Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Symbiotic Relationship between Orchids and Fungus

Comment on: Orchids Are as Finicky as the Fungi That Nourish Them

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vincenzi and McCormick, I have numerous orchids growing on my Cedar tree here in Southern California. For the heck of it I sowed some orchid seeds on my tree. Much to my surprise, some time later I noticed these tiny green blobs growing directly on the bare bark on the sunny side of the tree. What was interesting was that all of the seedlings germinated within 1/2" of the roots of the orchids that had already been growing on the tree.

It stands to reason that the seeds didn't germinate farther away from the orchid roots simply because the fungus isn't capable of surviving farther away from the orchid roots. Therefore, the orchid roots facilitate fungus colonization.

More orchid roots means more fungus...and more fungus means more spore...and more spore increases the chances that some spore will land on suitable microhabitats on nearby trees...which increases the chances that the orchid seeds will germinate on nearby trees.

Imagine hurling a spaceship filled with humans through space in a random direction. What are the chances that the spaceship will hit a habitable planet? Pretty slim. You can greatly increase the chances by launching a billion terraforming drones in the same general direction before you hurl the humans.

Orchids are so successful because they are good at playing the numbers game. They help launch gazillions and gazillions of spore into space...and then send billions and billions of seeds in the same general direction.

If we want to help ensure the continued success of orchids...it would behoove us to think outside the pot.

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See also: We Need More Orchid Celebrities

Monday, December 30, 2013

Growing Orchids on Potted Plants

Reply to: Orchid Seeds Germinated On My Tree!

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Nice!!! I wish I could germinate on my trees, but that would never work in Upstate NY! - cnslr81
Sure it could work! Just bring the trees inside for the winter! In other words, use potted trees. And it doesn't even have to be trees. It can be any plant with a relatively woody surface. For example...I attached orchids to my potted Crassula...


Crassula Bonsai With Orchids 3a

Here's the list...

Broughtonia sanguinea, Bulbophyllum rupicola, Bulbophyllum shepardii, Brassavola nodosa, Campylocentrum sellowii, Cleisostoma arietinum, Dendrobium compactum (x2), Dockrillia cucumerina, Dockrillia linguiforme, Dockrillia wassellii, Encyclia sp (NOID mini), Jacquiniella leucomelana, Laelia sincorana, Lanium avicula, Macroclinium manabinum, Oberonia japonica, Oncidium cebolleta, Oncidium harrisonianum, Pleurothallis minutalis, Pleurothallis teres, Psychilis krugii, Sophronitis brevipedunculata, Tolumnia bahamense, Tolumnia hawkesiana, Tolumnia sylvestris, Tolumnia urophylla (x2) and Trichoceros oƱaensis.

The Crassula is mostly potted in 3/4" rocks for excellent drainage. This means that the orchids are thrilled when their roots grow down into the rocks...which now have moss growing between them. Plus, I can also just place an orchid on the rocks and it will grow. Here's what I have growing on top of the rocks...

Bulbophyllum blepharistes, Cleisostoma scolopendrifolium, Sarcochilus ceciliae, Tetramicra canaliculata, Tolumnia variegatum

Maybe I'll replace most of the succulents (Echeverias, Sedums, etc) currently growing on the rocks with miniature rupiculous Laelias.

Probably the first phorophyte candidate that comes to mind is Ficus benjamina. At least here in SoCal they seem to be ubiquitous house plants. I've grown numerous orchids on a F. benjamina that I had growing in the ground. The texture on the bark is perhaps a bit better than the texture on my Crassula...so it's probably more hospitable to the necessary fungus.

But if you visit your local nurseries I'm sure you'll be able to find some potted plants that could make excellent phorophytes. Maybe it's best to find a 15 gallon tree and then cut it down to size. Fruit trees are generally pretty good choices.

Watering mounted plants indoors can be a hassle though. I've never grown any orchids inside but if I did try some mounted orchids indoors then I'd probably set up a DIY drip watering system. Plenty of orchids don't need much water during winter though. When it's warm enough you could just move the phorophyte outdoors. It would be a good idea to pot the phorophyte in quite a bit of bark to provide excellent drainage.

Even with the perfect host...the orchid seeds won't germinate without the necessary fungus. And unfortunately the necessary fungus isn't visible to the naked eye. So when you select orchids for your phorophyte...choose ones that probably have the fungus. Imported orchids most likely have the fungus. For example, orchids from vendors like Ecuagenera and Floralia are good choices. Orchids from Andy's Orchids are also a good bet.

It's always a good idea to experiment with extra divisions. This way you don't have all your epiphytes on one tree. See what I did there?

don't keep all your epiphytes on one tree = don't keep all your eggs in one basket
attach two epiphytes to the same branch = kill two birds with one stone
there's more than one way to attach an epiphyte = there's more than one way to skin a cat

What are the chances that these improved expressions will catch on? How long would it take?

Will growing orchids on potted plants ever catch on? I sure hope so!

Earlier in the year I attached Mystacidium capense and Brassavola nodosa to a potted Bougainvillea. The orchids have white flowers and the Bougainvillea has reddish flowers. When they bloom it should be like a living bouquet.

Maybe one day potted orchid trees will replace Christmas trees. They actually sometimes use Christmas lights to help protect outdoor plants from the cold.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

One Echeveria Is Not Like The Others

Reply to: Not Echeveria harmsii?

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I see a lot of different plats on the Google page. Not all are E.harmsii. Some are allied species. Some are hybrids. To which actual picture do you allude?

The only illustration that really matters is that of the original type. - stephenopolis
Like I said, I was referring to the top results for the Google image search. The top results are usually more relevant than the lower results. And they look far more like the original type than the Echeveria in question.

For example, the Echeveria in the photo taken by Palmbob looks just like the illustration of the original type. The Echeveria in question looks completely different. It looks less stout, the leaves don't look fuzzy or show any color...and the flowers are a different color. I grow enough candy corn Echeverias to know that their morphology doesn't change that much when grown in shade instead of sun.

I think this might be karma. I like to give my Platycerium enthusiast friends a hard time by telling them that their dozens of bifurcatum types all look alike. They get flabbergasted and then spend 20 minutes pointing out the differences. When they are done I say that I still don't see it. Now it's just a running joke we have.

A few years ago, my bff was down for the holidays with his young daughter. The three of us went to the shopping mall with my Korean girlfriend. The girl really likes my girlfriend and they were holding hands while walking around. Something caught the girl's eye so she ran ahead to inspect it. It didn't hold her attention for long and she ran over and grabbed some random Asian lady's hand. The youngish Asian lady, who was walking with her boyfriend?, was really surprised that some little white girl was holding her hand. LOL! She stopped walking and said something to the girl. The girl looked up...and it took a few moments for her to realize her mistake. She quickly looked around and spotted the three of us laughing 10 feet behind. I'm pretty sure that I accused my bff of raising his daughter to be rayshist (a bit racist).

If I kissed some random Asian lady...I don't think my girlfriend would believe me if I told her that I thought the lady was her. haha

Do you think you can tell whether a random Asian is Korean, Japanese or Chinese? I'm better than most at telling them apart. But I can tell them apart 100% of the time when they speak.

When I went to the Huntington Gardens this last Monday...in the desert garden I heard Chinese parents saying "Xiaoxin" to their kids. It means "be careful".

My Tree Aloe Agenda

Reply to: Fuzzy Tree Aloe?

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Today when I was pollinating my Mexican Laelia orchid I noticed that its pollinia was gooey. On most orchids the pollen packets aren't gooey. The sticky substance was produced by the adjacent stigma...and somehow it flowed over to the pollen. This orchid, which is probably a hybrid, has quite frequently (always?) had seed pods on it. I've suspected that perhaps a hummingbird or bee had quickly pollinated it. The flowers are quite nice so I'm usually disappointed when they wilt away only after a couple days. This is the first year that I've tried to pollinate it...and now I know that it selfs!

