Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Off Topic: Our New Spider Friend

Warning: Seriously, do not scroll down if you have arachnophobia. 
Large pictures of a spider below......  /X( ;::; )X\    

For days we've been watching this spider make it's web right outside the bedroom window. She's definitely an orb weaver, we're thinking it's Araneus diadematus. We get a lot of cool orb weavers here but we actually got some good pictures of this one.

Every night she makes a new web and it's perfect. It's fascinating to watch, really. Apparently they eat it during the day so we get to watch her re-build it every night. I'm sure the light from the streetlights and the bedroom lamps attracts the insects, which is why the spider built her web there. The web gets messed up pretty fast from things flying into it, so I'm sure she's happy with her new spot.

Feel free to click to enlarge any of the below pictures!

She's awesome. Thanks spiders for catching all the insects that would normally sneak in through the cracks in the screen and window, (it's an older building,) and bother us. Not that I have anything against any insect, I catch and release them outside, I don't kill anything. I am glad when nature does the work for me though, spiders and bats like this little more woodsy section of the neighborhood. Both animals get a bad rap, but they really do keep the insect population to manageable levels, without them it would be a total bug-pocalypse.

Hi friend!

There's also a basement in this building, filled with everything from tiny cellar spiders to huge wolf spiders. I like spiders, I don't mind one or two in the apartment, but the basement is referred to as "Spider Town," around here. I make up nicknames for things, called it that once, and it stuck. The landlord also once sprayed for them so there's lots of web-y spider skeletons covered in some sort of white pesticide powder. Talk about creepy. I'm not a huge fan of Spider Town, but I'll make an expedition there if there's any reader interest in this sort of thing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gymnocalycium baldianum

This little flattened/globose cactus is from Argentina. As with most of my other Gymnos the flower only opens up fully with sun blasting on it all day, which means not all my flowers open up all the way, (See earlier post, "Clouds")

It's an easy species to grow, just water it a lot in summer and keep it dry in the winter. I keep it in full sun and it keeps putting out buds. This species is supposed to be frost resistant in the winter on the condition you keep it dry. I'm sure what's meant by that isn't a NY winter filled with perpetual frost, so I won't be trying to leave it outside. Cultivation advice like that probably is more directed to people growing in zone 7 or 8 and warmer.

1st flower of the season
Double flowers
Most recent flower
With the amount of water it tolerates and possible frost, this is a great cactus, especially for beginners as it seems pretty forgiving. The small size, (up to 13cm or about 5 inches) means it'll fit in your windowsill over the winter if you live in a colder climate like me.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Doritaenopsis Kenneth Schubert

Doritaenopsis Kenneth Schubert is a primary hybrid between Doritaenopsis pulcherrima and Phalaenopsis violacea, registered back in 1963, (Hybrid Details.) It's a good one, I can see why it's still popular today. This one blooms 1 or 2 times for me every year since I've had it, without fail. It also smells very nice, light and perfume-y.

Last year I got two spikes with one of it's flowerings, which made for a really spectacular display from such a small orchid. I searched for a while to find more pictures, but all I could find were these dramatic ones my husband (then fiance) took. He likes to stage and light things where I prefer a more natural photo.


This year it's blooming in the summer, just one spike but always pretty. Below are my pictures. I just wanted to take a few in case the older flowers started fading before the rest of the buds opened. Depending on the time of year this one blooms changes the saturation of the color and the strength of the scent of the flowers. That happens with a lot of orchids though, temperature and sunlight definitely effects the flower's appearance. This years summer blooming created much softer colored flowers than when it usually blooms in spring or fall, but they smell much stronger. I have it in my kitchen window over the sink and I can smell them every time I go to do dishes, (which is awesome). It's not overpowering but enough to scent that part of the room.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gasteria gracilis variegata

I love all Gasteria species. They're just cool looking. My space concerns leaves me to miniatures though. I picked this Gasteria gracilis variegata up from a vendor at The Philadelphia Flower show one year. This summer an animal dumped the pot over and chewed up the roots so I had to repot all the pups. I was pissed off, but at least it didn't eat them like it did a lot of my other plants.

