Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Bloom: What is this?

A weed that I neglected to remove all summer has finally come into bloom. It is quite attractive. The flowers are pea shaped (= legume family associations?) and small, less than half an inch. Its not a bad looking critter overall.
Do any of you know what it is?

UPDATE: With fluffnflowers comment plus a few from the Orchid Guide Digest I now believe the plant to be either Lespedeza cuneata or bicolor, both of which look very similar to my plant, are found in the whole of the Eastern half of the US, and, unfortunately, are listed as invasive weeds by one or more states. Hm.. I don't suppose anyone would want seed from my pretty little friend then.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In Bloom: Passiflora capsularis and sanguineolenta

Passiflora capsularisPassiflora capsularis is a wonderful species. As you can see it has lovely white flowers, approximately 2 inches across with a strong scent of warm vanilla. It is wholly easy to grow, even flowering in comparatively small pots (4") in partial shade, so would be an excellent prospect for a hanging basket. I find they're slow to start from seed though, at least with the one batch I tried. I tried to start them in early spring with a heating mat from seed that came from my plant last summer. They absolutely refused to come up until mid-summer, by which time the pot had been moved outside. I'm lucky I hadn't dumped the pot in the compost heap.

Passiflora sanguineolentaPassiflora sanguineolenta is closely related to capsularis, and indeed their leaves and flowers are very similar in size and shape. Obviously the flower color is different and sanguineolenta has very little scent (at least this is true of my plant). In my more limited experience with this plant I'd find it is also similarly easy to grow, but I have not as yet tried to grow it from seed. I'd like to self pollinate my plant, but I seem unable to catch it at the right time of day to find it with ripened pollen still on the plant. The flowers change so quickly!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I was looking through my images today and found this one, taken July 4th, when the blueberries stared to ripen. I had intended to post it to the blog but never did. I have a 'Sunshine Blue', which is a self-fertile dwarf blueberry, who I keep in a large pot. It is an easy to grow variety. Its not a very big bush (and is not very mature at that!) but it had a good crop of berries this year that were most tasty.

Now and then I fantasize that I'd like to plant my whole yard in blueberries and make dry blueberry wine. Two years ago while vacationing in Bar Harbor, ME, we picked up a bottle of locally made, oak aged, dry blueberry wine from the
Bartlett estate. mmmm...good stuff. Unfortunately you can only get it in Maine. Wish I could get it here in Maryland. Unlike many non-grape wines, it wasn't cloyingly sweet. Instead it was more like the best Merlot ever. If you're ever in Maine, do yourself a favor and get a case of the stuff!! (and drop one off at my house! thx!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Contents of an Orchid Seed Pod

This is a phalaenopsis seed pod that recently split on its own. Fortunately I found it before it sent its charges to the wind and there was plenty of seed remaining. The pod was only about 5 months, but the seeds are a nice straw color, which suggests that they are ripe and viable. I didn't inspect them any more than that though. the remnant of the pod is there on the left. It is still very green as you can see. The contents come easily out, maybe with just a little coaxing.

The fluff shown here is what remains of the pollen tubes. It serves just like the silks you see on corn. In the photo you can see there is a darkened area of the fuzz, which is where there are seeds trapped in the matrix. To give them "the red pill" and free them from the matrix, I just grasp them in the forceps and rap sharply on the metal. They fall free easily onto the paper.

Here you can see the fuzz is free of seeds now.

And finally below, my nice crop of seeds ready to be sterilized and plated on a nice, rich media.

Dry seed sowing has some challenges. A split pod allows a chance for fungal spores to get into the seeds. Spores are rather difficult to kill. So as an added measure with dry seed I use the trick of soaking the seeds 8-16hrs in a mild sucrose solution with a little wetting agent. This can encourage the spores to germinate, essentially bringing them out of their protective shell, making them much easier to kill with a quick, low concentration bleach application (I use 7% of a high strength bleach (~6 or 6.15% hypochlorite) for 7min). This is followed by several washes with sterile distilled water and then the seeds are ready to plate on media. Too high a concentration or too long an exposure will kill the seeds, so you have to balance between the best sterilization you can get with the least collateral damage.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Protocorm Proliferation

For those of you who have heard the term, but never seen the animal, this is what protocorm proliferation looks like. For those of you who are no confused, I shall define as best I can.

Protocorm: This is the primordial bit of tissue that forms as an orchid seed germinates. The initial thing is a little ball of undifferentiated tissue (tissue who's function is undetermined and can generate any part of the plant) that after a couple months starts forming wee leaves and then roots.

Protocorm proliferation is a phenomena where the protocorm replicates itself like a stem cell forming what is called a callus in plant tissue culture. I can't explain why it happens as I don't know. Generally in tissue culture we make them with application of excess hormones.

Personally, I've seen this most often in Phalaenopsis flasks, but it can happen with any genus. Such structures will not survive outside the flask. However, they can be divided and continued in flask until they grow normally. This results in clones since the replicated protocorms from a clump are identical. This is generally how the only successful paph clones are made. The downside is since you're starting with seed, you might find later that you've propagated a plant that has dopey flowers.

Veggie Folk has reservations about this.

Veggie Folk comes from gobbledygookdecor. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spiderman, Spiderman!

Kids! Soup's on!

This nifty wasp, decked out in spiderman colors (her wings are metallic blue at the correct angle) isn't doing battle with that wolf spider who is three times her weight. That spider is paralyzed. He will be dinner for several youngin's. Blech. Creepy thought - getting eaten alive.

I don't know where exactly she was going with her prize, but he was certainly in a hurry. She was also quite flustered when she dropped the meal, but soon found it again and resumed the climb. Soon there will be little eggs destined to eat that spider.

