and some are even vines.  They are found throughout the world in tropical regions and I have seen them growing in the wild, as well as cultivated in yards in the southern US.  In Galveston, there are several Bauhinia variegata growing in front yards and flowering with their beautiful pink or white blooms.

Bauhinia variegata seedlings
Bauhinia variegata seedlings
A few years ago I collected some seeds from a tree in Galveston and was able to germinate those seeds. I tried planting a few of the young seedlings to the Galveston yard, but they didn't make it. I don't know if their sunlight was choked out by their more aggressive neighbors, or something else happened. I have a few saplings now that have gotten to a decent size and I plan to plant in the Galveston yard when they get even a little bit larger.

Bauhinia variegata (orchid tree)
Young Bauhinia variegata seedlings that I transplanted to Galveston garden.
As beautiful as the blooms are, the leaves are every bit as stunning.  They unfold like a set of hands asking for a piece of bread.  I read that Linnaeus named this genus after a set of twin botanists, which is fitting due to the symmetric, two lobed leaf.

Bauhinia variegata
Bauhinia variegata flowers on a tree in Galveston

I mentioned that there are some species of Bauhinia that are vining.  I saw one of these species at the Singapore Botanic Gardens a few years ago (photo below).  The stems are woody and there is a fuzzy brown sheath that covers the new leaves as they emerge.  The emergent leaves are sort of red and bronze, turning to a medium green with dark veins. 

Bauhinia semibifida
Bauhinia semibifida at Singapore Botanic Gardens
On my most recent trip to Galveston I visited a nursery and came across a beautiful miniature Bauhinia in a pot that I assume is meant to stay a miniature.  It is Bauhinia galpinii and it is so cute. 

Bauhinia galpinii
Bauhinia galpinii

There are actually two small trees in the pot and one of them has much smaller leaves than the other.  Since I have grown Bauhinia variegata from seed and know that the leaves are large from a young age, I do believe this is actually going to retain the small leaves.

Bauhinia galpinii
Tiny leaves of Bauhinia galpinii

My plant is not yet blooming, but I found photos of the flowers online.  They are salmon red and petite compared to B. variegata, but of the same shape.  I hope I can keep this plant happy in the greenhouse over the winter and then I have the perfect place for it next spring when it is warm enough to move my plants outdoors.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Plant Find: Turmeric

There was a (very) small mid-week farmer's market held at a neighborhood park in Galveston and I walked over to see if there was anything interesting.  One of the five vendors had a handful of plants for sale, one of which looked like a Canna or ginger to me.  I asked the owner what it was and he surprised me by saying it was Turmeric.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) plant
Sometime last year I was in a cooking phase and had a recipe I really wanted to cook that called for turmeric roots.  I have turmeric powder and knew that I could use that, but started researching the roots, which would surely be a more fresh and potentially have a richer flavor.  I found that I could buy turmeric roots on Amazon and they look a lot like ginger roots, except they are orange inside, much like a sweet potato.

Turmeric root, used for cooking
I talked to the guy at the farmer's market and asked him how he goes about harvesting and replanting.  He says that he grows the turmeric in a raised bed and will harvest about 90% of his clump of turmeric and leave 10% behind to grow the next batch.  He wasn't asking much for the small plant and I decided that even if I don't end up using the plant for cooking and just grow it as ornamental (like all my other plants) I would be happy to have a turmeric plant in my collection.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Plant Find: new Galveston garden additions

I split out my Galveston garden update into two posts since one was much more related to maintenance and the other is about two new plants I acquired and added to the garden.  Both of these plants have the silvery green foliage that I love so much.

My favorite little nursery in Galveston has a neat assortment of plants that are so unlike anything we have in central Oklahoma.  I really enjoy looking at the assortment of semi-tropical trees and shrubs that can be grown outdoors in Galveston.  On my most recent trip I came across a few plants that I have been coveting for years.

Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) planted in the Galveston yard

I have previously posted about a tree (sometimes a shrub) that Christie and I fell in love with while in south Florida, the Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus).  I actually tried propagating those trees from cuttings and had some initial success, but couldn't keep the cuttings alive long-term.  I found a nice size bush at the nursery for a reasonable price and had not previously seen one for sale at all, so of course I snatched it up.

Gauva fruits at Moody Gardens - aren't they cute?
I believe these are the same Pineapple Guava, but I'm not positive.

