Friday, June 28, 2013

Making Amorphophallus lemonade

Last week my Amorphophallus atroviridis arose from its winter-long slumber and burst from the ground with the prettiest leaves you've ever seen in your life.  I was taking photos of both surfaces of the leaves when the unthinkable happened.  One moment the plant was fine; the next moment the petiole was broken off at the surface.  That second moment was not a good moment.

Amorphophallus atroviridis
Amorphophallus atroviridis - adaxial leaf surface
Amorphophallus atroviridis
Amorphophallus atroviridis - abaxial leaf surface

So what did I do?

I cried.  (I bet you thought I was going to say I made lemonade.)

What did I do next?

I cried some more.

But after that?

Are you kidding?  I was still crying.

Eventually I got my life back together and decided to do something with the beautiful leaf that used to be a plant.  I stuck it in a vase of water and sent an email to my friends, asking if they had tried rooting Amorphophallus from leaf cuttings before.  I was pretty sure I had heard this was possible, and I had already successfully done this with Zamioculcuas, another tuberous aroid.  Yes, some of them had!  Their suggestions were along the lines of how I normally treat plant cuttings.  Prepare a container with a good rooting media, thoroughly moisten the media, use a little rooting hormone (or crushed Advil) on the cut end of your stem, make a divot in your media, insert the cutting, pack media around the stem so it is stationary, seal the environment to maintain high humidity.

Amorphophallus atroviridis leaf cuttings

The media can be perlite, vermiculite, soil or other things.  I used vermiculite because that is what I had on hand and because it has worked well for me for other types of cuttings.

Cuttings inserted in the media

Many people will put their cuttings in pots and then put the pot in a Ziplock bag.  I like to use take-out containers.

Sealed in their rooting environment

With time and patience, the tip of the cutting will eventually form roots and a new tuber.  The leaf will probably die back and new growth will emerge.  That's if all goes well.  If all doesn't go well, the leaves will perish, leaving no tuber or roots behind.  Today I read an article on success rates of rooting different species of Amorphophallus from leaf cuttings.  The success rate is very low for this particular species.  I hope that I am lucky and get at least one tuber out of this experiment.  If so, I will have made lemonade.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The effects of herbicides

About a month ago I noticed something odd about our Redbud (Cercis) trees.  The newest leaves were opening up all shriveled, deformed and partially yellow.  I had not closely watched leaves unfurling in the past, but I was pretty sure they opened as little hearts folded in half and just grew larger with time.  They didn't start out as these strange, malformed stingrays.

deformed Redbud leaves
Deformed Redbud leaf
deformed Redbud leaves
Deformed leaves
I asked some of my expert plant friends about this, especially those that live near me and are familiar with Redbuds.  One of them said that it looked like damage from herbicides.  I was pretty sure it couldn't be from herbicides since I don't use them myself and because these trees are in my backyard, which is pretty well surrounded by bushes and trees.  Also, the nearest house to these trees has been vacant for 7 years now.  None of our immediate neighbors have the immaculate monoculture lawns of those who spray their lawns with weed killers and fertilizers.  I did notice that the tree in the front yard across the street from our house also had the same pattern with their newest leaves, although to a lesser extent.

healthy Redbud leaves
Regular, healthy leaves
More recently the trees have been putting out regular leaves again, leaving a very clear set of affected leaves along each branch.  I took more photos and sent these to my friends.  The same friend who had guessed herbicide damage found an excellent article on Redbuds that explains they are very sensitive to pre-emergent herbicides, the kind people spray on their lawns just before the grass comes out in the spring.  The photos were eerily similar (see page 6).

deformed Redbud leaves
Deformed leaves surrounded by healthy growth
It seems as though our trees are suffering from someone that sprayed their lawn down the street, most likely on a windy day.  It's not surprising that a chemical whose purpose is to kill weeds would also negatively impact other plant life.  I like my yard to look nice - grass not too high and not too many weeds - but I have never given in and hired one of those companies to spray my lawn.  This is mostly because of the cost, but also because I don't like chemicals being used when they aren't necessary.  Now I have an additional reason to dislike these unnecessary chemicals.  The good news is that the damage is limited to some ugly leaves - at least as far as I can tell.  Hopefully there isn't enough of this being used that it is getting into our water supply at high concentrations.  We stopped drink tap water a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2013 OKC Cacti and Succulent Show

Christie, Myla and I attended the Central Oklahoma Cacti and Succulent show and sale in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago.  This is a really good annual show with tons of plants for sale and a small show area for nice specimens.  Even though I am not mired in the cacti/succulent hobby, there are plenty of plants that are tempting and others that are neat to just view from outside looking in.

Investigating a Euphorbia
Checking out a neat Euphorbia

My pretty girls with a blooming Adenium

It was also a lot of fun to surround the little one with plants again.  She is going to be quite used to spending time in gardens and plant shows.

A neat Euphorbia

Another neat Euphorbia

As always, there were hundreds of different Euphorbia.  I was tempted to buy a couple, but I restrained myself.  In the end, I only bought a single plant, Stapelia flavopurpurea, which fit my qualifications of being a good value, already rooted (I'm not good at rooting cacti/succulents from cuttings), and already fits in one of my collection niches.  The plant has a couple of small buds, so I hope to share some bloom pictures in the next month.

Tray of starter plants.

There were many trays of very reasonably priced starter plants. You could start a collection on a limited budget and get a nice variety of plants.

Adenia spinosa

Haworthia truncata

Haworthia truncata flowers

Sometimes it is confusing to me why certain plants are included in the cacti/succulent hobby.  For instance, how does the beautiful prize-winning Operculicarya (below) qualify as a cacti or succulent?  I think this hobby grouping is loosely defined, unlike many other plant societies (Orchids, Begonias, Aroids, for instance), which are specific taxonomic families.

Operculicarya decaryi

Trichocereus bridgesii monstrose

In the assorted monsters category I found the Trichocereus (above), reminiscent of the graboids from Tremors or the asteroid worm creature (exogorth) that tries to eat the Millennium Falcon. Also there was the strange show plant, the hybrid Euphorbia GH211 (below), which could have been in any number of Sci-Fi movies.  Just imagine a crowd of screaming people running away as it trudges down the street, maybe devouring a dog that couldn't get away fast enough.  Yes, it has definitely been in a movie or two.

Euphorbia GH211 hybrid

It seems this annual show is going to be a fixture for me.  I was told that next year's show is going to be even bigger and held at a larger venue.  My name is on the mailing list, so I should be notified as it approaches.  I look forward to it!