Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Lizard and a (New) Aloinopsis

It always gets complicated, doesn't it?? Bill the Lizard's been around several times this week....

He seems to be considering a perch on the immortelle, but I don't think he cares for that maple syrup smell too much....

Here he comes! But he looks conflicted....

It's a new Aloinopsis for Bill! He's chosen the luckhoffii, leaving the poor malherbei in the dust to languish and pine.  What next? A cactus? Who would have thought an anole could be so fickle?

Have a great weekend, and I'll be back with some brand new Lithops next week.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Watering Tillandsias the Easy Way

My Tillandsia (Air Plant) collection was easier to water when it was...smaller. Now I've got about 2 dozen of about a dozen species, and they are all growing rapidly. Misting is woefully inadequate, and was making a mess anyway, because my Tillies are indoor tillies (the sea spray outside would kill most of them). They long outgrew their little watering pan. They get pretty thirsty, and need a serious watering twice a week. But how???

Better get a bucket.

Watering Air Plants the Easy Way
Here's a juncea and filifolia, and a few others, in my trusty orange bucket out on the patio.  I fill the bucket with about 2 or 3 liters of filtered water.  To the water, I've added 7 drops of rice vinegar per liter, and a tiny pinch of bromeliad fertilizer. This fertilizer is meant to be absorbed through the bromeliads' complex leaf structures, not through its (often vestigial) roots. Each bowlful of Tillies gets about 30 minutes in the bucket, then an upside-down draining. Why upside-down? Some Tillandsias can drown if water gets trapped at the center of the plant. Others can rot if water stays trapped within the leaves. Caput medusaes are notorious for that sort of diva behavior...!

Bulbosas and butziis getting a bath.
On non-watering days, they get misted in the mornings.  I only water Tillandsias in the mornings, because they respire at night, and if they're sopping wet, they can't breathe properly. So far, this routine has worked better than any other, especially considering Tillandsias have different needs, and this seems to be the best one-size-fits-all approach. They are higher maintenance than just sticking them on a wall (where they usually die after a few months), but so worth the effort! It's wonderful to see them growing new leaves and ramets (pups).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: Running Out of Space!

No, I'm not talking about how I've run out of window space for my mesemb and cacti collections, or how my Tillies have taken over their end table and are demanding a second, bigger table. That's for another post, and it's not very pensive. Today I'm thinking about how many of our current population of 7 billion people are running out of space to live, especially in the mega-cities, and what to do about it, seeing as how another 2 billion may join us.

"Hot City"- Marla Rob

It's especially tight over in Asia, but some creative minds are doing some amazing things. You'll really enjoy this short YouTube video from "World's Greenest Homes" of how a Hong Kong architect, Gary Chang, has made a beautiful, spacious life for himself in a 344-square-foot apartment:

The Tiny House Blog has a lot of ideas for living small all over the world; it's fun to check out. When I watched this video and read the blog, I couldn't help but think how perfect our miniature mesemb collections are for small-space living.  I have over a dozen Lithops on one tiny shelf top, and about 20 various mesembs on an equally small window shelf. Several dozen cacti grace a sunny windowsill. If I were handier with carpentry, I could easily build a multi-shelf unit and fit in many dozens more! And if I weren't too lazy to use a ladder, I could fit about 50 more on my highest windowsills. With mesembs, cacti, and even Tillies, space for a Victorian-style greenhouse isn't necessary:

For those in less sunny climates, or whose light is blocked by other buildings and such, artificial lights are pretty cheap and easy to use.  The benefits are bountiful, and cost meager, and just about anyone can find the space. I think it's more a matter of people learning the peculiar needs of the plants--once their needs are understood, they are not high maintenance. So I hope these little plants become ever more widely available, and more of us understand them, love them, and grow them in our ever-shrinking habitations.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lithops' Progress

I'm taking a break from the Lizard Saga (which continues) to get back to the heart of this blog: Lithops!
Two of mine are growing their new leaves, the rest are dormant. Audrey bloomed, but since then, hasn't done a bloomin' thing. Here are my active Lithops:

Lithops dorotheae
So Dorothy's moving right along with one new pair of leaves. Here's the other- I think it is a karasmontana- it was just labeled "Rock Plant" when I bought it!

That was about a week ago. Then the old leaves split! Mind you, neither of these Lithops has been watered in months....

