Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tasmanian Tigers/Devils Aren't Bad Consolation Prizes

More pure theory and hypothesis.  Again, I do not support or advocate the introduction of any nonnative species.

Reply to: A Different Way To Protect The Ghost Orchid


gnathaniel, thanks for sharing those two examples.  That Galapagos story was pretty crazy.  What was the takeaway?

  • change is constant
  • Goats are bad
  • Pirates are mostly bad but they can be unintentionally good
  • Don't keep all your tortoises on one island (hedge your bets)
  • A certain intern has a very interesting resume
  • Hybrid swarms can be used to recreate the parent species
  • A Hybrid finch might be less suspectible to brain sucking maggots (hedge your bets)
  • Future biodiversity depends on how well we play God

Is that right?  Am I missing any?

That was kind of grizzly about the goats.  I really hope that all that meat didn't go to waste.

Speaking of conservation/eradication...

The Big Kill (hat tip MT)

I knew about the Moas but I didn't realize that there also use to be a giant eagle that preyed on them... Haast's eagle.  I always feel ripped off when I learn about a modern extinction...especially when it's something as cool as a giant eagle.

People in the not-so-distant past stole many valuable treasures from us. But it's hard to judge them too harshly because we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them.  As it stands, most of us are really glad that we don't have to live in "those" times.

Prior to humans visiting New Zealand, the islands didn't have any mammals other than a few bats.  As a result, birds had the opportunity to adaptively radiate into the major empty niches.  The Moas functioned as deer and the eagles functioned as wolves.

This is relevant because herclivation is based on the premise that there's an abundance of unfilled arboreal niches.  For reasons previously discussed, I've argued that we should seriously consider filling them as quickly as possible.  But, if we had somehow applied my logic to prehistoric New Zealand and filled the empty niches with deer and wolves...then Moas and Haast's eagles would never have evolved.

This does give me pause...but, then again, Tasmanian Devils and Tigers are/were pretty cool as well.

If us humans weren't around, and barring any natural disaster, in a few million years or so Florida's epiphytic diversity would probably rival the epiphytic diversity of present day Costa Rica.  And Canada would have as many epiphytic orchids as Florida currently does.

Maybe future Florida would have had a giant species of Ghost Orchid that was pollinated by a moth the size of a hawk. How crazy cool would that have been?

The not-so-minor detail is that us humans, well, we are around. Maybe in the long long run most of us will rocket away and help terraform a swath of lifeless planets.  We'll stop cramping mother nature's style here on earth and she could get back to churning out Moas and giant eagles.  But who knows when or if we'll ever make it off this planet (it depends on how long it takes people to understand that progress depends on difference).

Because wild habitats have been drastically reduced in size and's a given that the future is going to have far less biodiversity than it would have had.  So if we want the future to have more, rather than less biodiversity, then I think we need to seriously consider trying to help maximize the speciation potential of any and all habitats.  This means filling empty niches with life...which, over time, will change and adapt to the different selective pressures of the new environments.  As I've argued before, places like Florida are a good place to start because there's an abundance of unoccupied arboreal niches.

We can imagine mother nature as a scientist in a laboratory churning out new species.  Here we are on this forum because we're big fans of the orchids that she's produced.  What's important to understand is that every output, whether it's a Ghost Orchid or a Haarst eagle, depends on inputs.  The two main inputs that mother nature needs for her outputs are wild habitats and genetic material.  If either input is reduced then her output will also be reduced.  Given that we've drastically reduced the amount of wild habitat that she has to work with, mother nature's productivity will drastically suffer...unless we offset the reduction of habitat material by giving her more genetic material to work with.