The flowers had already been open for a day or two...and they were starting to look a bit wilty. It seems perhaps that its pollen might have successfully arrived at the destination. For the heck of it I removed the gooey pollen packets anyways and placed some Cattleya pollinia on one of the Laelia flower's stigma.

It's so strange that the stigma produces that much goo. It's also strange that the pollen tubes can go the additional distance.

This is kinda interesting...
An ovule is successfully fertilized by only one pollen grain out of (potentially) many thousands. If fertilization is performed at a sufficiently low temperature, the growth of chilling-resistant genotypes of pollen will be favored over others. These will reach the ovule first so that their genes will appear in the resulting seed. At no other stage of development can selection be made on such large numbers of genotypes. - Chien Yi Wang, Chilling Injury of Horticultural Crops
So all things being equal...an Aloe or orchid that blooms during winter will produce individuals that are more cold tolerant. Therefore, winter bloomers will move North at a faster rate than summer bloomers?

For the heck of it I decided to visit the Huntington a couple days ago. Remind me not to visit on the Monday before Christmas...it was packed.

Coincidentally I saw this arborescens hybrid...

Aloe arborescens x Aloe erinacea

It seems to be a pretty intermediate hybrid. Interestingly enough...erinacea is vaguely fluffy...but you don't really see it in the cross though. So it's not perfectly intermediate!

A few other Aloes that caught my eye...

Aloe cameronii var bondana

Nice color!

Aloe mawii

I had forgotten that this is on my want list. Check out this nice shot of Aloe mawii in its habitat. Really great color! It probably greens up during the wet season but it's still pretty nice.

Aloe Hellskloof Bells

A cross between two winter growers. Given the vigor of Hercules...I'd definitely be interested in trying more summer/winter crosses.

Aloe labworana

Perhaps not spectacular but I definitely found it appealing. Maybe it was the nice yellow flowers and the branched flower spike. Also it's an early bloomer. Unless it's a really late bloomer?

Aloe cryptopoda

This caught my eye even though it was pretty far away.

Backlit Cactus

Some cactus because I'm a sucker for back-lighting.

I remembered that I'd also like to select for some small tree Aloes. Something that would easily fit on a table and be a perfect host for a plethora of miniature epiphytes. The closest thing that I can think of are some of the smaller varieties of Aloe ramosissima. Are there any other species that form small trees?

My Aloe tenuior is about to bloom...maybe I'll try crossing it with some of my tree Aloes. Has that already been tried?

Uhhhh, let me review my Aloe agenda...

  • Red tree Aloes. Kinda like Aloe mawii but larger and red year around.
  • Variegated tree Aloes. Just like Aloe ferox 'Daley Mist'
  • Fuzzy tree Aloes. So fluffy they'll glow when backlit.
  • Miniature tree Aloes suitable for a slew of miniature epiphytes.

Which goal is the easiest? Anybody is more than welcome to tackle any of these projects! :D

Friday, December 20, 2013

Red Tree Aloe, Variegated Tree Aloe, Fuzzy Tree Aloe

Comment on: Going straight to the top of my wish list - Aloe ferox 'Daley Mist'

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That is really nice!!  Last year I collected around half a dozen seed pods from my variegated Aloe arborescens.  One of the seedlings turned out somewhat variegated.

These are my tree Aloes that are currently spiking...africana, arborescens, ferox, thraskii, speciosa and vaombe.  Unfortunately my variegated arborescens hasn't started to spike yet!  Last year I relied on my hummingbird to do the grunt work.  The results were mediocre so this year I was planning on pollinating all my blooming tree Aloes with the pollen from my variegated arborescens.  The goal would be to hopefully create a variegated tree Aloe as nice as Aloe ferox 'Daley Mist'.

Unfortunately my variegated arborescens seems to have other plans.  Ack.  But it has some offsets getting some nice size.  I guess I finally ran out of friends that wanted it.  So in spring I'll strategically allocate them around my other tree Aloes...and water them frequently over summer.  Hopefully they'll get large enough to flower by the end of the year.  Then I should have more than enough pollen to spread around.

My other goals are a red tree Aloe and a fuzzy tree Aloe.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Flying Pixies Sprinkling Orchid Seeds on Trees

Reply to: Next time the Native Plants Tendency starts an argument...

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All of which is very consistent with my own anecdotal experience over the past 25 years.

The hypothetical Native Plants Tendency adherent would inevitably reply with a reference to one obscure species of insect that depends upon one equally obscure species of native plant, thus missing the point entirely. But we can apparently rely upon what we see, which is that, if we grow a lot of different stuff from all over the world, the wildlife will figure out a way to make use of it. - David Matzdorf
Thanks for sharing! The subject was recently discussed/debated over on the XericWorld forum...

Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners

...and over on the OrchidBoard...

a horribly ambitious and terribly long project

Here is an article on the subject from Stephen Jay Gould: http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/483.pdf - davidmdzn7

Excellent paper!

I've said quite a bit on the topic...but I don't feel like I've really figured out how to adequately convey my position. It seems just out of reach. Maybe it will help if I brainstorm some more!

Neofinetia falcata is an epiphytic monopodial orchid from Japan, Korea and China. As some of you might remember...Tom Velardi shared a video of it blooming on his tree in Japan. Super super cool!

Unfortunately, too many of you do not have the option of growing Neofinetia falcata on your trees. It's cold tolerant...but it's not cold tolerant enough.

Shouldn't all of you have the option to grow Neofinetia falcata on your trees? Yes...very yes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

We'll Make Great Plants

Reply to:  Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners

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Let's say that you finally get the plant that's been at the top of your want list for the past 10 years. Hmmm...if I could have any plant I wanted...I wonder which I'd pick. I feel like I should, or do know, the answer. Probably some exceptionally rare orchid that was exceptionally tough, hardcore...a hard *unt...that probably wouldn't get introduced into cultivation because its flowers aren't showy enough. There are probably dozens of orchids that match this description...but if a genie could grant my wish right now I'd pick the epiphytic orchid from Yemen...Angraecum dives.

Let's say that it's my lucky day and one of you decides to be my genie!  So you go to Yemen and somehow manage to bring this orchid back for me. Thanks...a lot!!!  Do I want this orchid for my selfish benefit and enjoyment? Yes, very yes. Would the species be better off if one ended up in my care? Yes, very yes.

Honestly I think we should set up a government program that pays us for each rare/endangered plant that we grow. How could that not be a good use of taxes?

Oh no, the cat on my lap just put its head down on my right wrist. It's purring and I'm endeavoring not to ruin its joy.

If this Yemen orchid ended up in my care...I'd really endeavor not to ruin its joy.

One of the most important factors in a plant's joy is its location...also allocation (I just used my left hand to click the cursor keys to correct a typing mistake).

(now my wrist is feeling numb...)

As all of you know...not every single location in your yard is equally beneficial to any given plant. Just like not every single position on your lap is equally beneficial to a cat. Locations in your garden range from hell to heaven. Some are definitely better than others...and no two spots are equally beneficial...so it's a given that there's a single best allocation in your yard for a plant.

Can you have a green thumb and consistently put plants in the wrong places (misallocations leading to an inefficient allocation of plants)?  I don't think so. Plants die in the wrong places so you can't really have a green thumb if your plants consistently die. People like this probably shouldn't sign up for the Plant Species Richness Protection Program.

Oh, the cat finally lifted its head up! Phew. Now its paw is over my right wrist. I think I'm going to put my arm over its paw. Maybe not.

If I finally got this Yemen epiphytic orchid...I'd strive to pick the perfect spot for it in the garden. What are the chances that I'd select the perfect spot though?  Slim...which is why if it was my super lucky day...my genie would give me a plant that was large enough to divide. Then I could hedge my bets by dividing it and placing the divisions in a range of the most likely locations in my garden. By observing how they responded to their marginally different conditions...I'd see which divisions did the best and reallocate the divisions accordingly.  I could "triangulate" the orchid's most ideal location. I could discern the most efficient allocation in less time. I could learn about its requirements sooner rather than later.  This would yield more plant joy...and more plant joy equals more divisions to share with others.