Mom and her pups
Close-up of the new babies
I'm not sure if this is a common trait for these Gasteria, or if it's just my plant, but the variegation is extremely unpredictable. I've had pups with almost no variegation to 100% white ones that I couldn't separate. Those white ones would eventually separate on their own, then failed to make it long term, (due to complete lack of chlorophyll.)

Last years pups off the same plant

See what I mean? These 2 examples are typical for the plant. At least the majority of pups have a fair amount of variegation. This summer they were in full sun for longer than I've kept them that way before. I'm not sure if it's my imagination, (but it seems to make sense,) all of this years new pups have a good amount of variegation. Maybe the plant isn't as unpredictable as I always thought, if my idea is correct. Less sun and they put out variegation all across the board from none to 100%, but an ideal amount of sun results in a good proportion of white and green? I don't know. This is all very unscientific and pure speculation. I'll have to try it in the same amount of sun next year to see if my theory holds up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Neofinetia falcata 'Kuroshinju'

I'm so excited about this orchid! There's no flower pictures so don't bother scrolling down looking for them if that's what you're here for. I just got this little one in the mail today. Neofinetia falcata is my favorite orchid. I already have a few different forms/cultivars. I plan on collecting a lot more. Neofinetia falcata was the 1st orchid I ever purchased (and unfortunately my cat ate.) N. falcata 'White Tara' x 'Crystal Palace' was the first orchid I ever got to bloom. They do really well here, the weather and seasonal changes are similar to that of Japan (and a few other Asian countries), where these guys come from. I can easily provide them with cooler winters and hotter humid summers. Every year the mature ones either bloom or start growing a new "fan" of growth.

Neofinetia falcata 'Kuroshinju'

So back to 'Kuroshinju.' I have wanted this orchid for years, ever since I knew it existed. Neofinetia falcata culivars can really only be bought in the US from a limited amount of vendors, only 2 places carry a consistent amount of variety. (I think those 2 importers are where all the other vendors that occasionally carry them get them from in the first place.) They also aren't cheap which is why I'm extra thrilled about this one. When I came home and saw it I nearly had a "Kristen Bell Sloth Meltdown" . It's a good thing I'm just not an emotional person otherwise I'm sure I would've had a similar reaction.

'Kuroshinju' is an ultra miniature Neofinetia form, each "fan," is only going to get 1'' or 2.54 cm large.  Although Neos are considered monopodial, they do have this sympodial growth habit of making more growths and grow from all the points at the top of each fan. The name 'Kuroshinju' I've seen spelled a variety of ways, but translates in English to "Black Pearl."

I apologize to all my non US readers, I know there's a lot of you. I used a US dime for size reference as I couldn't find my measuring tape or any object like a bottle cap that's more universal. So you've also got my thumbnail for size reference.

So tiny!
I ordered this one from a vendor I'd never bought from before as a 2-3 growth plant for $30. That's more money than I think I've ever spent on an orchid in my life. That's also a more than fair price for it compared to the competition. If you enlarge the above picture you can see it's starting it's 4th fan of growth, an unexpectedly nice surprise when I looked it over. It's in great condition too. If I can afford to order more Neofinetia cultivars I'll be ordering from Satomi at Seed Engei again. There's a lot more of them I need, so it's only a matter of time really!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Parodia mammulosa x ? seeds have begun to sprout!

Somehow, my Parodia mammulosa flowers got pollinated. P. mammulosa are not self-fertile so I don't know which of my cactus is the dad (time to call the Maury Povich show.) There were bees all over them so I'm not surprised, but the other cacti flowering at the same time were not a genus I would've thought would cross successfully with Parodia. You learn something new every day I guess.

I sowed these on 7/3/12. They are about 25 in a  4" plastic pot. The media is topsoil and perlite 2:1, microwave sterilized. I put the pot with the seedlings into a gallon plastic bag and sealed it. Watered only with distilled water once to saturate the media. The bag has been keeping them humid enough, it almost always has condensation on it. I then put the whole thing in a west facing window that blocked by the sun for part of the day.

