Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Off Topic: 19 Species of Fern Named for Lady Gaga

This is both hilarious and  kind of awesome at the same time, so I had to share! As a big fan myself, I love that Duke scientists also love Lady Gaga. Normally naming a plant after a person this way doesn't follow the rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, but technically they got around it by naming it after the gene sequence. "The name Gaga also echoes one of the molecular synapomorphies that characterizes the genus. At nucleotide positions 598–601 in the matK gene alignment, all Gaga species have “GAGA” (Fig. 6), a sequence pattern not seen at this site in any other cheilanthoid fern sampled," from the paper, for anyone interested: Gaga, a New Fern Genus Segregated from Cheilanthes (Pteridaceae) 

From the article from the Duke website if you still don't believe me: 19 Species of Fern Named for Lady Gaga, "Two of the species in the Gaga genus are new to science: Gaga germanotta from Costa Rica is named to honor the family of the artist, who was born Stefani Germanotta. And a newly discovered Mexican species is being dubbed Gaga monstraparva (literally monster-little) in honor of Gaga's fans, whom she calls, 'little monsters'."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Faucaria felina ssp. tuberculosa blooms and an almost reconsidering of growing all these plants.

Last of the succulent blooms for the season is Faucaria felina ssp. tuberculosa. A cheery yellow for the fall that matches the leaves on the trees outside. I'm not looking forward to the winter, but the yellow, orange, and red colors of nature during the fall season in New York have always been my favorite colors.

I've got a few orchids spiking, so I'm really looking forward to those. I'm not taking any pictures yet as I've had more bud blasts than blooms on them this year, so I'll wait until there are actual open flowers before I even start bothering to take pictures.

Every once in a while I think about growing fewer different types of plants and focusing my collection on things from one or two different plant families. This usually happens when I start to get busy and stressed out and wonder why I've extended myself so much as I'm dealing with dormancy preps, rearranging, moving things around and re-potting, on top of everything else going on with work, family, etc., you things.

This year's little "Why am I doing this to myself, I've got too many plants," almost- meltdown was brought to you by a combination of being sick with the flu, filling out endless job applications, taking a sick cat to the vet, and still having to show up for work and real life while the temperatures plummet and the plants all need to go somewhere inside, but aren't ready.

Then when everything's pretty much done and settled in again I remember why I'm growing so many different things, (and am always glad I didn't get too impulsive and start giving things away.) Something is always doing something. As the cacti and succulents will be pretty much just sitting around the house doing nothing or growing slow, I'll have some orchid blooms, (nice because different species bloom at different times of the year,) and the Nepenthes will still be making pitchers and flowering as the North American carnivorous plants are dormant. Always something doing something. Which always gives me something to look forward to and occasionally let myself get distracted on the small and inconsequential, things that can just be for fun, (because at the end of the day, for me it doesn't really matter if a particular orchid blooms or not this year, but it's certainly awesome when it does.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Repotting a Nepenthes mirabilis var. globosa: A Guide

I noticed this Nepenthes mirabilis var. globosa hadn't been growing any larger leaves, so I figured I'd re-pot it to check on the root system. Plus it's been about 2 years since it's last re-pot, and fast growing seedlings should at least be up-potted yearly so it's due.

I'll admit I've been ignoring this plant and I probably should've dealt with it's small growth earlier. The pitchers are nice, but not a good shape. Either the shape will change a lot before it matures, (it happens, this species can get a better or worse shape as they grow,) it's an ugly clone, or it was mislabeled and is a globosa hybrid. As of now, on the rating scale it would be a "grade C," due to the long neck the pitcher grows, ("Grade A's" have no neck and are a very round, highly sought after, shape called "Klom," the Thai word for circular/round.)

Below, this pitcher had formed in the top of another pitcher that had since died. Not relevant, just laughed when I saw it and decided to share.

This Nepenthes has always been filled with pitchers, it isn't unhappy, so on to figuring out what it's issue is by re-potting it 1st.

Funny, I hadn't seen the tag in some time. In cultivation this species has been called N. "Viking", N. globosa, N. "Trang Bizarre" and N. "sp. Phang-nga". As far as I can see, it's officially N. mirabilis var. globosa (M. Catal.) as of 2010. Personally, I like "Viking" the best, named for the shape the pitchers produce, see Neofarm's article on the topic for more information about the history of the plant itself.

So first things first. Pull the plant out of the pot. I'm in favor of holding the stem(s) firmly in one hand and with your other hand on the pot, dump the whole thing upside-down.

Holy roots! Yep, this one needed to be re-potted probably about a year ago. That black spiral is all root.

Next work out the old mix with your fingers. This is a re-pot, not an up-pot (more media/bigger pot) so all the old media has to go. There are roots throughout everything so this part takes a while if you do it carefully. The roots are fragile, so this took me about 1/2 hr. Last thing I wanted to do was set it back any further.

