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!!!