My foot fell asleep so I had to try and move it...that was the last straw for the pot pie. It finally had enough of my antics and made the effort to find a more suitable habitat. In search of its perfect joy.

I'm so zoned into the plant perspective that when I learned that feral parrots had actually naturalized in the Netherlands I was like, "woah, that's pretty darn amazing that something tropical could survive there".

Oh, I spelled "feral parrots" really wrong..."farral perrot". Like I was trying to say "Perry Farrell" all wrong.

Eh? What in the world is a FurReal parrot? Sometimes when google tries to guess which search terms I might be trying to type...it informs me about weird things.

Anybody like Perry Farrell? *sings* We'll make great pets...we'll make great pets...we'll make great pets...

Woah, youtube commercial...Victoria Models are way too skinny.

Did anybody look up the lyrics to the song "Pets"? They seem relevant and funny and poignant. Aliens coming along and making us pets? How rude. Funny...and interesting about the logistics...(would I enjoy sleeping on some alien's lap? Some alien laps have to be more comfortable than others...)...but it wouldn't happen because it would be a violation of Xero's Rule (my rule).

Where was I? Oh yeah, the parrots. The second obvious thought I had about parrots is that they can seek shelter. That's why some parrots have been able to naturalize in the Netherlands. That will be an interesting day when plants can seek shelter.

I was actually kinda surprised that these parrots can even survive in the frozen wasteland that is the Bay Area. Stan, you never told me about any wild parrots. Is Stan even reading this? Where's Stan?

Dang, I wonder how many plant forums Stan and I are both on. A lot! haha We sure like learning and talking about plants.

I think I should send Stan a lot of plants...a big box each month. If it fits...it ships! Epiphytic Gesneriads, succulents, Epiphyllums, bromeliads, Tillandsias, Begonias, Anthuriums, ferns, orchids, Peperomias and more. So many neat plants to test against marginally colder winters. Hah, it's also so many neat plants to try and efficiently allocate! There's always room for more epiphytes of course. It would be cool if somebody in San Diego did the same thing for me. *hint hint?*

Perhaps the orchid I have that is most like the Yemen orchid is Sobennikoffia robusta. It's also a monopodial orchid...and it grows in the Spiny Forests of Madagascar. How many awesome succulents come from that area? Lots. (Anybody have these two books...awesome right?). Unlike the Yemen orchid though... Sobennikoffia robusta has showy flowers...which is why its in cultivation. There are plenty of other epiphytic orchids in spiny forests that aren't in cultivation because their flowers aren't showy. They should all be in cultivation. And we should get paid to grow them.

Because Sobennikoffia robusta is so awesome...I sacrificed and bought a community pot of it (this is the stage after they've come out of the flask and have already adjusted)...even though I had already had one...

Hoya pachyclada,  Sobennikoffia robusta and Platycerium veitchii


There were around 15 or so individuals in the community pot. I carefully separated them and used fishing line to tightly attach each one directly (without any moss) to a 10" or so section of old trellis wood. Then I tried to put them in what I felt was the most suitable range of microhabitats. The range was from less water to more water and bright light to more direct sun. Most have put out nice fat roots and grown really well. None have rotted...some of the smaller ones have withered a bit...maybe they would have been fine if I had given them more TLC or they had been kept in the flask longer. Or they might just be marginally less fit individuals.

How much direct sun can Sobennikoffia robusta take? How much drought can it take? How much cold can it take? These are all good questions. Another good question is...what other monopodial orchids can it be crossed with?

Monopodial orchids are strange because you can make these intergeneric crosses that, based on morphological differences and geographical distances, you really wouldn't guess would be possible. Well...many sympodial orchids are kinda like this too I suppose...but I don't know of any sympodial orchids from different continents in different genera that you can successfully hybridize.

For example here are some crosses that have been made with Neofinetia falcata (an epiphytic, cold tolerant, monopodial orchid from Japan). I'd be surprised if you couldn't cross Neofinetia falcata with the Ghost Orchid. Dendrophylax lindenii is our most famous orchid...and one of three? monopodial orchids native to the US.

Should the cross be tried? Sure, why wouldn't we want a more cold tolerant Ghost Orchid? We should also cross the Ghost Orchid with Sobennikoffia robusta. Put it in as many vehicles as possible in order to maximize the chances of it making the future a more awesome place.

I put quite a bit of effort, skill and knowledge to work trying to ensure that my Sobennikoffia robustas thrive. So that hopefully someday I can pass some hardy crosses on to Stan and plenty of other people.

I'd definitely do the same thing with the Yemen orchid...Angraecum dives. But I'd try even harder.

It's really weird to think though that just because Angraecum dives occurs naturally in Yemen...that this is the best location for it. It's like those people who marry their high school sweethearts. Chances are extremely good that there are more efficient allocations...
It is one thing to postulate universal rationality in human decision-making; it is another thing (and, in our view quite unjustified) simply to assume as an empirical matter that all human decisions are at all times universally arranged in equilibrium patterns. (To assume that no married person could change mates and become better off thus appears as a totally unjustified and unrealistic assumption... - Israel M Kirzner
To assume that no plant could change locations and become better off thus appears as a totally unjustified and unrealistic assumption.

Refute that. Good luck.

I can't say it's selfish or arrogant to desire to keep plants more or less in their current locations...but I'm pretty sure it's ignorant. It's like believing that randomly determining the location of Angraecum dives in my yard would produce the most desirable outcome. One location is not as good as any. Some locations are better than others. We all know this.

It's like being really drunk in a bar, closing your eyes, spinning 20 times and throwing a dart. Chances are really good that it's not going to hit the bull's eye. The allocation probably won't be very efficient. In other words...its placement probably won't create any value. It would be a mistake...like marrying the wrong person.

Check out this mistake graph I created...




Every single allocation of your resources will create/destroy value for you (x axis horizontal) and others (y axis vertical). Every single allocation of Angraecum dives in my yard will create/destroy value for myself/others. The closer to 10,10...the more efficient the allocation. The closer to -10,-10 the less efficient the allocation.

The current allocation of Angraecum dives falls somewhere on this graph.  Its allocation creates/destroys x value for itself and y value for others.  Can its allocation be improved?  Can it be made more efficient?  Yes, it could definitely create more value for itself and myself if its current allocation included my garden.

As you might be able to guess...on flickr nearly all my contacts upload photos of neat and interesting plants...which is why I follow them on flickr.  So it's kinda rare and surprising to see people where plants usually are!  Just recently there wasn't just one person...there were two!  Both posing with round objects of interest...




This image I captured is found art for sure.

The guy is in New Zealand and the girl is in Central America.  Chances are good that they weren't high school sweethearts.  Chances are good that they'll never meet.  As such, they'll never know how much value their friendship would have created/destroyed for themselves and others.

Unfortunately we can't be in multiple places at the same time...but plants can be.  And they should be...if we want to maximize their chances of survival.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sharing Plants With Cooler Friends

Comment on John Boggan's blog entry: The begonia that broke my heart

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Wow!!! Really great post!! Super nicely documented!

Do you regret not propagating it before you tested it? I'm definitely interested in tolerance as well...but if I thought some Anthurium leaf pattern was nice enough...then I probably would have propagated it before testing its limits. And a begonia is far easier to propagate than an Anthurium (unfortunately!).

Regarding lack of heat tolerance. Kartuz recently e-mailed me a link to an issue of International Rock Gardener (PDF). It has some really neat plants...including a couple of those awesome epiphytic Gesneriads from Chile (Sarmienta, Asteranthera, Mitraria) that I would love to try and grow. The title of his e-mail..."We can't grow these"...hehe. Kartuz says that they can't handle our SoCal heat but that they grow great up in San Francisco. He's probably right but I'd sure love if he was wrong!

