Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aglaonema in bloom

One of my Aglaonemas has produced it's first inflorescence, and another is on the way.  This particular plant is not a flashy hybrid and I had some help deducing the name of Aglaonema commutatum v. maculatum f. maculatum. These older species Ags are not grown as often now, since there are so many different hybrids with silvery foliage that really stands out.  But I really like this plant and I'm happy to have the opportunity to see it flower.

Aglaonema commuatum v. maculatum f. maculatum inflorescence
This "bloom" is not called a flower, because it is actually a large collection of many flowers.  All Aroids have these complex blooms called inflorescences.  The center column is called the spadix and contains male flowers, female flowers and sterile flowers (in some genera).  In order for reproduction to take place, the pollen from the male flowers must reach the female flowers by a pollinator.  In some species, the female flowers are hidden within a chamber of the surrounding leaf, which is called the spathe.  I was able to capture a nice close-up so that you can see the female flowers, which are at the bottom of the spadix, but not hidden with this species.  The female flowers are distinct and easy to pick out right now, while the rest of the spadix just looks like a white blob.  The male and female flowers are mature at different times in order to ensure that the pollination takes place by a different plant (cross-breeding) so that genetic diversity continues.  Some species will allow for self-pollination, but this plant does not.  Eventually that white blog of a spadix will look a little more distinct as the male flowers become mature and produce pollen.

Detail of Aglaonema commuatum v. maculatum f. maculatum inflorescence
When successful pollination occurs, the flowers will turn into berries containing seed (infructescence).  These are usually brightly colored - white, yellow, orange or red - and will either fall off the spadix or be eaten by a bird or other animal that deposits the seed which can grow into a new plant.

If I have the chance to collect pollen from my male flowers, I will try to store it for use in pollinating a future flower from any of my other Aglaonemas.  A successful pollination could mean a new hybrid.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Plant Find: a new ginger

I purchased a ginger I had never seen before at Zone 9 Tropicals.  It is commonly called Golden Brush or Golden Ginger.  The scientific name is Burbidgea scheizocheila.  It has the typical growth habit of a gingers, but stays pretty short and is considered by some as a "dwarf" ginger.  The leaves are deep green on reddish purple stems.  The blooms are orangey-yellow.

Burbidgea scheizocheila

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Philodendron squamiferum

While on Grand Cayman Island last month, we stopped at a Burger King for a quick bite to eat and bathroom break.  I would normally consider a fast food restaurant an unlikely place to see a neat plant.

Philodendron squamiferum

But this wasn't any old Burger King.  This was a Burger King in Grand Cayman!  And there was a very nice Philodendron squamiferum inside.

Philodendron squamiferum petiole detail

The most distinguishing feature of P. squamiferum is the curly pubescens on the red petioles.  It is hard to mistake this plant for any other species.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trip Report: Mayan Ruins of Tulum

Over Thanksgiving my family did something a little out of the norm (for us) and went on a 7 day Caribbean cruise.  It was a wonderful trip and we got to spend time with lots of my family (10 of us in all).  When our ship docked at Cozumel, Mexico, Christie and I went on a shore excursion over to the mainland to visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum, just south of Playa del Carmen.

Tulum ruins on the Caribbean coast

The ruins were beautiful and interesting.  They are set right on the coast and it's just gorgeous.

Ruins along the Caribbean coastline
Black iguana
The grounds are covered with iguanas.  We probably saw 50 or more in the hour and a half that we were there.  One in particular, really wanted to pose for us.

Iguana posing on some warm rocks
Sea grape tree (Coccoloba uvifera)
In terms of plant life, there were a lot of Sea Grape trees (Coccoloba uvifera) all over the grounds.  Some were full-fledged trees, with regular trunks.  Others were growing more like shrubs or creeping along rock walls, having sprouted from a crack in the cliff face.

Sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) growing on cliff face near beach
Another common plant on the grounds was some species of terrestrial bird's nest Anthuriums. Many of these Anthurium had inflorescences.  I was taking a picture of one inflorescence that had a deformed branching spadix when I noticed that a praying mantis was perched on the spadix!  I wish I hadn't been in such a hurry and I could have gotten a little better picture.  But we were headed back to the bus and I didn't want to get left behind!

