Thursday, December 19, 2013

Flying Pixies Sprinkling Orchid Seeds on Trees

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

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: - 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.

In order for this to happen sooner rather than later...we need to borrow the orchid family's key to success. Around 10% of all plants are orchids because they play the numbers game. Each seed pod can contain a million dust like seeds. No two seeds are exactly alike...they are all unique. They are all different. Each seed represents a different strategy. When you throw a million different strategies at nature...then you clearly increase your chances of finding successful strategies.

The thing is...what percentage of Neofinetia falcata's seeds actually end up on trees? It seems pretty straightforward that most seeds end up on the ground. The ground is a bigger target than trees are. If you close your eyes and throw a rock in a forest...chances are that you'll hit the ground rather than a tree. Therefore, many better strategies end up being wasted. And...clearly some locations are more desirable than other locations.

So let's pretend that flying pixies harvested Neofinetia falcata's seed pods and transferred the seeds to tiny bags. Then the pixies would zip around and sprinkle the dust like seeds on the best locations on the best trees.

Neofinetia falcata would end up in Northern Japan in a fraction of the time that it would have normally taken.

I wish I could watch a video of the pixies flying around sowing the orchid seeds. That would be the best anime.

While it's true that every single seed produced by Neofinetia falcata is different...just how different are they? If the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree...then well...the seed isn't going to germinate very far from the tree. If there's relatively little variation among Neofinetia's seeds...then progress is going to be relatively slow.

Fortunately, Neofinetia falcata can be crossed with many other genera of monopodial orchids. For example, you can cross Neofinetia with Angraecums. Maybe you can cross Neofinetia with any other monopodial species of orchid. Neofinetia falcata can have access to a very large pool filled with many different strategies.

Pollinator requirements aside...what are the chances that Neofinetia is the best suited monopodial orchid for Japan? If you've read the paper that davidmdzn7 shared, you'd know that the distribution of plants by no means represents the optimal distribution. Just because a plant grows in one location in your garden doesn't mean that there aren't better locations in your garden for that plant. Just because Neofinetia grows in parts of Japan, Korea and China doesn't mean that there aren't better locations for this orchid.

So I think we should cross Neofinetia falcata with as many other orchids as possible...and sow the seeds on as many different trees as possible. Playing the numbers game will minimize the amount of time it takes before all of you have the option to grow orchids on your trees.

Regarding pollinators...even if crossing Neofinetia falcata with Cyrtorchis praetermissa produces an orchid that can grow in colder parts of Japan than either parent...there's no guarantee that a pollinator will immediately pollinate the cross. This bottleneck will certainly limit its ability to naturalize.

I think this means that we really should widely distribute not only epiphytic orchids but their pollinators as well. For example, we should try and naturalize Neofinetia falcata and its pollinator in Northern Argentina. In exchange we should try and naturalize Miltonia flavescens and its pollinator in Southern Japan.

Here in the Americas we have orchid bees and hummingbirds. Should we share our pollinators with the rest of the world? I think so. But it's not like I'm going to ship my hummingbirds to Tom in Japan. Wouldn't he be surprised though if I did. He'd open the box and a dozen hummingbirds would shoot out into his house. hah. That would be a funny video.

Well...unfortunately I don't feel like I've really hit the nail on the head. I see the concept...and feel it...and I'm way too frequently reminded not to keep all my eggs in one basket. But conveying it continues to be a challenge.

If anybody would like to argue against my poorly presented position...please first read up on facilitation cascades.

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