So personally, if I had created a Begonia as beautiful but heat intolerant as yours...then I probably would have sent it to my friend Dan Newman (Hanging Gardens) in Pacifica (it's just South of San Fran on the coast). I would also have given it to my friend Dan Yansura who also lives in Pacifica. Newman has a greenhouse full of some of the neatest plants...mostly orchids and mostly cool growers...but with some other gems mixed in. Yansura has the largest collection of tree ferns that I've ever seen...around 20 or so different species all outside year around. So so amazing to see such a wide variety of tree ferns happily growing outside year around up there...many of them from unlikely countries. Right now Yansura is in Burma with some of our other friends in the LA Fern Society! I'm so jelly!!!

I'm sure that both Newman and Yansura would have really enjoyed your beautiful Begonia...and I'd be surprised if it wouldn't have thrived in their cool coastal conditions.

Of course I'm not saying that sharing it with errrr..."cooler" friends is what you should have done...I'm just saying that it's something that I probably would have done. I guess it's just something that's worth the effort for me to share with you...to perhaps keep in mind for future reference.

Are you going to keep trying the cross? The more times you try it...the greater the chances that you'll get an individual that has the best of both worlds...right? There's certainly an opportunity cost though.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Burning Bush Smelled Like Heaven

Reply to: Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners

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Well said Epi.Your tree is magnificent! Thank you - mcgave

Thanks! You're welcome to see it in person anytime you're down! And next time I'm up for the orchid expo I'll contact you to see if you need a hand with any guerrilla gardening (GG)! I can dig the hole...you can keep a lookout. Unless we have a lot of digging to do...then we should both do the digging. Haha...we could totally GG a banyon fig tree in the middle of downtown San Francisco! We'd go to jail...get tons of publicity...and GG would go viral. They'd do a movie about us...and GG would be the most popular thing ever. Nobody would be able to stand still for a second...they'd either get an epiphyte attached to them...or they'd be surrounded by Agaves...and Martha Stewart. It would be the Garden of Eden. We wouldn't be clothed in light though...we'd be clothed in plants. Then we could finally see theinvisiblegardener!

Speaking of Heaven and gardening...anybody ever see the Indie short film about a boy whose grandfather loved to garden? The grandfather was sick and knew he was going to die soon...so he told his grandson that he had to go because Jesus needed a gardener. When the grandfather passed away...the boy asked his mom why she was so sad...she said that it was because his grandfather was gone. The grandson said that it was ok because he was in heaven gardening. It's been a LONG time since I saw it...so not sure if that's exactly how it went.  Definitely remember getting choked up though.  I gardened all the time with my grandfather when I was growing up. I'd love to watch the short film again. Last time I Google searched for it I totally failed to find it. Ummm...I'm very vaguely thinking that it might have been from New Zealand.

Also speaking of loss and Heaven...when I was stationed in Afghanistan I saw a burning bush. It was some sort of legume in the middle of the desert. The bush was covered in sunshine yellow blossoms...and it smelled just like Heaven.

 I took a photo of it...but it doesn't do it justice...

Burning Bush Smelled Like Heaven

It's one of my biggest regrets that I didn't make more effort to try and get seeds of this.  Not sure how much money we've given Afghanistan...but however much it is...importing this species would be more than enough repayment. Anybody want to civic crowdfund me to go get some seeds?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Man Man Zou - The Species Richness Standard

Reply to: Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners

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Your experiment would subject others to your interest. Do they want that? I believe your interest is really in the lowest minority. - Olneya

Here's one of my interests...

Sinningia cardinalis and Hoya serpens


I think it's a pretty decent amount of diversity. And yes, clearly I want to subject others to this interest of mine. Why? Because I'm as certain as I'll ever be that the world would be a better place if more people shared this interest.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nature is Going to Pick the Winner

Reply to: a horribly ambitious and terribly long project

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SOS: Carlos, you assume you speak for many.

Xero: Where do I assume to speak for many? Quote me please.

SOS: I don't want some terrible intergeneric hybrid take the place of a species. Many of these have come and gone so quickly you've never seen them because they were as I said, terrible. Terrible looking flowers, lousy growers, and nowhere near an improvement on the species.

Xero: I'm trying to find aspects of this that are actually relevant. If Sobenniphylax was a terrible grower...then how could it possibly beat Dendrophylax lindenii? Perhaps Sobenniphylax is a horribly slow grower...but it's far more cold tolerant than Dendrophylax lindenii. In this case perhaps the tortoise could beat the hare.

If Sobenniphylax beat Dendrophylax lindenii...then you can say that Sobenniphylax is a terrible terrible monster...but clearly nature decided that it's more fit. So you can subjectively hate it all you'd like...but it's a "better" plant by nature's standards.

SOS: If you're really that honest about lindenii (or any other species) being just a small bit of genetic code, please tell the course that need be taken to derive that out of hybrids? Every species grower grasps that simple concept that you can remake a Cattleya Mini Purple with a walkeriana and a pumila. How do you get either species back out if one were to become non existent? Your hypothetical Sobenikoffia x Dendrophylax is much the same problem.

Xero: Seriously guy? You're not thinking things through. If walkeriana somehow becomes extinct...well at least you have 50% of its genetic material in Mini Purple.

Whose responsibility is it though to ensure that walkeriana doesn't go extinct? Yours? How many divisions of your walkeriana have you shared with your plant friends?

SOS: If I have a Cattleya briegeri and Cattleya bradei and I make 1000 plants and even 10% are survived in other's collections. Someone uses one of those breeds ((briegeri x bradei)x briegeri). I've been studying Hoffmansegella for years and I will be honest, I probably couldn't tell that hybrid apart from a briegeri. Imagine that is what is then accepted as briegeri. I don't know if you include that in the way you analogize the book of Chronicles to how you think your epiphytic world acts, but it would be a great loss to me and many other if that fictitious briegeri took the place of the real deal. I don't want to breed or make conservation efforts with a plant that is 75% the species. What you propose seems in great conflict to how I see that issue.

Xero: If the pseudo briegeri replaces the real briegeri in the wild...then clearly its fitter. If the pseudo briegeri replaces the real briegeri in cultivation...then it's not so clear that it was fitter. Perhaps it was simply prettier.

The AOS and their stupid judging encourages survival of the prettiest. So we end up with pansies...orchids that wouldn't survive a day in the wild. Do you want a proliferation of pansies? Not me. I want orchids to get tougher and tougher...not softer and weaker.

I want fitter orchids. This is the part you don't seem to have a handle on. Species are great because nature has found them to be fit...but if a hybrid can outperform its parents in nature...then it has a better combination of traits. It has a better chance of surviving. It has a better chance of making our future brighter.

SOS: Next, how can you so boldly say that your intergeneric hybrid would have no effect on standing populations of lindenii? Do you know that a back cross wouldn't happen? Do you know that it wouldn't create a greater vector for disease or insect that would threaten the plants?

Xero: I said that Sobenniphylax would have no effect on standing populations of lindenii? I don't think I said that. I have no idea if Sobenniphylax is even possible...so I couldn't possibly know whether or not a back cross would occur.

How could Sobenniphylax create a greater vector for disease or insects? Are you imagining a large population of Sobenniphylax existing in the wild? If so, how did the population get so large if it's so susceptible to disease and pests? Again, this all falls under the basic concept of "fitness".

I don't know which one is the fittest... Sobennikoffia robusta or Dendrophylax lindenii or some hybrid. But it should stand to reason that we should want to find out. Let's have nature sort them out.

Orchids throw a lot of combinations at nature. Each seed pod contains a gazillion seeds...and each seed is a unique combination of inputs. Obviously it's a pretty effective strategy. If you throw enough ideas out there then chances are that some will be winners.

The goal is to discover who the winners are. This means constantly challenging the reigning champs. We don't want to limit their exposure to competition. We don't want to give them immunity because they are incumbent. On the contrary, we should be facilitating competition. The more creative destruction...the greater the fitness of epiphytic orchids...the more secure their future. The term for this is antifragile.