I checked on these today 7/24/12. So far 2 have germinated. Not great, but I'd almost be happier if I didn't have 25 baby cacti to deal with.

Click to enlarge
 Here are the 2 in detail. Cute little balls of green, just starting to make their roots.


#2 appears to be getting more sun, hence the reddish color. I turned the pot so hopefully it doesn't burn. The white stringiness is the beginning of their roots.

According to my photo records, (I take pictures of when things bloom,) the most likely  possible candidates for the pollen donor are either Gymnocalycium baldianum or Rebutia muscula. My money is on the Rebutia, but I'm not sure what cacti can pollinate others out of their genus, so it's just a guess. Around the same time Parodia fusca bloomed, but I'm pretty sure it opened after the P. mammulosa had already closed. I'll have to wait a few years to find out, but these might end up being a pretty cool cross.

I'll update about these when they begin to make their spines and actually start looking like they might be cacti one day, hopefully in a month or two. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pinguicula moranensis becomes 2, Also Flowers

My Pinguicula now has two growth points. I'm not sure if the plant has totally split in two yet, or is just growing from multiple points right now. After the last mess trying to get photos of this one, I'm not going to poke around to find out. I'm in favor of letting it do it's thing. It appears pleased after all.

Click to see bigger photos

It's also going strong after the last mishap. Now we've got three flowers. The oldest one had faded a little, but has been on the plant for about 2 weeks now. They aren't the prettiest flowers ever, but they do last a long time.

Click to enlarge

Cool plant, and hardier than I had always read they were. I think the fact that I received it potted in long fibered sphagnum moss and continued to grow it that way has helped. I previously grew all my carnivorous plants, (with the exception of the Nepenthes,) in some combination of peat, sand, and perlite. These are more susceptible to rot than other carnivorous plants. LFS dries faster and is less compact than peat, so maybe that was a good medium for a Pinguicula beginner, and why mine has done well despite it being my 1st try with this genus.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nepenthes sibuyanensis

It's been a very hot and humid summer this year so far. This Nepenthes has been outdoors since May, doesn't mind the heat, and actually pitchers pretty well despite it. A lot of people report trouble getting it to pitcher, but for me it's my most reliably pitchering highland Nep.

Nepenthes sibuyanensis grows naturally at altitudes from 1500 to 1800 meters, growing in open grassy areas on Mt. Guiting-Guiting, Sibuyan Island in the Philippines. This Nep isn't a climber like most of my others. Like the pitchers, the plant itself stays short and stout. It's not easy to get upper pitchers on this plant. Maybe it just takes the plant a much longer time, but in the wild they're not as often seen either.

Side view

The interesting thing about growing this Nep is it's pitchering habits. It will bury the tip of the tendril in a neighbor's pot and grow under the moss. I usually only see them when they're almost fully developed. The only reason this pitcher is so exposed is I had to pull all my highland Nepenthes out and spray them for mites recently. This is the first year I've ever had a problem with mites on my outdoor plants, but mites love heat and humidity, and we've been getting an awful lot of days like that in a row, (around 95°F/35°C and 50%+ humidity.)

Front view

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Bag Baby" Orchid Rescues

Better-Gro® orchids are the ones you see all the time in the big box stores. Usually they are Cattleyas, ones that grow too large and flower too fluffy for my tastes so I pass them up. Online you'll see them referred to as "bag babies," (they're seedlings and come in a mesh net bag or a plastic sleeve bag. I like the nickname, it's a cute one.) These aren't bad purchases if you can get to them before the employees drown, dehydrate, or otherwise kill them.

Every one in a while something different shows up in one of those tiny plastic bags. For example my Rhynchostylis gigantea 'Peach.'

R. gigantea 'Peach'
I bought this one 3 years ago, with 4 leaves about 1/2 the size they are pictured. It was in decent shape and has steadily grown well for me. Patience is a virtue, but it appears to be close to blooming sized now......right?