Praying mantis on an Anthurium inflorescence
There were a lot of these large leaved Anthuriums with undulate leaves and raised midribs.  The only other type of Anthurium I observed was the smaller specimen below.

Just outside of the entrance to the ruins park was a large bed of Sansevierias.

Christie with Sansevierias

I observed some other neat plants, but didn't know what they were.

Unknown flowering plant, possible Mandevilla

Tradescantia spathacea (thanks to mr_subjunctive) - Dense border plant with neat foliage

The plant above had really neat foliage and was growing all over the place as a border to all of the sidewalks.  The underside of the leaves is purple.

Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler among the ruins
I also observed a couple of neat birds.  One was the tiny yellow-breasted bird hopping along a rock wall, pictured above.  The other almost looked like a peacock, with very colorful markings.  I had to take the picture (below) from a distance, so I didn't get as good of a shot as I would have liked.  [2011-01-30 Update:  Tony has informed me that this is likely the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata).]

Ocellated Turkey
Colorful mystery bird - Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata)
It was a great place to visit and I'm really glad we took this excursion.

Me and Christie at the Tulum Ruins

Friday, December 17, 2010

A bloom while orchid sitting

Whenever I am out of town for more than a couple of days, I will usually let my mother-in-law take my orchids and keep them watered and happy while I'm gone.  When they are out of town, I get to reciprocate by watering her orchids.   The other day when I went to water the orchids I was surprised to find one in full bloom!

Laeliocattleya Mari's Song

The tag on this orchid said Lc. Mari's Song.  I looked it up online and found that Lc. is the official abbreviation for the genus Laeliocattleya, which is a cross of the genera Laelia and Cattleya.  In my search I even found the genealogy of this particular cross.  It is fascinating to see the amount of work and time that has been spent on making crosses that eventually resulting in this large, colorful flower.

Here's a link to the genealogy, if you're interested.

And here's a link to the orchid genera abbreviations.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Stained potting bench

I built a potting bench this summer from supplies and directions given to me for Christmas last year.  I wanted to protect the wood from weathering and rot, so I bought some stain and sealer and got it on before the cold, wet weather set in.  I have been very interested in the stains with color pigments in them, so I decided to try it out on this project.

Potting bench after being stained green
I really like the green pigment in this semi-transparent stain.  It allows the wood grains to show through, but the wood is protected and - it's green!  What do you think?

Wood grains showing through the stain

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Calatheas

One of my favorite plant families is the "Prayer plants" from the botanical family Marantaceae.  These include the genera Calathea, Ctenanthe, Stromanthe, and Maranta.  I don't have a lot of plants from this family, but I added two new Calatheas recently through plant trades.  I was able to share my Ctenanthes with two friends and they each shared a Calathea with me.  Plant trading is so much fun because the only money spent or exchanged is to pay for shipping and you get "free" plants in the mail.

Calathea concinna
The leaves of Calathea concinna are marked much like those of Ctenanthe burle-marxii, but there are some distinct differences.  Ctenanthe burle-marxii has rectangular leaves with a point at the end, while Calathea concinna has ovate leaves.

Calathea musaica
The foliage is of Calathea musaica is unlike any of my other Calatheas.  In fact, it is unlike any other Calathea in existence - quite unique!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dendrobium in bloom

One of my unlabeled Dendrobiums is in bloom.  It has had buds for a long time and I kept thinking "any day."  Finally it decided to open the first two of eight buds just a couple of days before we headed out of town.  I snapped a couple of pictures and I'm hoping it will be in full bloom when we return home.

Dendrobium plant
Since I have been reading several orchid books lately, I am learning more of the lingo.  A Dendrobium is known as a sympodial orchid, because it blooms on the new growth stalks.  After it has finished blooming, it will send up a new stalk, which will bloom next year, if the plant has adequate energy.  You can see the other stems from previous years' growth.  My plant shows the trend well since each successive stem is taller than the previous.  It might be hard to pick out in the picture above, but there are 5 stems in all, with the tallest one currently in bloom.

The other major type of orchid is monopodial, where all growth takes place on the same cluster.  A great example of this is the common "moth orchid" Phalaenopsis.  Occasionally a Phalaenopsis will produce offset plants, but generally it will just produce new leaves from the same rosette.