SOS: I'm all for making Glicenstein hybrids and finding out novel new crosses but when you don't give a shit about the progeny of them as long as you see them hiking, eating lunch on a cafe patio, etc. it makes a very big difference. Read about Euglossine bees and their impact on creating natural hybrids in a short manner of time. The pollinator for lindenii isn't that aggressive that the bee is, but to assume that it's ok to introduce whatever the hell you like into nature because it's got a specific relationship in germinating with a specific fungus or specific pollinator, you're wrong. If you wanted to go put some cuthbertsonii hybrids next to wild populations of the species because you can, I implore you to rethink your role in anthropocentrism.

Xero: Again and again...if I put hybrid cuthbertsoniis next to a wild population...then nature is going to pick the winner. Nature is going to vote for whichever combination of inputs/traits is the fittest.

Anthropocentrism is where humans decide who the winners should be. It's AOS orchid judging. That's where orchids are judged by their looks. If you're concerned with anthropocentrism...then you're really barking up the wrong tree. I want orchids to be judged by nature.

If somebody manages to create a fitter orchid...as determined by nature...then that is something that is truly worthy of award. If a hybrid cuthbertsonii beats the species by thriving in marginal habitats...then whoever created that hybrid should be recognized and praised for giving us a greater abundance of a nice and fit orchid.

The Efficient Allocation of Plants

Reply to: Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners

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The current or natural allocation of plants is perfect? Imagine we go to the Canary Islands and mark the boundary of Aeonium nobile with yellow caution tape. We'll have somebody regularly walk the perimeter to ensure that none of them escape. If a seedling is found outside the perimeter...then it would be summarily and promptly removed.

Hawaii doesn't have any native epiphytic orchids. This represents the best allocation of epiphytic orchids? Did they get the memo? From what I can tell they very irresponsibly release their seeds into the wind. Each capsule contains a gazillion seeds...so it's only a matter of time before some lucky species manages to infiltrate Hawaii.

When a new island forms...and it doesn't have any plants...then it's perfect just as it is?

What about Johnny Appleseed? What was he thinking? Going around sowing apple seeds everywhere. Now the allocation of apples is horribly inefficient.

It's pretty much the same thing with the wild parrots that we have here in Southern California. When the fruit is ripe on my fig tree...each morning the parrots gorge themselves and then they fly around squawking and pooping the seeds everywhere. It seems like they want more fig trees. Maybe that's what they're squawking? "We need fig trees here...and here...and over there...and over there...!!!"

When I moved into my house...the front yard was all lawn. St Augustine had a monopoly on the space. Before this land was developed...I wonder how many different plants the space contained? I'd bet good money that it didn't have as many species as it does now.

The interest is greater diversity. Nature does not believe that California is diverse enough. As we speak...Mexican plants are making the journey to California. Lots of plants are migrating north. From the perspective of nature...there is no such a thing as "Mexico" or "California"...there's only space...and plants are all about the conquest of space.

So it's rather unnatural to try and preserve or conserve the current level of plant diversity here in California. It'd be like Noah closing the doors of his boat when it was only 1% full.

We've got space for Aeonium nobile and Aloe dichotoma. I think it would be irresponsible if I didn't sow some dichotoma seeds the next time I went on a hike. Unfortunately I don't have any. My dichotoma is painfully slow. Then again, I don't have any seeds from my Hercules either...and he's painfully fast. I do have a gazillion thraskii seedlings...but I'm pretty sure nature would deem them unfit to survive on their own...given that they require summer rain. That's where the diversity bottleneck is.

But it might be a fun experiment to see how long I could keep a thraskii seedling alive for in the foothills of Pasadena. I'd have to water it around once a week during summer. If it managed to grow above the surrounding scrub...I wonder how tall it could get before somebody removed it? Whoever removed it...would their motive be "preservation" or collection? Would anybody stop them on the way down and challenge the removal? "No no, it's ok, it's not a native. It's not invasive though...some idiot must have been watering it during summer."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Posting Flickr Photos on Forums

Inspired by this thread...Hardy Cactus Gets A Workout  

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How to share your flickr photos in your BB code plant forums...


  1. Click the "Share this photo" icon
  2. Click the pin 
  3. Select the photo size
  4. Click on the text 
  5. Hit Ctrl + A to select all the text
  6. Hit Ctrl + C to copy the text
  7. Hit Ctrl + V to paste it into your forum post
  8. Preview your post to check that the image displays correctly
Because...sharing is caring!!!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Questionable Uses of Society's Limited Resources

Reply to: Proposed changes to UK nursery regulation

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It doesn't seem like you have to register plants that you trade with other people.  Well...as long as you're not a professional operator.   Maybe we should have to register plants that we trade with each other.  Then perhaps the government can send me a notification before I give Aeschynanthus speciosus to Monica for the 12th time.  I visited her and noticed Aeschynanthus speciosus growing here...and there...and there...and there...  And at first I thought that she had done so well with it that she had been able to spread it around her yard.  But then I realized that I had on several occasions unwittingly given her cuttings of Aeschynanthus speciosus.  If I had remembered that I had already given her a cutting then I wouldn't have offered it to her again.  I would have offered it to Steve instead.  Because it's not like I have enough of it that I could give 12 cuttings to each of my plant friends.  I wish I did have that much of it.  Epiphyllum strictum is a different story.  I have enough to give 20 cuttings to each of my plant friends.  But Aeschynanthus speciosus looks far better in a tree.  

I'd also like it if the government could remind me to collect pollen from my Aeschynanthus evrardii.  I'd like to try and cross it with Aeschynanthus gracilis "Pagoda Roof".  I have no idea if that cross is even possible...as the plants seem fairly dissimilar.

Speaking of which, it would be nice if the government created a database of every single cross that anybody has tried and whether it was successful or not.  I'd hate to waste my time trying to reinvent the wheel.  Plus, the database has to have a photo of all the crosses...and of the parents.

I'd also like to see a list of all the plants grown outdoors year around within a 50 mile radius of where I live.  There might already be a website that does this.  But I want it to be mandatory.  I think we'd appreciate the nudge.

With all that data...it shouldn't be too hard to learn my plant preferences and offer some excellent plant recommendations.  Of course the recommendations should be heavily influenced by biodiversity considerations.  If there aren't enough tropical blueberries in cultivation...then my recommendations should be prioritized accordingly.

The government should really facilitate ex-situ conservation.  Like, they should show up at our doors with awesome and rare plants.  They'll pay us even.  The amount of money they give us would be determined by how rare a plant is.  Of course the government will conduct random visits to ensure that the plants are thriving.

The government should also pay us every time we propagate a plant.  The more rare a plant is, the more money we should get paid each time we increase the population of the plant.  A future where all plants are equally abundant?  That's a lot of regulation.

When I worked in the public sector...I accomplished things.  The same thing is true when I worked in the private sector.  I also accomplished things.  The difference is how my activities were determined.  In the private sector...my activities were determined by demand...but in the public sector my activities were determined by the demands of congress.  Clearly they aren't the same thing.  Demand is when I buy Aeschynanthus speciosus from Kartuz Nursery.  I put my money where my mouth is and this provided the funds for all the necessary associated activities.  The way that society's limited resources were used matched my preferences.

The demands of congress are a different story.  Clearly they don't accurately reflect my preferences.  How could they?  The government doesn't yet monitor my purchases...even if they could...just because I purchased Aeschynanthus speciosus once doesn't mean that I'll purchase it again.  So because congress can't possibly know the preferences of the people...there's a huge gap between how society's limited resources are used...and how they should be used.

There's nothing inherently wrong with having the government do something.  We can have the government do things that societies and companies and individuals are doing and could be doing.  No problem...as long as we replace the demands of congress with the actual demand.  Then we can have soldiers regularly patrol our gardens for slugs and snails...if that's something that we'd actually choose to spend our taxes on.

