Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tillandsia albida: The Desert Dweller

Tillandsia albida, which means White Tillie, is so very, very white, you might think it's dead....
Tillandsia albida, ready to bloom. MRobb
But that is because it lives in one of the hottest, roughest, toughest deserts in the world. The Chihuahuan Desert of Northern Mexico is high elevation, and dry, dry, dry, as it is what is known as a "rain shadow" desert sandwiched between two mountain ranges. This Tillie, in its native habitat, gets a wee bit of water in June or July, and that's about it. So the intensely white, thick trichomes reflect harsh sunlight and retard water loss. The leaves are exceptionally tough and hard. It was named by intrepid naturalists Mez and Purpus in 1916.

My T. albida does just fine with a weekly soak along with my other Tillies.  The plant grows along a central stalk and blooms from the same stalk. It then grows several new stalks from the sides of the main stalk. The total length can be about 30cm, and the leaves grow to about 6-12cm. If you grow it in less intense sunlight, it will darken up slightly, but not much. It's quite the roughty-toughty Tillie!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Walkabout: Throw It and Grow It

Well, sometime in October, I had some extra sweet potatoes, and I didn't feel like roasting them.
What do I do in such circumstances? That's right, gardeners, throw it and grow it! Here's one of the sweet potatoes now, with one of my "plant spirit sculptures" to encourage it. I did this about a year ago with another batch of sweet spuds and I harvested them- yum! There's always something new in the garden. This year I will try to grow Japanese Shiso.

For some random weekend photos, here's a lovely dawn from this last week. And here's some more lovely scenery from this fall in Italy (Lago di Garda):
Red Boat, Lago di Garda, Italy, MRobb, 9-2015
Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy your walkabouts!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tillandsia pruinosa: The Frosty One

I thought "pruinosa" meant "Pruney", as in wrinkled, and the leaves of T. pruinosa are indeed rather pruney at the tips. However, the name really means "Frosty", and this refers to the heavy, silvery trichomes that capture water for the plant. These trichomes give pruinosa a frosty look over dark green foliage:
Tillandsia pruinosa, M Robb
Frosty is a low-altitude Tillie that grows from Florida in the US to the Caribbean islands to Mexico and Central America. It even grows in Brazil! It reminds me a lot of T. paucifolia and T. caput medusae, but there are some differences:
Tillandsia paucifolia, M Robb

Tillandsia caput-medusae in bloom, M Robb
T. pruinosa has much darker leaves, like a fir or spruce type green. The trichomes are even coarser and more abundant than on the two species above. It also seems to like more water than the other two. I water my Frosties the way I water my T. filifolias and argentea fineleafs- soaks twice a week and mistings pretty much daily. But unlike the very fine-leaved Tillies, T. pruinosa is susceptible to rot, just like the caput-medusae and paucifolia. They really love good air circulation. It's important to drain them upside down after a soak. And just like all my other Tillies, they like bright filtered light (east-facing window in tropics), and a fertilizer soak once a month (I add a little powdered bromeliad fertilizer to their soak on the first of each month). Blooming and pupping are slow to happen, much slower than with T. caput medusae. They grow, but very slowly. That's one reason Frosties are harder to find and more expensive. So this is a bit of a higher-maintenance Tillie, but very beautiful! I have two in my collection, and they've both been doing well for several years now.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Weekend Walkabout: Mammatus Clouds

I learned to look with dread upon the freaky, alien mammatus cloud. Conventional wisdom was that they heralded tornadoes. Fortunately, research has disproven that theory. The bumpily weird mammatus cloud shows up mostly after the worst of a storm is over. Sometimes tornadoes have preceded the clouds, sometimes not. They do indicate the presence of a severe, but waning, storm. Very rarely, they can also show up in milder weather conditions. At any rate, they are caused by moist air sinking erratically into dry air.
I spotted these clouds offshore my sand dune at dawn this week. Amazing! I did not enhance these photos in any way whatsoever. This is really how they looked.
Mammatus clouds at dawn, MRobb, 2016
Hoping all my readers have wonderful weekend walkabouts!

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Pink Crown for a Mammillaria

Genus Mammillaria, my very favorite cactus clan in the world, are known for their beautiful "crowns" of flowers. They open during the day, then close at night. Not all Mammillarias bloom this way, but most do. Here is a recent example- first, open during the day, then closed at night:
Mammillaria elegans in full "crown" bloom, MRobb, 2016

Blooms close in the evening.
What a beautiful sight! Most Mammillaria have bright pink flowers, as this one does, but others have light pink, red, or even yellow blossoms. Gorgeous! Interestingly, they can have a primary, "proto-bloom" of just a couple of flowers, which can give them a funny "face":
Mammillaria elegans "Funny Face", MRobb
Then a month or so later, the full crown appears. I have no idea why this happens.