What's left is a few pieces of perlite and sphag that were stuck to the roots so I'll leave those be. The brown is the taproot, the thin black are feeder roots. You will break some of the feeder roots, it's guaranteed. A healthy Nepenthes will recover from some root loss quickly.

Now time to fill in the fresh media. Personally, for this one I used long fiber sphagnum moss, cedar bark, charcoal chunks, and perlite. Besides the Nepenthes that live in ultramafic soils, they like a mix that is free draining, stays moist, and is on the acidic side. The long fibered sphagnum accomplishes both the moisture and acidity requirements so I use it in the majority of my Nepenthes soil mixes, but everyone who grows these uses a different mix for different environments, (this is just what I've found works for me.)

Finished product: Ha! The pot looks ridiculously big for the size of the plant. Normally a re-pot looks appropriate for the size of the plant, but stunted growth on the top certainly didn't result in stunted growth below.

Back home:

Now seeing as how the taproot had grown to the bottom of the pot and started to wind around the bottom I'm hoping my lack of up-potting over the last year for this plant is what's been causing it's stunted leaf growth. Nepenthes aren't big fans of re-potting so they'll sulk for a week or two before starting to grow again. It'll probably be more like a few months before I can say for sure this was or wasn't the problem. Either way, I hope turning this post into more of a guide as well is helpful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Faucaria felina blooming

Faucarias are fall bloomers and luckily all my Faucaria had set buds while they were outside this fall. Last week I took everything inside as there was a surprise overnight frost a few days ago. I'm still getting everything organized and setting up racks and lights for everything's winter homes as although there's been no more frost, it's too cold to bother taking everything back out and then in again.

Faucaria felina finally bloomed though, even with the slightly warmer inside temperatures.

We got creative and set the blooming/about to bloom succulents against a window to stay on the cool side while I get the succulent's winter spot ready for them.

Faucaria felina ssp. tuberculosa, unidentified Lithops, and Faucaria felina (left to right)

Still waiting on Faucaria felina ssp. tuberculosa, plus there's another 2 buds on the other felina heads that should open within the next week or so too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nepenthes rajah: The plant that tests my patience

I bought this from a vendor in 2010, at the New England Carnivorous Plant Society annual show. I bought it knowing it was difficult and one of the slowest growing Nepenthes out there. I didn't care, I wanted to try it anyway Or so I thought.

This Nepenthes is the same size as when I bought it. If I had taken pictures of it back then when I originally brought it home there would be no point in putting them up for a comparison shots. It really is the same size, the stem is just a little taller from losing the older leaves.

I had to spray it for mites first thing when I brought it home. Something I bought that day had mites and I had carried the plants I bought around in the same bag all day. Systemic pesticide made it terribly unhappy and it sulked for a few months, then grew smaller leaves. It grew back to the same size as when I got it. Then, miracle of miracles it had a good time this year. It grew slightly larger leaves and started to consistently make pitchers again.

Then, of course, disaster strikes again, we had that bad mite outbreak this summer and I had to spray it. Well, that was a good run, but now we're back to the same small growth. It did start a few new growths off the side of the main vine.


Look close, that green will be new growth points

I can't bring myself to trade it away or sell it, (too embarrassing to try, it looks terrible even though it's healthy,) and I can't throw it out. I keep hoping one day it'll gather itself and start to grow larger. It almost did, for a minute there.

It's started growing again though, here's what it looks like today. Now tell me this isn't the smallest pitcher you've ever seen! Too cute.

Oh, and if you're wondering why the heck I'm still so partial to this plant, and why I guess I'm still going to keep it, (besides the fact that they're expensive and not always around and available for purchase), here's a good link for pictures of what it looks like as an adult: Nepenthes rajah

This is the best pitcher I've gotten out of it to date :/

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A "Death Cube" seedling Nepenthes ventricosa

"Death Cubes" are an old term, (not really so relevant anymore) for the carnivorous plants the company Botanical Wonders used to supply to big box stores like Lowe's. Why the nickname? They we're literally sold in a sealed, plastic, square or rectangular box. Recently Botanical Wonders uses a thinner plastic box that's breathable, not nearly as bad for the plant, and probably much cheaper to produce so I wonder why they didn't do this sooner.

I wish I had pictures to show you guys but I had thrown out all my cubes long ago. I threw out the new style box I got this Nepenthes ventricosa in too, but it would be pretty worthless to show you without a comparison to the old style anyway. I had even asked a few people that had pictures of their Death Cubes online for permission to use the photos, but no one wanted to share. So you can always "Google it," and see some of the same photos anyway....