Dendrobium buds
I can't remember exactly where I got this orchid, but I think I bought it on a major discount because it had finished blooming.  Recently I purchased an orchid like this from Lowe's Home Improvement store and the cashier was trying to talk me out of it, telling me that it would probably die.  Knowing orchids, I could tell the plant was perfectly healthy.  I wasn't even going to have to nurse it back to health.  It had just finished blooming.  That was all...

Dendrobium bloom
As soon as Lowe's gets a new shipment of blooming orchids, they will mark down all the older orchids that are finished blooming.  Assuming they haven't been in the store for too long, they might still be in pretty good health.  I like to buy them at this point.  Few of these plants still have tags in them, so I have to bring them to bloom again before I know what color they will be.

Trip Report: MidAmerica meeting photo album

I have created a photo album of my pictures from the 3rd meeting of the MidAmerica chapter of the IAS.  The meeting was held October 30 at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.


photo album here

Monday, November 15, 2010

Plant Find: Philodendron "Sucre's Slim"

I found this interesting Philodendron on eBay a couple of weeks ago.  I am assuming that it is a hybrid, but I haven't been able to find out much about the plant's parentage yet.  It is called "Sucre's Slim."

Philodendron "Sucre's Slim"
As you can see the leaves are very slender and lanceolate.  What you may not be able to see is that the plant is also tiny.  That wood stake measures about 4 inches tall.

Philodendron "Sucre's Slim" leaf detail
I really like the leaves of this Philodendron.  I'm excited to see how the plant looks as it matures.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Orchids

I recently obtained two new orchids in plant trades.  Both of these are terrestrial orchids, which is different from the bulk of my collection.  Also, they are both among the group of orchids with more attractive foliage than flowers.

Oeceoclades maculata
Oeceoclades maculata is native to west tropical Africa, but has been introduced in the Americas, from Argentina to Florida, where it is spreading rapidly.  [By the way, the genus Oeceoclades is pronounced ee-see-o-CLAY-dees, or o-ee-see-o-CLAY-dees.]  This species has the common name of "Monk's Orchid."  The foliage resembles, and is often confused with, plants from the genus Sansevieria, commonly called "Snake plant" or "Mother-in-law's Tongue."  The distinguishing characteristic is the pseudobulbs which are exposed about the soil surface.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes
Sarcoglottis sceptrodes is native to the Central American countries of Ecuador and Nicaragua.  The plants grown in cultivation have been selected from those with the best foliage, so those in nature are less distinctly marked.  It has the common name of "Portilla's Sarcoglottis," which isn't a lot easier to say than the actual genus and species.  The foliage on this plant is velvety and iridescent.  Very nice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Second round Spiranthes

After I found a Spiranthes growing in my front yard, my mother-in-law was determined to find some of her own.  She found a group of several on a hill on their property.  As an experiment, she dug up all but one of these plants carefully and placed the clumps of soil in four different pots.  She gave two pots to me and kept two for herself.  She also marked the one left in the ground by placing a couple of pieces of scrap wood around it.  In addition, I had potted one Spiranthes I found growing in my neighborhood.

I placed the three pots in my greenhouse and enjoyed the little time left they had of their dainty white blooms.  Then they turned brown and have just sat there.  I've wondered whether bringing them into a year-round warm environment would mess up their natural cycle of seasons they would have otherwise experienced in the ground outdoors.  Recently my two pots from my mother-in-law of dead stalks started to change - green leaves began to emerge from the soil, right next to each deceased stem.  At first I wasn't sure that it had anything to do with the Spiranthes, thinking maybe it was just something else in the soil (maybe even a grass) that was  coming up.  But I realized that the leaves were directly associated with each of my old Spiranthes stems.  And then about a week later a couple of leaves broke through the soil surface in the potted Spiranthes from my neighborhood.

