Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Weird Wednesday: Epiphytes Are Awesome

Alert Gardener Jim of South Florida sent me this snippet after he returned from Brazil. He noticed that trees in Sao Paolo were absolutely covered in lichen and epiphytes, and wondered what benefit, if any, there was to the ecosystem as a whole. Anyway, here's the answer:
Epiphyte-Covered Tree in Brazil, JR, 2014

Lichens Provide A Protective Coat   Andrew M. Sugden Science 6/6/14
"Lichens help even out temperatures and moisture levels in foggy deserts, according to a pioneering study of epiphytes: plants that grow on the stems and branches of larger plants. Stanton et al. studied the ecological role of lichens, mosses, and bromeliads inhabiting host trees in fog-fed desert ecosystems in Peru and Chile. They removed epiphytes from the columnar cacti and trees they were growing on and created artificial cacti at the field site, which they covered with collected epiphytes. Epiphytes affected the microclimatic conditions around the host plant: Their presence reduced both the amount of water that reached the ground and the amount that evaporated from the soil. They also buffered daily temperature fluctuations. Epiphytes are abundant in tropical forest ecosystems and they may play a considerable role in cycling water and nutrients."
Funct. Ecol. 10.1111/1365-2435.12249 (2014).

So the take-home is that we can love epiphytes (particularly bromeliads), and feel very righteous in doing so!
FIT Botanical Gardens, MR, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July's Cactus: Hylocereus undatus- Night-Blooming Cereus

Hylocereus undatus is one unusual cactus. It's a large, vine-like climber from Central America and the West Indies that will drape itself over practically anything. H. undatus does not grow in the desert, but in tropical forests. Its fruit is known as pitaya or the strawberry pear. Here on the dunes it prefers to drape itself all over cabbage palms. Even more spectacular than the fruit are the blooms, which are huge, larger than a man's hand. They bloom most extravagantly for one night, but you can catch them the next morning, as I did during my herbalism class, as they were growing in the courtyard. Nectar-feeding bats and honey bees just love these flowers, and I can certainly understand their point of view! H. undatus is widely cultivated all over the planet these days, and that makes me happy. It's easy to grow from stem cuttings.

Night-blooming cereus, MR, 2014
Pitaya, courtesy of Wikipedia

Hylocereus undatus, or Night-blooming Cereus, MR, 2014 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reiki Plant Notes and Two Final Flower Portraits

Another week has gone by for the Reiki/non-Reiki zinnias, and there is a peculiar difference:
Reiki Zinnias, below: July 22, 2014, MR
Both sets of plants are growing well, and are about the same size. The Reiki zinnias sprouted a full 24 hours before the non-Reiki, but now they are growing apace. However, the non-Reiki zinnias are growing further apart, while the Reiki zinnias have grown closer together. In addition, they are given the same amount of sunlight, yet the non-Reiki zinnias have longer stems and show stronger positive phototropism, whereas the Reiki plants are growing straight, and their stems are shorter. Is this because the non-Reiki plants need more light than the Reiki plants? I don't know. What do you think? The experiment continues....

And now for something completely different-- my two final "flower portraits" (really, I know I said that before) from my spring garden, one for Mexican tuberose, the other for sunflower:
Mexican Tuberose Portrait, MR, 2014
Sunflower Portrait, MR, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pensive Tuesday: A Global Cease-Fire?

When I read the news these days, I want to turn off the computer and spend more time with my plants in the garden. Do you? I am tired of reading about the Daily Carnage our species is engaged in…but how to counteract the violent chaos?

Personally, I would love to see all seven-and-a-quarter-billion of us agree to a 24-hour period of No Killing. We could choose any day of the year. Maybe an ordinary Monday. Mondays need a little love. We could exempt the 0-3 year-old crowd, I guess, but the rest of us could pledge that for just that one day, we would not kill each other. Could we actually do that? Choose a day to Not Kill? And if we did, what would happen?

On its own, one day doesn’t seem very significant. But I think, if we could pull it off, it would show us that it is possible to live peacefully. At least for a little while, one day at a time. That is not as hard as we think it is. 