Another plant that I had been coveting is a small guava bush.  I had seen these growing at the Moody Gardens in Galveston and taken their photos in years past.  They have really funky little flowers, followed by cute little guava fruits that I find really interesting.  I like the little fruit with the four-point star that persists on the bottom.  Again, when I saw one of these at a reasonable price, I had to scoop it up.

Pineapple Guava
Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) planted in front of the Galveston house

We had honestly run out of room for planting any new plants in Galveston, thanks to the monsters that took over the garden (post coming soon), but who needs a lawn anyway?  We just dug up grass and fit 'em in.  I envision some day a few years down the road needing to buy some paving stones so that you can walk through what used to be the yard, but is now a jungle of beautiful, lush tropical forest...

Friday, September 29, 2017

New seeds

I don't have a lot of experience growing native plants from seed*, but I have a lot of stock to practice with over the next year.  I purchased some Asclepias humistrata (Sandhill Milkweed) seeds from eBay and the seller sent me two other packets of seeds to try - Cosmos and Ipomoea purpurea (Candy Cane Morning Glories).

Eleven packets of seeds for me to plant
I have also been looking into growing some more native plants that host or attract birds and butterflies.  I came across a group on Facebook where one member was offering seeds to anyone who would pay for the postage.  She kindly sent me two envelopes full of seeds of butterfly host plants, including Maurandella antirrhiniflora (Snapdragon Vine), Asclepias asperula (Antelopehorn Milkweed), Phyla nodiflora (Frogfruit), Verbena bonariensis (Brazilian Verbena), Polanisia dodecandra (Clammyweed), Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit (Coneflower), Aristolochia fimbriata (White-veined Dutchman's Pipe), and Zinnia Zowie. 

Sandhill Milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) - courtesy of

As I've mentioned before, I really like Asclepias, so I'm very excited about the prospect of growing these two species (A. asperula and A. humistrata) from seed.  The humistrata species (above) is not native to Oklahoma, but I think it will do well in my climate.  The Dutchman's pipe has some really funky flowers (below).  It would be cool to get this growing on my back fence.

White-veined Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia fimbriata) - courtesy of Wikimedia

Now I just need to find good places to plant them all!

* This is sort of funny because I have one and only peer-reviewed journal publication to my name and it is titled "Experiences growing aroids from seed."  I have had success growing aroids, but haven't tried many plants from other families from seed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Native persimmons and a recipe!

I was walking around Lake Thunderbird on the east side of town recently and found a persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) tree growing in the riff-raff rocks piled right up near the water.  The tree was in bad shape with fall webworms all over the place, but it did have several fruit on it. 

native Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana)
Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) growing near the lake shore
I plucked one fruit and found that it was still firm, a ways from ripening.  I have read that persimmons are ripe when they still hold their shape but the skin is just beginning to wrinkle a little.

native Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana)
Characteristic four petals at the top of the fruit.
Note: This fruit is not ripe and should not be eaten!
I decided to collect the seeds from this persimmon, so I had to stomp on it with my shoe to break open the hard fruit.  The single fruit contained 8 seeds that were large and covered in very sticky fruit. I'm going to try growing these by planting them outdoors and letting them overwinter outdoors.  Other than being picked a little early and me being a human rather than a squirrel, I should be following the most common way that these native persimmons are propagated.  If I am successful in growing some trees then I will transplant them to some areas where they can thrive and hopefully produce more!

native Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana)
Seeds removed from the sticky fruit
I am fascinated by persimmons because they are one of the only (maybe the only?) truly native and human-eatable fruiting trees in my area, and it seems like no one knows about them.  I grew up with my mom making Persimmon Cookies during the Christmas season every year.  They are a soft cookie made with warm holiday spices and a consistency sort of like a blueberry muffin.

My mom purchases the larger persimmons from the grocery store.  I think these are an Asian species, though I don't know for sure.  I'm curious what other people do with their persimmons.  I think I should set up a chair next to the persimmons in the produce section this holiday season and survey each person who buys them.  Maybe this year I can find a few native persimmon trees and pick some fresh local fruits for her cookies!  My mom agreed to share her recipe in case anyone would like to give them a try.

Persimmon Cookies

  • 1 c persimmon pulp (3 medium or 2 large fruits)
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 t cloves
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c oil
  • 1 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c nuts (optional, my mom leaves these out)
  • 1 c raisins
Combine ingredients and drop onto cookie sheet with a spoon.  Bake at 350° for 9 minutes.

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."

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.

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!