So if the government comes up with certain activities that don't match your preferences...then you could simply spend your tax dollars on other governmental activities.  Given that all government organizations will want to be funded...it would behoove them to do things that will attract the most positive feedback (tax dollars).

Because sending a letter to some politician doesn't quite communicate our preferences as effectively as just not spending our taxes on a new government program.  And this really won't be the last time that the government comes up with some questionable uses of society's limited resources.  

"Your use of this resource is questionable"...that's what I'd tell somebody if I visited them and noticed that they had planted a Cattleya in the ground.  "Your use of this resource is questionable".  I'd tell that to anybody here in Southern California who doesn't have at least one epiphyte on each of their trees.  "Your use of this resource is questionable."

There are a multitude of questionable uses of society's limited resources.  In fact, most uses of any given resource are questionable.  So it's really not easy to see which ones are most sensical.  Orchids were originally used as packing material.  Not sure if that's true but we should let people avoid what they believe to be questionable and pursue what they believe to make the most sense.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Selaginella Doesn't Smell Like Vanilla

Reply to: a horribly ambitious and terribly long project

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The other day my hummingbird tried to cross my bougainvillea with my geranium.  The other day I tried to cross my Psychilis krugii with my Sophronitis brevipedunculata*.

The hummingbird and I are having a competition to see who can create the best crosses.  He's probably winning by virtue of creating far more crosses than I do.  Sure, I can cross more things than he can...but he's got the heart of a champion...while I have the heart of a dreamer.  Plus, he's not limited by minor details such as walls, fences, other people's property...

So if a tree Aloe starts naturalizing here in Southern California...chances are good that the hummingbird can take all the credit...errr...blame.  Same thing with Tillandsias.  And Echeverias...and Aeoniums.  

If an Aeonium naturalizes...sure...it would compete with the natives.  Would it compete our Dudleyas out of existence?

We definitely wouldn't have to worry about a Tillandsia competing the natives out of existence.  We have perhaps one native epiphyte...a fern...but I don't think a fern would be completely beat by a Tillandsia.

Should Southern California have only one epiphyte in the wild?  Is that the argument that some are making?  I think we should have 100 different epiphytes completely naturalized here.  Naw, who am I kidding?  I wish there was an infinite variety of epiphytes growing on the trees here.

Not just here of course...but everywhere.  I want to climb our mountains and see Tillandsias and orchids growing on Methuselah trees.  I want to fly to Arizona and see Tillandsias and orchids growing on Saguaros.  And when I fly to Florida I want to be amazed by the diversity of epiphytes on all the trees.  When I'm driving anywhere I should strongly desire to stop the car every 10 feet because I know that I'll be dumbstruck by the variety of epiphytes growing on any tree.  I guess I'd just have to walk everywhere.  It would probably take me forever to go anywhere because every 10 feet I'd look up and say "woah" and use my Google Glasses Go to share the 10 minute video on my facebook page where billions of my followers would all say "woah".  Heathens would wonder what all the "woahing" was about.

How's the argument go?   We have enough species of epiphytic orchids in Florida?  Or is the argument that Southern Florida should have more species than Northern Florida?  Or is the argument that the population size of each species is perfect?  Maybe the argument is that the perfect amount of trees in Florida have the perfect amount of Encyclia tampensis?

Heaven forbid Encyclia tampensis end up in Georgia...right?  I went to infantry boot camp there...Ft. Benning.  I remember eating a wild persimmon before it was ripe enough.  :(  I was always hungry in bootcamp.

So there I would have been...my stomach grumbling...I see a tree with persimmons.  As I grab a persimmon I spot an Encyclia tampensis blooming on the branch.  *woah*   Good thing that never happened.

Good thing it only happened once when I was stationed in Panama.  There we were...struggling, slipping, sliding single file through the dense jungle.  Each of us carrying around 100 pounds...sweat dripping...wait a minute vines...black palm spines...crazy caterpillars... and then just one time...right in front of me was an orchid in bloom on a tree.  *woah*  I turned to my buddy behind me, pointed at the orchid and said "woah".  For some reason he wasn't dumbstruck.  It wasn't magical for him.  The jungle wasn't transformed into a cathedral where the holy of most holies could burn his eyes.  He didn't realize he was suddenly in the presence of the sacred.  What a heathen.

What orchid was it?  That's a good question because...some orchids are more magical than others?  How unmagical would it have been if the orchid had been Sobennikoffia robusta?  Maybe at least -100 on the magic scale.  The thousands and thousands of trees I passed without a single orchid on them were far more magical.  The first thing that would have popped into my head was my grandfather saying, "a place for everything and everything in its place".

Me: Hey you!  You're in the wrong place!
Robusta:  What's wrong with this place?
Me: Clearly it's not Madagascar
Robusta:  So?  I'm an epiphyte, my place is on a tree.  This is a tree so this is my place.
Me: But you're crowding out the native orchids.
Robusta:  *looks around*  You think there's a long line for this real estate?

Oh, now I really want to cross Sobennikoffia robusta with Dendrophylax funalis.  If I lived in Florida and did the cross...then heaven forbid the horror show should escape into the wild.  Sobenniphylax would take all of Dendrophylax lindenii's real estate.  Even worse if they crossed?  Heaven forbid I artificially create a fitter monopodial orchid that spread like soft butter over warm bread.  Eh?

The 11th commandment...

Thou shalt not create a fitter monopodial orchid.

God works in mysterious ways?  So does my hummingbird.  I really don't think he's all there though.

If we care about the continued existence of monopodial orchids...shouldn't we be striving to create fitter ones?  Survival depends on fitness and fitness depends on the combination of "inputs".  Therefore we limit fitness by limiting possible input combinations.

Limiting input combinations is putting too many eggs in the same basket.  It's making the argument that a certain combination of inputs provides sufficient fitness.  No, there are always better combinations of inputs.  This is because the earth is always getting hotter, colder, drier, wetter...it's always changing.  If we want more, rather than less, orchids in the future...given that we don't have a crystal ball...it would behoove us to hedge our bets.

Maybe the future will be too dry and hot for Dendrophylax funalis, Dendrophylax lindenii and Sobennikoffia robusta...but just right for Sobenniphylax?  Nobody can know now whether this is true.  But we can know that we decrease our chances of success by limiting the combination of inputs.

Imagine a tree with many different epiphytes.  It's swarming with many different pollinators.  Each one conducting countless crazy crosses.  Now imagine a myriad of these trees/laboratories.  This is how we hedge our bets.  This is how we try and ensure that the future is as magical as possible.  

So please cross lindenii with...

Aerangis somalensis
Angraecum erectum
Campylocentrum
Chiloschista
Cleisostoma
Cyrtorchis
Gastrochilus formosanus
Jumellea
Microcoelia
Neofinetia falcata
Papilionanthe teres
Pelatantheria insectifera
Phalaenopsis taenialis
Plectorrhiza tridentata
Rangaeris
Renanthera imschootiana
Rhynchostylis retusa
Sarcochilus
Sobennikoffia
Vanda coerulea/tricolor

Attach the crosses to your trees and let's learn which combination of inputs creates the fittest individual.  Whichever one makes it to Ft. Benning first is the winner.  Whichever orchid distracts hungry/tired soldiers the longest is the winner.  Whichever orchid creates the most magic is the winner.

*doesn't taste like an enchilada...and Selaginella doesn't smell like Vanilla

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Vertical Garden For Your Desk!

How many of you are already familiar with the concept of vertical gardens?  Here's a vertical garden that I took a photo of at Flora Grubb nursery in San Francisco...


Flora Grubb Vertical Garden Succulents


Flora Grubb is a really neat nursery because it's by far the most vertically oriented nursery that I know of.

A significant portion of the growing popularity of vertical gardens stems from the spectacular vertical gardens of Patrick Blanc.  He's created vertical gardens all over the world and written a book on the subject...The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City.   If you look on his website under "Inspiration" you'll see a link to a page that he has dedicated to photos of epiphytes in nature.