Turns out there are 2 pairs of leaves in there. One was getting squashed, but now it's growing just fine. I don't know why the outer leaves haven't shriveled more, and had to split-- could it be that sitting outside in the humid sea air each morning gives it enough water to stay plump? The wonderful weirdness of Lithops is neverending.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Lizard and an Aloinopsis, Part III

Yesterday, it happened. Together again! They both look pretty happy.

So all's well that ends well for a lizard and his mesemb. Have a peaceful Sunday!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Lizard and an Aloinopsis, Part II

Here's Part I in case you missed the beginning of this petite reptilian saga--

It was stormy this afternoon, so the pair of Aloinopsis (Aloinopses? Aloinopsises??) did not go out. Guess who showed up at the door?  I'll give you 2 guesses, but you'll only need one....

Bill the Lizard (or possibly Billette)

The poor thing was pining for his favorite succulent perch. He was there for quite some time....

He hadn't shown up for a few days, so I thought he had issues with his new web-celebrity status. Apparently, he was just on a short break, so the Aloinopsis will go right back out tomorrow. Sorry I let you down, Bill!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mystery Mesemb Undergoes Radical Surgery!

OUCH! That's what my Mystery Mesemb had to say about its new leaf pair last week:

As you may recall, it's my newest mesemb, a freebie from the nursery, whose leaves got horribly bloated there because it was left out in a tropical storm for several days.  So the new leaves were trying to emerge, and it wasn't a pretty sight. I've read that mesembs can die because of this condition, so I consulted a couple of books by botanists about what to do. The answer seemed to be radical surgery....

I simply took a very clean, sharp, small knife and cut away the old leaf that was not shrinking enough to let the new leaves grow. I was worried, but everything turned out to be fine, and the mystery mesemb is now healthy with new leaves growing freely, and fast!

The new leaves, which should be healthy and normal, look a lot more like a Gibbaeum than the old, scarred and bloated pair. You can see how the newly freed leaf pair is much smaller than the other that was emerging normally. This should correct itself fairly quickly. 

Have you ever done mesemb leaf surgery? How did it turn out?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New CITES Preview Document Available

To go with Pensive Tuesday's post, I thought I'd give the URL for the preview report of the new CITES Appendices, which are due out formally next week.  The plant section starts on page 32.

Not the easiest document to go through, and the emphasis is on trade in endangered/threatened flora and fauna, but interesting to see what's included and what's not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: Poaching and Ex Situ Conservation

Today's post is just my early musings on the big problem of plant conservation on our planet these days. Two topics that interest me are the problem of plant poaching, and the promise of ex situ conservation. Those of us who grow endangered or extinct-in-the-wild plants and share our knowledge of them and enthusiasm about them for others are definitely engaged in good work. Botanical gardens and collections that preserve seed and DNA are very important as species go extinct.

I know in my part of the world, that some species of Mammillaria cacti, my favorite, are being poached to extinction in the wild.

 Ditto Tillandsias.

And habitat loss is a huge problem for both genera. So over the next few weeks, I'll be going over my collection with an eye to what needs to be conserved, and how best to do that. If you've got books or articles on the subject that you can recommend, let me know! I'm researching....

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Sunday Stroll on the Dune

A lazy weekend of glazing pots, harvesting some vetiver (more on that later), and just taking it easy after this awful bout of bronchitis. Our local plants are worth a post or two, and I've been walking a lot and enjoying their beauty lately.

Here are a few of the locals for your enjoyment:

Beach morning glory, Ipomoea imperati. Large showy flowers appear in the morning, and it has large, leathery leaves to survive the salt spray.

Ipomoea imperati
 From Family Fabaceae comes the Beach pea, which fixes nitrogen for other plants to use. The soil out here is very poor in nutrients, but the Beach peas are a great help (as are the native rabbits, whose droppings build the otherwise hopelessly thin soil).

Canavalia rosea, the Beach Pea
 And finally, from the ubiquitous Asteraceae family, comes the Fire Wheel, or Indian Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella. I love this one because it's fuzzy!

Gaillardia pulchella
What local flora are you enjoying this weekend? I hope it's been peaceful and beautiful for all of you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Lizard and an Aloinopsis

A couple of days ago, one of the many lizards who lives on the Rogue Kalanchoe "Mother of Millions" in my yard made my acquaintance as I photographed my baby Panda Plants.