Then over the winter someone on a forum found Myrmecophila tibicinis at his local Lowe's and was kind enough to pick one up for me. It turned out to be 2 in 1 pot. The roots were shot, so they're both spending this summer growing new ones and probably won't really take off until next summer.

There was also a broken tag in the bottom of the pot that said Myrmecophila albopurpurea, so there's the possibility that one or both is actually albopurpurea. It'll be a few years before we find out.

More recently was Encyclia cordigera x self. It was on sale and looked pretty bad, but for the price I figured I'd take it home and try it.

It was dry as a bone when I unpotted it about 3 weeks ago. All the roots were dead. Only one thing to do at this point, pot it up into sphagnum moss, add a little rooting hormone, and hope for the best.

So far so good on this project. Below are two little starts I noticed. One has the beginning of roots on it.

Yay, not dying!
Looks like a new start had previously rotted out, but there's still life in it and it's growing.

I'm a sucker for cheap rescue project plants. If it's something I like and wanted to get anyway, I'll take a chance, even if it looks as bad as the Encyclia does.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Matucana madisoniorum

This was another Home Depot rescue. I wish I had taken a picture of it when I got it, but that was last year and I didn't think to. It was severely dehydrated, to the point where it had caved in around the base from the cells collapsing. I decided I'd try to nurse it back to health. Worst case scenario I could cut off the top and try to re-root it.

Best case scenario it would rehydrate and be fine, sure enough it is almost completely round again. It also bloomed twice already this year, and is working on another one. Although Costa Farms doesn't label their plants sent to HD, at least Matucana madisoniorum is an easily recognizable species. One feature is it's unusually textured epidermis. It's rough, but kind of like short hard fuzz. It may have spines, be totally spineless, or a bit of both. It's ribs also make it look a lot like Lophophora species, especially the spineless ones.

Side view, you can see the rib shape and occasional spineless areole.
Close up of the flower
Rear view, you can also see where it was still sunken in on one side from dehydration.

I can grow this one in full sun here, it gets shade only for about 2 hours a day, tops, as the sun moves around a large tree in the back yard. I haven't repotted it yet as I usually do with all new purchases. It hasn't fully recovered so I'm taking the risk of leaving it be until next spring. I won't be watering it at all in a few months so it won't matter what it's potted in over the winter.

Bloom #2
Finally starting to look fully hydrated and round again

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Parodia fusca?

I picked up this cactus at a Lowe's. Here, they are supplied by Altman Plants, (you may know them as the company who glues the dyed strawflowers onto their cacti to catch peoples eye and help cacti sell better.) This was one of those cacti. One nice thing about Altman is they label their cacti. Unfortunately, they aren't always correctly labeled. This one is sold under the name Rebutia krainziana. It's not even a Rebutia. After polling multiple sources and my own research, the conclusion is this is most likely Parodia fusca.

Bald spots and the beginning of more flower buds

I tried to remove the fake flower carefully, but ended up pulling out a few spines in the process. The flower was hot glued to the top of the plant, you can see everything above the ring of missing spines is new growth since I've had it.Eventually the injury will grow out and the cactus will look fine again.

Below was it's first flowering earlier in the spring. I like it anyway, I don't have many yellow flowering cacti so I'll keep it.

Flower = clearly not R. krainziana

If anyone has any other guesses or wants to help confirm or deny the current ID for the cactus Altman's sells as "Rebutia kainziana" please let me know. They all look like this too, I'm sure mine isn't a fluke or labeling switch as everyone's looks and flowers the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nepenthes robcantleyi

N. robcantleyi is one of the most desired, discussed, and argued about plants I have ever seen! It's a privilege to be a part of it, since I bought one of the less than 3" seedlings back in 2010.

The plants were originally thought to be a form of N. truncata. I bought it under the name N. truncata 'Queen of Hearts' x 'King of Spades' (via CP Jungle) from Borneo Exotics in Sri Lanka. The plant's namesake, (Rob Cantley, owner of Borneo Exotics) helped discover this plant and was the sole propagator, introducing this plant into cultivation.