 Success for just one day could give us the confidence to continue. One day could become three days. Three days could become a week. And then, perhaps, if we got that far, the impossible dream of no killing for a year wouldn’t seem like such a crazy fantasy anymore.  

Stranger things have happened in this world….
Photo by Riccardo Senettin, Italy, June 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What is Tillandsia "Califano"??

Tillandsia "Califano", MR, 2013
I found this Tillie about a year ago at a garden show. It was labeled merely "Califano". Of course, I knew by it's charming rootlessness that it was a Tillandsia. But I'd never heard of a "Califano", and it wasn't listed in my Padilla or Isley books.
T. "Califano" next to T. filifolia
The only reference I can find to it is on the BSI Online Cultivar Registry, which states that T. califano is actually a T. ionantha x T. baileyi.  It's a very sturdy Tillie, about 12cm tall,  with a lovely, deep emerald color. The inflorescence is dark pink with purple flowers. Supposedly it's a natural cross from northern Mexico, but a different source states that it is a cultivated hybrid. So my Tillie of the Month is a bit of a mystery.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Reiki For Plants: Let's Grow Zinnias!

Zinnia elegans var. "Envy" is engaged in a Reiki For Plants experiment. It began on July 8, 2014:
Zinnia elegans "Envy", photo courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art

Each pot has had 5 Zinnia seeds sown. One pot is receiving daily Reiki from two practioners (I'm one of them).  The other pot is kept in identical conditions except for the Reiki- it gets none. The zinnia seeds were sown on July 8, 2014. Today, July 13, 2014, the Reiki pot (in the photo below, it's on the left) has 3 sprouts, and primary leaves are visible on one of the three. The non-Reiki plant (in photo below, on right) has one seed just beginning to sprout, though it is not easy to see yet.
Reiki Zinnias left, non-Reiki Zinnias, right, July 13, 2014
I'll keep you all updated!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Catasetum tenebrosum blooms!

Orchids are strange, every darn one of them. That's why so many of us love them. But Catasetum tenebrosum is arguably in the Top Ten Strange Orchids, both in form and scent. I was so happy to see mine bloom again this year:
Catasetum tenebrosum in bloom, MR, 2014
And here's the closeup of the reddish-black flowers with their vibrant yellow centers:
The scent is a cross between cassis and cat pee. Obviously some bugs like that sort of thing. It's actually a very unusual, ahem, scent for the living room. Although people with cats might not notice as much.
"Smells good to me." (MR, Cat Mask, 2010)

Have a wonderful gardening weekend!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weekend Walkabout: Final Tuberose Portrait and Some Ibises Cross the Road

Well, gardening season is really over. Only a few shade plants and my cacti/mesembs are growing outside. But it was wonderful to try tuberoses this year. In the evening, they scent the whole block. Here is my final portrait of the Mexican Tuberose:
Our White Ibis population is up substantially from last year. Every day I have a flock in the front yard, eating breakfast. I drive very slowly in the morning to avoid strolling ibises and hopping cottontails:
Why did the ibis cross the road?? MR_2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Weird Wednesday: Plants Have Ears!

OK, well, not ears exactly, but it turns out they can sense and respond to both chemical signals and vibrations from munching insects and gastropods. Here's the scoop about chemical signals from National Geographic:
Rue, MR, 2014
This process of sensing predator signals and producing special defense compounds as a response is vital to the herbalist. Most of the molecular compounds in plants that are good for human health are defense compounds. Aromatic herbs produce more of these compounds in difficult or droughty conditions, which is when they are more likely to be munched by hungry critters.  Think about the antibiotic properties of oregano and thyme, for example. When a Boswellia tree is munched or cut, the sap that covers the wound becomes our frankincense, the odor of which is anxiolytic.
3 Varieties of Frankincense, MR, 2013
Plants have a much more interesting and dramatic time out there than we know! And we owe a great deal of  our health and happiness to their ability to launch a good defense. Go, Team Plant!