Saturday, December 14, 2013

We'll Make Great Plants

Reply to:  Bay Area Xeric Guerrilla Gardeners


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 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 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 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 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 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.  

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