This plant may be extinct in the wild from what I've read. It is described as being "Critically Endangered." as there's always the possibility it exists in the wild elsewhere and no ones been able to find any yet. The original plants were found in the Philippine island of Mindanao. Seed was collected in 1997 to grow the parents of the plant that I have. No one has been able to find them again, as the area has since been logged. CITES restricts taking the plants, (even in the event that the area is set to be deforested) but a small amount of seed collection is one of the few things allowed. It's crazy to me that these are the laws we have to live under (I don't always agree with CITES restrictions), but I'm thrilled someone found them before they were gone forever.

N. robcantleyi will get stunningly large pitchers when mature. I can't add the photos I'd like to due to copyright, but a search for this plant will show you it's potential. Link:<Google Images Search N. robcantleyi

The plants currently being cultivated by those of us who purchased one will see some variation as you never can be 100% certain what characteristics of the parent plants the offspring will show when grown from seed. Nepenthes are either gynoecious (female plants) or androecious (male plants) so you need two to create seed as each flower will have only their sex respective flower parts.

Here is mine today, still a juvenile.
Immature pitcher, but you can see the coloration
I'm growing mine in intermediate conditions, which may be why it's a slow grower for me. It has at least tripled in size since I got it though (it was tiny!)  I put it outside for the summer, attempting to grow it in more highland conditions to see if it likes it any better. People have been growing them in all different temperature ranges, it seems to be a pretty adaptable species.

Older pitcher

Monday, July 9, 2012

HD Cactus Update #2: It's Gymnocalycium mihanovichii!

The second Home Depot (Costa Farms) Cactus ID is correct too! I'm glad about that, seeing as how I have no room for doubles, but really wanted to collect one of each mihanovichii, mihanovichii var friedrichii, and stenopleurum. Which leaves one more to find. I wanted clear representatives of the species too, if they are distinct ones, so it's a happy day. Even better, these were less than $10 each at Home Depot, (can't remember exactly, something between $6-$8.) A pretty good deal seeing as how they're mature and I didn't have to pay shipping.

Gymnocalycium mihanovichii is identified by the yellow-brown, not fully opening flowers. It's considered a miniature cactus, this is about as big as it's ever going to get. Cool looking out of bloom and great for small spaces. In it's natural habitat (Paraguay) it isn't exposed to full sun all year, growing under bushes. This makes it an ideal cactus for growing indoors for most of the year if your conditions are like mine and you have to. I put it out in full sun for the few months of summer we have and this is the result.
1st bloom opening

My hand for size reference, and I have pretty small hands.
G. mihanovichii may not have the stunning colors of friedrichii or other Gymno species, but it's beautiful in it's own way.
From the top
So of course it's super cloudy today and although the flower never opens all the way, this one is should open a bit further, and it's still more brown than yellow. I've got more buds that should be ready to go soon, I'll put up some better flower pictures if I can get them at a future date.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

HD Cactus Update #1: It's Gymnocalycium friedrichii!

According to Cultivar 3 (25) the scientific name of this cactus is still Gymnocalycium mihanovichii var. friedrichii. G. friedrichii is just as good a synonym in the mean time seeing as how someone already tried to re-name it that and it may very well be it's own species, not a variant of another.

There's discussion on G. mihanovichii, friedrichii, and stenopleurum being distinctly separate species based on flower color, (yellow, pink, white, respectively) but with so many intermediate forms there's also some basis to combine them into one highly variable species. I don't know if anyone is studying these right now or not, but hopefully someone will be able to figure it out. It is a mess to try and do any research online with people calling them different names and substituting one for another (unless they are all the same, in which case it just makes things more complicated.) If I was a taxonomist this would totally be my project, that's all I know.

Well, based on what information is out there at least for now I can say for a fact what my cactus is. I'm on the lookout for a stenopleurum too just because white flowers are my thing, but it's hard to find one that's guaranteed to bloom white unless it's already mature, which usually means $$$.

Now, on to some pictures!

I Love it!

Flower close-up
From the side

This one is officially my second favorite cactus. It's flowers are exactly my favorite color, it's got a red colored body, and huge spines. Not bad for a cheap Home Depot cactus!