He's baaa-aaack! I'm gonna name him Bill, after the lizard in Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland.

Turns out, Bill really enjoys hanging out on an Aloinopsis. I agree with him. Much nicer than a toxic Kalanchoe daigremontiana....

During the autumn and winter, I leave some of my mesemb collection out in the sun in the mornings, then take them in at lunch. But will Bill choose the A. malherbei or the A. luckhoffii?

Aloinopsis malherbei won the lizard popularity contest. Bill hung out for a few hours, then went back home to Mother of Millions. The next morning, it was rainy, so I didn't put the mesembs out to sun. No lizards out either. Then the sun came out again....
Guess who showed up at my screen door, just staring into the house, so disgruntled he didn't care that I was 1000 times bigger and meaner than he was?? You got it. So I put that Aloinopsis out, and pronto! No disapproving lizards for me. Bill got right back to his favorite sunnin' spot, pretty much the same spot as yesterday, and I swear he winked at me as he settled in to soak up some rays....

Will he be there tomorrow? You bet I'm putting that Aloinopsis out early!
(PS: Bill is a Brown Anole, Anolis sagrei, and is not native, but actually from Cuba! Did he swim all that way?? What a lizard!)
(PPS: Of course, Bill could be a Billette, but I really have no idea! I do however, feel grateful to this little anole for helping me see the world of mesembs from a radically different viewpoint. If I were an anole, which mesemb would I perch on??? Hmmm....)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kalanchoe tomentosa: One Sweet Panda

K. tomentosa, the Panda Plant
 I admit, I have a penchant for fuzzy plants. Los Tres Amigos, the Mystery Mesemb, T. magnusiana.... Today's fuzzy wonder is Kalanchoe tomentosa from Madagascar, commonly known as "The Panda". Why it's called the Panda, I have no idea. Pandas are not generally pale green and brown, with polka dots.  But it is cute and fuzzy. Could just as easily have been called "The Koala" or "The Fuzzy Lemur".

K. tomentosa is very easy to grow, and much more polite than its cousin, the Kalanchoe "Mother of Millions". It grows well, but fairly slowly. It's easy to propagate, but doesn't try to take over your yard and the planet. I've been growing a few from some stray leaves. I dip them in rooting hormone, plant them in basic succulent/cactus mix, and off they go.

A stray Panda leaf.
Here they are; these have been growing for several months.
Can you spot the tiny lizard in the crevice?? He loves the Panda, too, apparently.

They thrive in sun and warmth, and can grow outside in Zones 9-12. They grow very well indoors in a sunny window. I water them once every 4-5 days, but they are in a very porous mix, so if regular potting soil is used, once a week should be fine. I use acidified water (9 drops vinegar to one liter filtered water), or rainwater, and cactus fertilizer diluted to half every month or so. They like less water in wintertime. Now I want to take a look at that shy lizard again!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: How We Depict Them Part II self-assigned assignment was a double depiction of one of my favorite plants. I chose my Lithops marmorata. No surprises there! First, a well-lit, basic photo of the plant so that others can know precisely what it looks like. I should have used a ruler in the shot, but it would not remain standing in the usual winds of our sandy dune.

Lithops marmorata
Then I painted them in a fairly abstract manner, in acrylics. Not very scientifically useful, but one heck of a lot of fun! I strongly recommend cutting loose with paint every once in a while, no matter the results....

I was gently reminded by a couple of perfumer friends that plants can also be depicted in an olfactory manner. So olfactory depictions (ie: perfumes) are another way to express your love of plants. Of course, I don't recommend using the scent of Senecio flowers...or hoodias.... And music/soundscapes are another great idea. Or combine all the senses in one work, there's a challenge! But I'm not going to attempt that challenge just yet.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oh No! Really? Again? So Soon??

Babytoes (Fenestraria) is at it again. Yes! It's only been a month....

Are my Fenestrarias really blooming again?? So it would seem....

Oh yeah, it's Big Bloom Time....

I have never encountered a plant as exuberant as Fenestraria! Bloom Babytoes, bloom!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mystery Mesemb of the Month: What Is It?

After my recent Faucaria post, in which I learned a lot about the changing taxonomy of mesembs and how nursery labels ain't always right, I found myself looking bleakly at a sorry little plant my local nursery gave me as a freebie when I bought a few supplies last week.  Scarred, withered, and forlorn, it sat in its pot, which bore a scuffed label, "Gibbaeum heathii".  I looked up this species in my books and went, "Huh. That's no G. heathii!"