Here's what the N. ventricosa looked like after I got home and repotted it back in May. It had almost no root system so it's taken it a few months to get going. Then we had the mite outbreak and it got sprayed with systemic insecticide like everything else. No damage, but it sulked for a month before deciding to grow again.

Below is what it looks like today. Still quite small, leaves about the width of the plant tag, but much healthier. I repotted it again before I took it inside for the winter, and to check on the progress of it's root system. I'm happy to report a significant amount of root growth at least. The leaves are also much thicker, (a good thing.)

Temporary home with the orchids until I get my winter set-ups all organized

Awww, look, my 1st ventricosa pitcher. Despite it's lack of color, the size of it, (compared to the leaf size,) is a good sign that my ventricosa will do fine here. I always worry about Nepenthes that are so small, they're much hardier and tolerant of adverse conditions as adults. The pitchers all look similar on seedling Nepenthes no matter the species (for the most part.) As the plant matures each pitcher starts to look more and more like the species it is. This is my favorite part about starting off with such small specimens.

The pitcher is thin enough to see where the water level is, all self produced.

I'll probably still refer to these plants as being from Death Cubes, because they do still come in a plastic box, just not quite as sealed in and doomed to death without imminent purchase and re-pot as before. My Nepenthes 'Judith Finn' is a Death Cube plant from back in 2007(ish?) as well. I cannot remember for the life of me if my Sarracenia purpurea was from a Death Cube or not, but I highly suspect it was. (I'm not the best record keeper, but trying to get better.)

So many people pick up their first carnivorous plant at a Lowe's or a Home Depot from this company, the name may stick long past when people forget about how bad the original box was. I really hope so because "Death Cube" is one of my favorite nicknames for anything ever.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nepenthes 'Judith Finn' won't stop flowering

The Nepenthes hybrid 'Judith Finn' is a cross of highlanders, Nepenthes veitchii and Nepenthes spathulata. It does well under lowland conditions too, and I've at least always grown mine on the warmer side with good results. This one I grew from seeding to flowering maturity in under 5 years. It's too bad it's a male though, I've got some other Neps in flower, but they're all males too so no pollination of my own plants anytime soon.

It begins..
Close up of the buds forming

Not the fanciest of flowers. Stamen, but no pistil, clearly an androecious plant.

#2 starting
#3 starting about two weeks after #2
This Nep has always acted strange. It seemingly randomly chooses leaves on the vine to kill off, never the oldest ones first.Three blooms, one straight after another would be surprising on any other pitcher plant, but who knows why this one does anything it does really.

I didn't have any good photos of the pitchers on my digital camera and I can't take any now as they are small and pathetic looking compared to the ones it was making before flowering. It's clearly putting almost all it's energy into making sure it reproduces. I'd be worried as some plants will flower if they are dying as a last ditch effort to continue the species, but this one is still really healthy otherwise.

Here are some pitcher pictures I had taken for Instagram at least:

Growing a new shoot from a stem I thought was dead

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stapelia grandiflora, some more pictures

I sent some pictures around and everyone polled was of the opinion that my unknown Stapelia is indeed grandiflora and not a hybrid. So here's some more pictures of it now that the flower has opened all the way!

I like how it curled around the pot

This is my favorite picture of all the ones we took

Busy day for flies

So hairy!

If I stick my nose real close to the flower there is a faint bad smell. I was almost hoping it would be worse, only because then I could smell it in all its rotten glory. It's nice that it's not that bad though, because it will have to some inside shortly, the lows have been dipping into the mid 30s (2.2° C) at night sometimes.

The fact that I have fly eggs on it makes me want to leave it outside as long as possible though. Ick!

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Stapelia and Lithops Flowers Opened Today!

I was out all day today, but remembered to text my husband to take a picture of the unidentified Lithops flower when he got home from work, because I was sure it would be open today. I'll be gone all day for the next two days too, so if the Faucaria opens, I'll make sure he gets us some pictures of that too.

NOID Lithops flower, a little chewed.
To my surprise, the Stapelia had opened as well today. He thought I meant take pictures of the Stapelia, (which is why there's only 1 shot of the Lithops flower,) as I had texted him the generic, "please can you take pictures of the succulent on the front stoop, a little one in the front should have a flower open today." He doesn't know the names of anything so talking about a Lithops wouldn't have made a difference. When I got home I found out he had been waiting for the Stapelia flower to open for as long as I have. Fascinated by how big it was getting, he was excited to take pictures of it and took about 50. When I got home he insisted on showing me the pictures he took right away, because the flower looked like "hairy skin."

So without further ado, some of the Stapelia photos my husband also took today:


Flower color in natural light. Husbands thumb for size reference
Strange, it only has four petals!

A little Macro shot for you

Cat inspection! Or in our house, this happens so often we've shortened it to "Catspection."