A couple decades before Patrick Blanc started creating vertical gardens...Bill Paylen created an amazing vertical garden here in Southern California.  Unlike Blanc though, trees, rather than walls, were Paylen's canvas.  You can read about his garden here...Growing Orchids Outdoors in Southern California.

Even though I lived relatively close to Bill Paylen, I had no idea he even existed until many years later.  So as a high school kid I killed countless Cattleyas while struggling to reinvent the wheel.  But I finally managed to learn the basics.  Here's a recent photo of my tree...


Cattleya Portia coerulea


Whether a garden is on a tree...or a wall...I love it!  Vertical gardens allow so much more value and interest to be added to a space!  Needless to say I was really excited when I recently learned about a project that can go a long way to helping people think epiphytically.

Up in Washington a fellow named Everett Carney (Alive and Modern) created a living wall that can easily fit on a desk.  There's no pump...water works its way up the wall via wicking (capillary action).  Initially I thought that plants could be attached to both sides of the wall...but it turns out that they can only be planted on one side.  Perhaps a two sided model will be available in the future if there's sufficient demand.


Living Wall Final


As many of you already know...part of the challenge of growing plants mounted indoors is that you have to worry about water dripping everywhere.  Everett's living wall provides an effective solution to this problem.  Plus, it's really easy to attach plants to the wall...





I haven't yet had a chance to test the wall out for myself...but the concept is solid and definitely worth supporting.  The world would certainly be a much better place if more walls and trees had a wide range of plants growing on them!

If you'd like this project to succeed...then here are some ways that you can help...
To be clear, I am not affiliated with this project in any formal/official way.  I'm helping to promote it because I love the idea of making vertical gardens really simple, accessible and low maintenance.  As it stands, the desktop living wall isn't cheap ($135 with shipping included)...but if there's sufficient demand...the cost should come down over time.

I'll share a link to this thread with Everett so please feel free to reply with any questions or suggestions.  If you have any photos of vertical gardens I'd certainly love to see them!

Here are some links that might be of some interest...
Are there any other "outside the pot" pages that you find inspiring?

Growing Plants Epiphytically - General Overview

The following overview of growing plants epiphytically is a combination of the following posts of mine...

An Orchid on Every Tree
Epiphyte Grand Prix
Mounting Mediums
CAM Orchids

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Plant selection...the more frequently you're willing to water, the greater the variety of plants that you can grow on your tree. The less frequently you water, the more storage/succulence a plant must have to thrive on your tree. Lately I've taken to fondling leaves to gauge stiffness/succulence. How quickly a plant wilts is also a pretty good indicator of how it might do on a tree.  But don't be afraid to experiment!

Epiphytes are naturally a good choice to start with but they range from plants with absolutely no storage capacity to plants that can go weeks without water. Some examples of drought tolerant epiphytes include CAM orchids and many atmospheric Tillandsias. Cliff dwellers and terrestrial succulents are also great candidates.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hoyas/Dischidias Outdoors in Southern California?

Posted this on some forums back in April....

Garden Web - Hoya Forum - Cold Tolerant Hoyas/Dischidias
Garden Web - California Forum - Cold Tolerant Hoyas/Dischidias
Growing on the Edge - Cold Tolerant Hoyas/Dischidias
PalmTalk - Cold Tolerant Hoyas/Dischidias?
Flickr - Epiphytes Group - Cold Tolerant Hoyas/Dischidias?

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Hi Folks,

Which species of Hoyas and Dischidias have people in Southern California (and similar climates) been growing outdoors year around? I've been interested in epiphytic plants for quite some time now but it wasn't until last year that I really started to branch out into Hoyas and Dischidias.

Here's a partial list of plants that I had outside in Glendale this last winter. One night it got down to at least 32F. All of them are mounted and a few are covered in plastic. I plan on propagating the ones covered in plastic so that I can try divisions under shade cloth.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Plants for Auction at LA Fern Society 15 Nov 2013

For those of you epiphyte enthusiasts in the Los Angeles area...this Friday at 7:30 pm is the fern society meeting at the LA Arboretum. The topic will be 40 awesome orchids! I'll be there with a few extra plants to silent auction off...

Cattleya Portia coerulea Mounted

Kalanchoe 'Tessa'? - Mounted on a wooden plank. Epiphytic hanging plant from Madagascar. Nice reddish blooms.

Villadia elongata - Mounted on a wooden plank. Neat little succulent that you rarely see in collections. It's perfect for a hanging basket because its stems will hang down indefinitely. During the colder months the entire plant turns a nice reddish color.  Here it is growing epiphytically...

Sedum album and Villadia elongata Growing Epiphytically

Hoya NOID - Mounted on a wooden plank. Don't know which one it is but it sure is an easy grower. Never seen it bloom but it's a very neat little climber. Tolerant of drought and cold.  Here it is growing on my tree...

Hoya NOID

Echeveria gibbiflora? - Mounted on a wooden plank. Will turn into the biggest Echeveria you've ever seen. The "trunk" on my original plant is nearly 3 feet tall. When it blooms the flower stalk goes up another 3 feet.  Here's a seedling on my tree...

Begonia boliviensis growing Epiphytically

Cattleya Portia coerulea (Cattleya labiata x Cattleya bowringiana) - Mounted on a wooden plank. It's been growing outside for several years. Easy bloomer.  Here it is blooming on my tree...

Cattleya Portia coerulea

Bromeliad NOID - Nice reddish color when given bright light. Pretty prolific. In Southern California...in order to minimize the chances of winter rot...I recommend just placing epiphytic Bromeliads in pots without any medium.

Bromeliad NOID


Heliconia angusta - Bare root division. Smaller growing Heliconia with red and white flowers. Great tropical plant for Southern California

Tillandsias - A grab bag of various Tillandsias.

The starting bid for all plants will only be $1. Whoever writes down the highest bid for a plant by the end of the meeting will win it.

Plus I'll be giving away a plethora of Plectranthus cuttings.

Plectranthus NOID

Within a couple of weeks I plan on giving away a TON of extra plants. I have way too many duplicates...mature Banana plants, Epiphyllums, Bromeliads, succulents and many more. Check out my Flickr page to see more of the kind of plants that I grow outside year around. If you're interested just contact me on flickr and I'll e-mail you with the details.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Efficacy of CITES

My reply to VERY ILLEGAL!!!!!!!!...

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Breaking the law is breaking the law unfortunately, how ever stupid the law is. However, what I'm worried about with CITEs is the way it makes all the plants stay in one location. If the plants are not widespread in cultivation, and some natural disaster wipes out there natural home, what then? The only reason lots of people want to poach them from the wild is because they're not common in cultivation, so although restricting how you can sell seeds is maybe helping, in the long run it's just making them more rarer in cultivation, so people who do get away with poaching are making more money off them, and will want to do it more. Which is REALLY helping the situation.

If a lot of the seeds and plants were in cultivation, then they'd be worth no more than any other sarr, so a lot of the poaching would go down, because who would go to the trouble of poaching 'common' plants?

Just my two cents worth:) - kath (context)

I largely agree with this. If there's one thing I recommend to plant enthusiasts it's to not keep all their eggs in the same basket.

When it comes to dissemination...incentives matter. It takes time, energy and effort to disseminate a plant. All that time and energy could be put to other uses. Therefore the benefit of distributing a plant has to exceed the opportunity cost in order for the effort to be "worth" it.

So if you want a plant to go from rare/scarce to common/abundant...then respect and appreciate the profit involved. Without that incentive...the alternative uses of people's time and energy become more attractive. Without profit, there's not enough incentive to figure out how to take something that's scarce and make it more abundant. Without profit, there's no way to truly know what other people value. Resources can't flow in the most valuable directions if we don't know what people truly value.