Nursery labels can be...misleading. Okay, they can just be flat-out wrong.

So what is it?? Another Gibbaeum? A mutant G. heathii?? I'm thinking an Antegibbaeum fissoides. Or maybe a Cheiridopsis?  Many of my readers are far more expert than I am, so I am asking you to Name That Mesemb.  And thanks in advance for your good help! I am slowly learning. Really.

Here it is:

Mesemb mysteriosa
And here's a closer view, it's peeking around the corner now....

A new set of leaves (impossible to photograph yet) is emerging from the central leaf pair. It's got a velvety texture. That's all I can say! What is this creature of mystery?? And will it get along with my Lithops?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tillandsia Magnusiana, and Some Guests!

I've been adding to my Tillandsia collection, which now covers a small tabletop. Oh well, who needs tablespace, right? I'm learning more about how these remarkable epiphytes work, and it's much stranger than I supposed. More on the science of Tillies in later posts, I haven't had enough coffee this morning to manage it at the moment. This is my newest addition, Tillandsia magnusiana:

T. magnusiana
This Tillandsia hails from Mexico and Honduras, and has a penchant for hanging out in oak trees. It has exceptionally soft, silvery "fur", which are really shield-like, gated contraptions for capturing and channeling water. No roots necessary! It's so soft, it's practically pettable. It needs watering every other day, just a good soak in acidified water, and monthly orchid fertilizer. It likes moderate, glowing light, nothing harsh.

And who greeted me on my lawn yesterday but some super guests, the Ibis Family! A little coterie from Ancient Egypt having a snack on my lawn.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: How Do We Depict Them?

Today I'm musing about how we depict the flora and fauna that we love. Every fellow blogger reading this is making aesthetic and practical choices about how to illustrate their blog. I've seen some stunningly beautiful work out there, and I try to leave comments about it on those blogs when I see something truly marvelous.

Since most bloggers reading this are plant enthusiasts, I'll be talking (mostly) about depicting plants. And for those who don't blog but love gardening, or animals, or both, you probably photograph or draw or paint your gardens, pets, and so on. So we're pretty much all in this illustration thing together.

Dr. Nel fell on the horns of a dilemma when he wrote his book, "Lithops". He wanted to show how the Lithops looked in situ, in a formal, scientific way. But he also wanted to show how amazing they looked, how they looked to his heart, oh heck- let's- get -corny and say, in a more spiritual, all-encompassing sense. So he used both B&W photos, and watercolor paintings. Here's an example from page 154:

The watercolors in this book are just gorgeous. But the photos help me understand exactly how big each species of Lithops gets (see the ruler??) and what they look like precisely in their habitat. John James Audubon, my favorite naturalist/artist, worked in the years before photography, and he had a similar dilemma. His renderings are rich in scientific detail, yet truly from the heart. Here are a couple of squirrels:

J. J. does it all in one package, huh? Amazing!

So this week, I have a homework assignment for everyone who wants one (and who doesn't want homework??). Find a favorite plant in your collection, and try a scientifically accurate photo or photos. One that will help anyone identify a member of the same species, or in situ. Then choose any medium to do a "portrait from the heart" of that plant. Paint, collage, sculpt, draw, go digital. Whatever you like. If you have a blog, I hope you'll post the results and let us see them. But if you want to keep it to yourself and significant others, no problem.  It should be a fun exercise that illuminates our choices in how we depict the world we live in, and those living things we love! I'm going to try it, too, and I'll post the results next Tuesday.

Monday, September 3, 2012

An Amazing Lithops Book

Cape Town, South Africa, 1946. Just after the war, Botanics Professor G. C. Nel was able to publish his amazing Lithops monograph, fittingly entitled, "Lithops: Plantae succulantae, rarissimae, in terra obscuratae, e famailia Aizoaceae, ex Africa australi" though the University of Stellenbosch. Now the book is on the web, as mentioned by alert commenter Gaianursery on June 30.  It's available for download, all 161 pages, and it's safe, so far as I can tell, to do so:

Here's the gorgeous cover:

It's in English and Afrikaans, with some German and Latin, too, and lavishly illustrated with photos and watercolor paintings. More about it tomorrow for Pensive Tuesday!