So, thanks for waiting patiently with me for pictures of the Stapelia. Now clearly I was off and it's not S. gigantea. I'm thinking it S. grandiflora, (or a hybrid?). If anyone can confirm or deny, I'd appreciate it. I'll take some more pictures when it's fully opened when I'm home on Monday, or maybe I'll let him seeing as how now I know he gets excited about taking pictures of the flowers. Oh, and no smell yet, I'll report back about that too.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Story Time and Rooting an Ugly Epiphyllum

I grew up in a house full of houseplants and fairly well manicured garden plants. We had an Aunt that lived close and has collected orchids for as long as I can remember. This is probably the reason I felt that we needed a houseplant or two to cheer up the place when I stopped moving about once every year and moved into this apartment with my then boyfriend/now husband.

Recently I found out it goes much deeper than that. I've been helping my father pack as he sold his house recently and came across a sad little Epiphyllum. It had been nearly crowded out of it's pot by cohabitants Crassula ovata (Jade) and Chlorophytum comosum (Spider Plant), no room left to grow it's roots. Seeing as how he's leaving his plants for the new owners, I yanked it out of the pot as best I could without disturbing everything else.

Unknown terrible looking Epi

Now apparently this plant and I have a history. When I was toddler sized my father woke me up at midnight to see this Epiphyllum bloom at midnight. I have a vague memory of being bitter about being woken up, but I do also remember the flower.

Now the moral of this story is to point out the hazards of such activities. When you ingrain something so deeply into someones childhood that they remember these events for life, well the consequences might just be this disaster of a plant hoarder, who is thrilled to set an alarm for a ridiculous hour to see something like an Epiphyllum or Echinopsis bloom before it fades by morning. I'm blaming my upbringing for this, because I'll be moving myself shortly and now I've got nearly 100 plants to figure out how to bring with me. Can you believe my father even considered me not moving mine?

So readers, What's your story? How did you end up with a plant collection? Go to the comments section, because I really want to know!

Part 2: Repotting the Epiphyllum

I decided to pot this guy up dry, with a little rooting hormone, and treat it as an un-rooted cutting. The mix is about 1:1:3 bark chips, potting soil, Hoffman Cactus & Succulent Mix. The Hoffman pre-bagged mix is mainly peat, bark chunks and perlite. I figured the peat/soil combo will keep it on the slightly acidic side and keep it from drying out once it's established, which Epis like.

All potted up
Rocks on the top and the twist ties are to keep it stable, as it's a little unbalanced with the weight of the leaves.

Close-up of the one good leaf.
I'm not sure if this is an Epiphyllum oxypetalum or not. The leaves look a little thick, but that might be the result of it's neglect. The color in the picture is accurate, it's been in nearly full sun all summer (resulting in the light green color.) It also does bloom white. If anyone had a different opinion please share.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I have no idea what I'm doing again (Alternate Title: New Plant! Tillandsia bulbosa)

There's a certain Farmer's Market Store that has a really nice garden center, but you have to cross a bridge ($1.50 to get back over, not bad, but something to consider) and it's about 35 minutes from me. Occasionally I have to go that way anyway, like today, so I stopped in on my way home.

I haven't really considered Tillansia until just now. Sure they are pretty, but I guess being used to seeing them glued to fridge magnets and other tacky decorations over the years has turned me off to them. This is unfortunate because it's really not the fault of Tillandsia, so I shouldn't take my distaste out on them.

Today they had tons of little plastic bags with *GASP* CORRECTLY LABELED SPECIES! Just kill me now, you've spotted my weakness. They were all really nice too, especially xerographica and streptophylla. But this little guy was the weirdest looking one I've ever seen so it had to be mine.

Whole plant
Close up of the nice purple lining the leaves have. Wish I could find better lighting, wasn't working out today.

So now I have a Tillandsia bulbosa. I'm considering hanging it, or I'll find a tasteful mount for it. No magnets, ceramic lizards, or glass globes with sand, (That's cool if that's your thing, but it's not my taste, so don't get offended here.) I also refuse to glue it to anything. I know this is fine for the plant, but I can't do it, so no.

If it does well I'll probably end up with a few more. Care seems pretty easy, if anything it won't get watered as often as it should, but it should be able to handle that sort of neglect.

It seems to me like Tillandsia falls in and out of favor with the plant crowd. I used to see them everywhere when I was a kid, then haven't seen them in years, now they are everywhere again, (lately unlabeled and in some sort of home decoration piece where it's almost certain to not get enough light.) It's interesting how certain types of plants are "cool" for a while and sold everywhere, then you can't find them at all. How do these trends work and who pushes them? Seasonal trends are one thing, but "tropical" plants seem to be popular, or not, for years at a time.