Regarding the efficacy of CITES...here are some passages from Harold Koopowitz's book Orchids and their Conservation...
The chance that [CITES] listing would even help in their rescue from extinction is uncertain and the lists become difficult to regulate if they become too cumbersome. Many of the species referred to here are not threatened by trade but by land conversion and deforestation. In addition, other species will become extinct without our ever being aware that they were threatened, while others will become extinct without us even being aware of their existence. One can predict that, as the ineffectiveness of CITES to save species becomes ever more widely appreciated, the reluctance to support the convention will become more evident.
The usual pattern, however, is more like that of Zambia where it is legal to turn a branch bearing live orchids into charcoal but it is illegal to take the orchids off the branch to export before burning the wood.
Consider another scenario. You are a professor at a major university and one of your doctoral students calls from Costa Rica. He has picked up some orchid plants from broken branches on the forest floor. The usual fate of orchids that fall is premature death. This is a young man who is intensely committed to conservation and hates to see anything die. You have to tell him to abandon the plants because it would be too difficult for him to get CITES papers.
Could the money have been better spent? The amount of money spent annually to enforce CITES must be enormous. To this must be added the cost of travelling to the various meetings of committees and conventions. If only part of the money spent on CITES over the last 25 years had been made available to actual and real conservation activities, such as buying up forested lands or policing preserves, the world would now be a better place and conservation would have been far better served.
The question is...how much does America value in-situ conservation? Well...we can tally how much money people give to non-profit organizations dedicated to purchasing/protecting habitats. But surely some people feel like some portion of their tax dollars are being used to protect endangered species. Perhaps they don't make donations to conservation non-profits because they feel that they are already contributing via their taxes.

The solution is to allow taxpayers to choose where their taxes go. It's the solution in the sense that it would allow us to determine exactly where America's heart is. Where people put their treasure reveals where their heart is. The Bible got that one right.

Step 1: Allow people to choose where their taxes go Step 2: Discern the disparity between where America's heart is and where it should be Step 3: Disseminate the relevant information to try and help people change their priorities

To learn more please read this tax choice FAQ.

Now, how many countries have a government organization dedicated to protecting the environment? What are the chances that all of them are equally effective? What are the chances that all habitats are equally important/valuable? I think that people shouldn't be limited to only giving taxes to their government...they should be free to give their taxes to any government. So if you think that the Brazilian EPA is creating more value than our EPA is...then you should be free to allocate your taxes accordingly. This would be a global free trade agreement for public goods.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Epiphytic Ant Plants Outdoors in Southern California?

What epiphytic ant plants are those of you in Southern California (and similar climates) growing outside year around?

Here's my reply to Anyone else growing ant plants? Lecanopteris, myrmecodia...

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I was super happy when Myrmecodia beccarii survived its first winter outside. It got down to at least 32F. Unfortunately, it only put out two new leaves this summer. But it didn't lose many so that's a good thing.

It's mounted on a wooden plank that's covered with a fairly thin layer of New Zealand Sphagnum. During summer I water it at night but it dries out during the day. It probably wants more moisture but it's always safer to err on the side of too much drainage.

I also have Dischidia major. It's mounted just like the M. beccarii. It's grown really great this summer. This will be the first winter that I'll test it outside.

What I plan on doing with all of my "test" Hoyas/Dischidias is cutting off all their new growth which I'll propagate inside the house in clear storage bins covered in clear plastic by the windows. In previous years the new growth would get killed by the cold and this would open the door for miniature monsters to rush in and kill the plant.

Not sure if this Dischidia is really an ant plant...

Ficus Bonsai  With Dischidia cleistantha 2

Dermatobotrys saundersii and Anthurium scandens Growing Epiphytically

I've had quite a bit of success with Myrmecophilas. Because they are CAM orchids I don't use any moss when I attach them to boards. Plus, I try and give them as much full sun as possible.

Pachycentria glauca did pretty great during the summer...but it really didn't like my fall decrease in watering frequency. It didn't help that mine were just recently established cuttings. I'd like to try growing them from seed to see if there's any drought tolerance variation between the seedlings.

I also tried an ant fern...it made a bit of growth during summer but then deteriorated during winter. It made it to spring but didn't have any energy left to hold on for summer. So it wasn't the cold that killed it...it was a lack of warmth. It might have survived in the warmest spot in my garden.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Epiphyte on Every Desk - Desktop Living Walls

My reply to Desktop Living Wall...

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Bladerunner is one of my favorite movies...but I'd much prefer it if the future looked more like the movie Avatar. Your project is a step in the right direction!

Not sure how much additional exposure it will bring...but I added this forum thread and your kickstarter project to the group for epiphytes on reddit. Hopefully others will rate the links up!

If you haven't already seen them...Jamie North's epiphytic installations are worth checking out.

One thing I highly recommend doing is contacting all the plant vendors who would benefit from the success of your project. Perhaps you can create a page on your website "Plant Sources" or "Plant Vendors" and list the nurseries according to how much they've contributed to your project.

Ideally each nursery should have one (or more) of your desktop living walls so their customers can see it in person. People could see (and purchase) plants that the nurseries are successfully growing on your walls. Brochures should be available to anybody who was interested in learning more.

This Saturday I'll be bringing a ton of new plants down to Kartuz Greenhouses. While there I'll be sure to recommend your project to him. I'll also contact my other favorite vendors (Andy's Orchids, SBOE, Hanging Gardens) and share the links with them as well. If you'd like you can PM me your e-mail address so that I can share it with them so that they can contact you directly. Of course Bonnie should be totally down to try out your desktop wall.

Personally, Tillandsias really wouldn't have been the first thing that I would have tried to grow on your wall. They wouldn't even have been the second, third, fourth (and so on) plants that I would have wanted to try. Would they have been the last thing I would have tried? Nope. Poison oak would be the last thing. Or stinging nettle.

Dan Newman (Hanging Gardens) has the neatest climbing miniature Begonia. It's the smallest Begonia that I've ever seen in person. I'd love to know how it would do on your wall. Microgramma tecta would be another plant that I'd love to try. How would miniature Sinningias do? It sure would be great to find out. In terms of orchids...Lepenthes calodycton is easily the first one that I'd try. A good portion of your wall's appeal will depend on the variety of awesome epiphytes that can be grown on it. PM me if you're interested in a list of recommended plants to test out.

Another promotion recommendation is to offer free presentations to all the relevant plant societies. For example, there are around a dozen or so orchid societies in Southern California and all of them are hurting for new presentation topics. Since you live in Washington...you should work out a deal with KarmaPolice. He lives super close to Kartuz Greenhouses and Andy's Orchids...so he could attach multiple epiphytes to the same branch by selling your desktop wall and suitable plants.

My fern society has a show and tell portion which I force myself to do in order to try and overcome my deathly fear of public speaking. I'd be happy to show and tell our members about your desktop wall. We also have a yearly show at the LA Arboretum. It would be pretty great exposure if you exhibited one of your walls. You could also set up a booth to sell your walls.

The Pacific Orchid Expo is the biggest orchid show on the west coast. It would be another great show to get your desktop walls into.

You should also create a page on flickr to share photos of your walls. You can add your photos to the group for living walls and the group for epiphytes.

Eventually it would be nice if you offered desktop walls in different sizes and with a way to control the wall wetting frequency. There are plenty of epiphytes that prefer to dry out between waterings. In my garden I organize my epiphytes according to watering frequency requirements. So I have a continuum of watering frequency that ranges from one section that I try and water every day to my front yard which I water once a week during summer. In terms of orchids...the continuum ranges from Dracula polyphemus to Dendrobium canaliculatum.

Let me attach another epiphyte to this branch by saying that crowdfunding sites should really allow contributors to share a link to a webpage of their choice. I think this would really encourage participation. For example, if I contributed to your kickstarter...I would have wanted my contribution to include a link to my new blog...Epiphytes and Economics.

Rather than say "kill two birds with one stone"...I'm starting to say "attach two epiphytes to the same branch". I'm also replacing "there's more than one way to skin a cat" with "there's more than one way to attach an epiphyte". If there's an epiphyte on every desk then maybe these more animal and epiphyte friendly sayings will catch on!