New leaves emerging from my Spiranthes tubers
Now there is a rosette of 3 or 4 small leaves surrounding each deceased stem and they are coming up from more than one location, making me think the Spiranthes tubers have produced offsets under the soil.  I checked to see if the marked Spiranthes still in the ground at my in-laws house was also producing these leaves and it is not.  Right now my theory is that the potted Spiranthes are taking advantage of what they must consider a warmer than normal Fall and going for another round.  They may or may not send up another flower stem.  They might just be putting up leaves to produce chlorophyll and energy which can be transferred to the tubers as stored energy for next year's growth.  Either way, it's an interesting experiment.  Since Spiranthes are so wide spread in the United States, I'm not at all worried about experimenting with these volunteers that came up in our yards.  Hopefully I'll have something exciting to report in a couple of weeks time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Epiphyllum growth

After seeing some beautiful blooming plants at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in June, I purchased some Epiphyllum cuttings a couple of months ago from eBay.  Epiphyllums are the genus of plants commonly referred to as the "Orchid Cactus."

New growth from my non-identified Epiphyllum
The picture above is clearly a cutting from another plant.  It will probably take about 3 years before the plant is mature enough to produce a bloom.  I bought this cutting as an unidentified variety, so I don't know what color the blooms will be when they come.  The plant below is a little more mature and might bloom in another year or two.  This one (below) is the species Epiphyllum anguliger, which has a white bloom and the outer most petals (called "tepals") are light orange or yellow.  The tepals of Epiphyllums are generally much narrower than and a different color from the rest of the petals in the bloom.  Before the bloom actually opens, the tepals are all that you see, so the color is deceiving until the bloom opens.  I have noticed this before with Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera).  You can google image search for "Epiphyllum anguliger" to see pictures of the blooms of my plant below.  Generally Epiphyllums bloom in Spring or Fall, as I understand.

New growth on my Epiphullum anguliger

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Plant Find: Philodendron, Monstera, and Medinilla

My friend in Hawaii, Leland, recently sent me starts of several plants in his garden.  He has a large garden where he can grow all of these tropical plants in his yard year round.  I am jealous of his surroundings, but very appreciative of his generosity.

One of these is the beautiful Medinilla plant.  We don't know exactly what species this is, but I am looking forward to seeing it's foliage and eventually the colorful blooms.  Since Hawaii has strict import and export laws for vegetation, Leland sent the Medinilla plants without any leaves, so I don't yet know what the plants look like.  I have seen a large Medinilla in bloom on several different occasions at the Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City.  It is a stunning plant! Mine is slowly beginning to form some leaves at several of the nodes along the stems.

Medinilla leaves beginning to emerge
He also sent several Aroids, including Philodendron linnaei, Philodendron campii (=P. 'Lynette'), Philodendron martianum, Philodendron billietiae (colorful clone), Philodendron billietiae (green), and Monstera lechleriana.  Here are some pictures:

Philodendron martianum, collected by Roberto Burle Marx.
This is a very unique Philodendron, with the large swollen petioles leading up to the leaves.  As a young plant, it reminds me of Zamioculcas zamiifolia, the 'ZZ Plant'.  But as it grows, this plant will be very different.  Leland says that his leaves have gotten several feet long and several feet wide.  But my plant is special for another reason than it's appearance.  This plant is a division of a specimen given to Leland by his friend, Roberto Burle Marx, who collected the plant in Brazil.  It's wonderful to know the heritage of my plant and to know that it came from Roberto is amazing.  Roberto was a very interesting artist (particularly with landscapes) in Brazil and has many plants named in his honor.

Philodendron linnaei
Philodendron linnaei has interesting lanceolate leaf blades, with a wide midrib.

Philodendron campii (aka 'Lynette')

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trip Report: Conservatory highlights from the IAS meeting in Fort Worth

I could probably write dozens of posts about our meeting this last Saturday at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.  Instead, I think I'll write two or three posts, focusing on a couple of topics.  This post, is just some picture highlights from the conservatory.

Plant swap table beginning to fill up
After a morning full of talks and a nice lunch from Jason's Deli, we held a plant swap among those who attended. There were so many plants that they overflowed the table and were spread out on the floor.  Philodendron, Monstera, Rhaphidophora, Anthurium, Amorphophallus, and even some Begonia and Orchids were available for trade.  It was a gigantic free-for-all and everyone benefited.