By the way, I think what you are looking at is a Spider Wasp (Tachypompilus ferrugineus or related) with Rabid Wolf Spider prey.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Timeline: Momma Plant to Flowering Daughter

At the prompting of Swamprad, I've decided to chat a bit more about my orchid breeding attempts. I thought a good place to start might be a time line of the waiting game that is making new plants. This is just an estimated framework based on Phalaenopsis plants. I plan to expand on some details later. Please note this is based on growing plants at home in Maryland.

** Agonize over what combinations to make. 1 week.
* Pollinate flower. Drop pollen. Bark swear words. Get down on floor and look for it. Pollinate flower. 15 min.

* Wait. Wait some more... If a cross succeeds in making seeds, it will take on average 6-12 months to mature. In many genera, you can harvest the pod before it is fully mature, though, which actually makes handling the seed easier. If its going to fail miserably, it can do so at any time.

* Harvest the pod, sterilize, and sow. 1-2hrs.
* Wait. Germination times vary considerably. Typically I find phals will germinate in less than 2 months if they're going to do it. Lets say time on this is 1 month to 1 year.

* I usually let the protocorms gain a little size before transplanting, sometimes even with a little primordial leaf forming. They're not more than little green dots when they appear. Add 2-6 months.

* Transplant to new media, once or twice, continuing in flask for another 8 months to 2 years.

* Move seedlings to compots. Grow on 12 - 18 months.
* Pot out to individual pots. Grow on 6 - 24 months.

** At this point the plants are usually near blooming size or in some cases even first bloom size already. They might take a year or so to actually make the first few flowers. Adding all this up, it takes around 4 to 7 years to get the first couple flowers on your plants from the time a cross is made. Getting to mature size takes longer. In addition to plain time, how fast they get to bloom also depends on the genetics and environment/culture.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Flora and Fauna in Covington, VA

Goodyera pubescens, downy rattlesnake plantainThis past weekend we went to visit with family in Covington, VA. We spent most of a day at Roaring Run park, some of which found us skittering up the semi-billy-goat trail along the creek up to the falls. We saw lots of cool stuff! For example, this Goodyera pubescens. We saw several colonies of the little guys, some in bloom, some not. Isn't it just adorable? I was very excited to see them. They were growing mostly on the 'up' side of the path, 10 - 20 feet uphill of the water line in heavy leaf litter and deep shade. I'm also curious about the little thing living with it that has the lily pad shaped leaves. These also in some places had tall thin spikes with little white flowers.

Incidentally, I recently came across the website for the Connecticut Botanical Society. I'm already finding it a wonderful resource for identifying wildflowers and passive plant browsing.

Monotropa uniflora or Indian PipeWe were also fortunate enough to see several small patches of Monotropa uniflora, or Indian Pipe herb, a very rare parasitic plant. This wiki has a pretty good discussion of the species and its peculiarities. I understand the plant is used in herbal medicine, but I don't know for what, and given its rarity I would venture it isn't used very often. I have only ever seen this plant in the Covington area, and the last time I saw it was probably 20 years ago when my aunt first pointed it out to me.

We also saw a few colonies of this little lithophytic fern, assicated with nice moss colonies. I think it might be Pleopeltis polypodioides (Resurrection Fern), but I sort of remember the fronds on that species being thicker (adaxial to abaxial) than what we saw on this plant, so I'm not sure about the identification.

I would really like to know what this is but I'm not even sure where to start - fern, mossy thing, flowering plant? I saw several individual colonies, generally round in shape, hugging bare rock no more than 1 or 2 feet above water level in areas where they would get frequent spray and possibly occasional flooding. The tissue was very crocodilian in texture and each fish tail was perhaps an inch wide. Please leave a comment if you know what this is!

....I don't know what these are either. Left is a little creeping plant with leaves about 2-3 inches long, very leathery, and fairly spaced out on the rhizome. They were in the standard leaf litter or on somewhat bare clay, like this one. It looks fern-ish to me. On the right is a small, glossy plant with architectural trefoil leaves. Diameter of each leaf was approximately equal to a standard peanut butter cup. I only saw one of these.

Cool bugs!!

Cool fungus!

"Bob Ross Moment" Finale

Friday, August 1, 2008

Generations Tie Dye

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

In about one month I will be participating in the Artisans at Artway Trunk Show along with 9 other Etsy artisans. This will be held Sept 6th, 2008, 11AM to 4PM at Polymer Clay Express in Damascus, MD. I will be bringing an assortment of plants of course, but what of the other exhibitors? What WONDROUS GOODIES WILL THEY BRING!? hmm...let's see... Oh! Well one of the sellers with pretty unique stuff and something for everyone you know is Deb of Generations Tie Dye. She's a wonderful, energetic woman who loves her craft and I have enjoyed chatting with her. I asked her to tell us a little more about herself, and this is what she had to say:

Generations Tie Dye provides an outlet for my tie-dyeing addiction, allowing me to sell what I make so I can buy MORE stuff to tie-dye! I pride myself on doing tie-dye in my own style, trying to create both garments that are fun and pieces that are unusual: tops for the office, layette sets, pillowcases, up-cycled second-hand items.

Tie-dyeing started as a way to create baby gifts for all my pregnant friends and as my own children have grown, I've begun dyeing garments for toddlers, older kids, and adults. Along with the usual assortment of classic spiral and heart patterns, I enjoy trying new patterns and color combinations I haven't seen anywhere else, and dyeing different garments and accessories.

Custom orders are probably the thing I enjoy the most. Working with someone to match their specifications and co-creating pieces is deeply satisfying to me. I love the process of starting with a "blank canvas" and creating wearable art made just for its new owner!

I have to agree with you Deb, it is great fun to play with color and you certainly do have some great colors and patterns in your work! 3 Hearts Up!