Urospatha in bloom

Out in the hallway by the entrance to our meeting room, the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens had on display a beautiful and tall (approximately 7 foot) Urospatha in bloom.   This was an incredible plant with uniquely marked stems and an amazing bloom, whose spathe curved away like in an elegant arc.

Great group of plant friends beginning a tour of the FWBG conservatory
There were about 15 people in attendance and everyone really enjoyed themselves.  Some of us knew each other from previous meetings and email discussions and others were meeting for the first time.  There was even one long-time IAS member who has been a well-known figure in Aroids for 30 years or more.

Crepuscular rays shining into the conservatory. It felt like the Garden of Eden.
The conservatory at the FWBG is very well kempt.  The plants are in great condition and there is a nice collection of Aroids, as well as several other families of plants that I like to grow (like Marantaceae).

Our hands-on tour guide, John Langevin, showing off a plant
We were given a guided tour by John Langevin, who was generous enough to offer several of us cuttings or small plants from different parts of the collection, contributing lots of plants to our plant swap.  He was very knowledgeable about the collection and made the tour enjoyable.

Fruit and seeds from Theobroma cacao (Chocolate tree)
John removed one of the fruits from the chocolate tree (Theobroma cacao) and cut it open so that we could taste the pulp which surrounds the seeds.  I thought I smelled something resembling chocolate when he opened the fruit, but what I tasted was very different.  The pulp had more of a mild citrus taste with the texture of a slimy banana.   I brought two seeds home with me and will see if I can get them to germinate.

Calathea ecuadoriana
I knew from my previous visit that the conservatory has a really nice collection of Marantaceae, but I was surprised to see a species of Calathea that I hadn't seen before.  Calathea ecuadoriana looks very similar to Calathea zebrina and Calathea warscewiczii, which are already hard enough to separate!  They all have rich, deeply-colored, velvety leaves of green and purple.

Beautiful pendant Anthurium
There were a number of nice Anthuriums growing in the conservatory.  One of my favorites was the simple pendant Anthurium pictured above.  I like the long, slender leaves of the pendant Anthuriums.

The rare inflorescence of Scindapsus pictus
Many people grow the Scindapsus pictus, sometimes called Satin Pothos vine, in their homes.  I have one on my desk at work and one in our dining room at home.  In most cases, these plants are grown in hanging baskets, or just in regular pots.  Rarely are they grown in a situation where they can scale a wall, as they like to do in nature.  This "shingling" habit is their preferred growth type.  Even in locations where they are grown shingling on a rock wall, they rarely bloom outside of their natural habitat.  However, the plants growing in the FWBG conservatory have bloomed regularly.  We got to see one of these early-stage inflorescences on Saturday.  What impressed me was the shape of the inflorescence, almost spherical in comparison to most other Aroid blooms.  It is also interesting that the plant blooms on pieces of the vine which have detached themselves from the wall where the rest of the plant is shingling.

Calathea loeseneri bloom
Calatheas are not known for their blooms, but for their foliage. However, there are a couple of Calatheas that have very nice blooms (and much less interesting foliage).  One of these is Calathea loeseneri, which was in bloom this Saturday on our visit.  I was lucky enough to get to take home one stem of this plant.

Metallic fishtail palm (Chamaedorea metallica)
The so-called Fishtail palms are given the common name designation because of the shape of their leaves.  Usually these palms are smaller than the more typical palm specimens which reach towering heights of 70-100 feet.  John told me that this particular palm (Chamaedorea metallica) stays smaller and has colorful fronds, making it a good specimen for a houseplant.  I really liked the silvery coloring of the leaves, no doubt the reason for it's species name of metallica.

Screwpine Palm (Pandanus)
The Screwpine Palm (Pandanus sp.) is interesting because of the gigantic roots which are sent out in all directions to support the large tree.  The Screwpine growing in the FWBG conservatory was right next to the water and the roots which landed in water burst into thousands of smaller roots (below).  I imagine the roots which burrow into the ground do something similar.

Screwpine Palm (Pandanus) roots in water
One Alocasia caught many people's eyes as we passed on our tour.  Unfortunately, this plant did not have an ID tag anywhere in sight.   Maybe I'll be able to get an ID online.

Unidentified Alocasia with unique coloration - Update: Caladium picturatum