So the basic function looks something like this...

xSpace * yGenes = zSpecies  

x and y are the inputs and z is the output. We've slashed x which means we need to boost y in order to avoid ripping off future generations.  They won't get Moas and Haast's eagles but they'll get Tasmanian Tigers/Devils...which are pretty cool consolation prizes.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Backstory:  The Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii, is an endangered orchid that grows on trees in the Florida Everglades (plants that grow on trees are epiphytes).  I've been fleshing out a theoretical, process based approach... "herclivation"...that could potentially facilitate this orchid's adaptive radiation into different (micro)habitats.  This approach would involve introducing its hybrids (ie Gripp's Ghost) and/or closely related species into Southern Florida.  Again, this is simply a theory. Let me make it very clear...I do not advocate or support the illegal introduction of plants or animals outside of their native habitats.  My hope here is to facilitate constructive feedback, expert or otherwise, on why this plan might not be feasible.  Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow (Linus's Law).

This blog entry is a reply to a couple replies in this forum thread... A Different Way To Protect The Ghost Orchid


lotis146, good lord is right!  You're on the 7th page?  This is only the second page for me.  Either you like clicking page numbers and waiting for pages to load...or nobody told you that you that you can change your settings in order to view more posts per page.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Controversial Approach To Protecting Florida's Ghost Orchid

Reply to Hybrid Wish List

If you'd like Dendrophylax lindenii x funalis to be more readily available then please vote here... Dendrophylax lindenii x Dendrophylax funalis (more tolerant Ghost Orchid)


Catt Mandu, you added me to your ignore list and in return I'm going to...not add you to my ignore list.  For some reason I don't think that I'd be doing myself any favors by ignoring people who I disagree with.  Perhaps it's because I've studied fallibilism enough to accept the fact that it's entirely possible that I'm wrong about most things.

Even though you're not going to see my reply (unless you log out and view this thread)...I'm going to reply to you anyways.  You brought up some points and I'm going to attempt to adequately address the relevant ones.  This being a public forum and all.

Is it far-fetched that introduced pythons would unintentionally crush Florida's Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) into extinction?  Perhaps a bit.  But I don't think it's far fetched that the introduction of a new predator could somehow indirectly harm (or benefit) the Ghost Orchid.  If you bothered to read and were able to understand the passage* by Darwin that I shared earlier, then you wouldn't think it's far fetched either.

Of course you could argue that pythons should never have been introduced in the first place.  Just like you could argue that humans should never have caused global warming.  But extinctions occurred long before us humans appeared on the scene and they will continue to occur long after we're gone.  Change is a benefits some and harms others.

Generally speaking, the narrower an organism's environmental parameters...the more likely it is to be adversely impacted by change.  And as I, and many others, can personally attest to... the Ghost Orchid is, relatively speaking, very easy to kill.  Dendrophylax funalis, by comparison, is much more tolerant of a wider range of conditions.  It will happily grow outdoors year around in warmer parts of Southern California.

Let me break this argument down...

Premise 1: Species with narrower parameters are more likely to be harmed by change.
Premise 2: The Ghost Orchid has very narrow parameters.
Conclusion: The Ghost Orchid is more likely to be harmed by change (ie climate).

In order to help protect the Ghost Orchid...assuming that this is something that we want to do...there are two possible approaches...

  1. Change the conditions to match the Ghost Orchid's preferences.
  2. Change the Ghost Orchid's preferences to match the conditions.

Either the mountain goes to Mohammed, or Mohammed goes to the mountain.

The current approach to conservation is to try and undo some of the damage that we've done to the planet.  The problem is that we're all responsible for the damage but only a very small group of people are genuinely and actively concerned with undoing the damage.  In order for significant progress to be made there would have to be a massive mobilization of significant resources.  And these resources, like all resources, could be put to other uses.  Maybe even more valuable uses.  This is the fundamentally important economic concept known as "opportunity cost".

From my perspective, it would behoove us to seriously consider the merits of the internal approach.  With the internal approach we would acknowledge that it's dangerous for overly specialized epiphytic orchids to be adapted to conditions which no longer exist.  The Florida that the Ghost Orchid is adapted to no longer exists and will never exist again.  If we want this orchid to continue to survive, then we should seriously consider helping it to adapt to the conditions that do exist.

Early in this thread I acknowledged that this approach isn't "conservation" as we know it.  The best term that I've been able to come up with for this internal approach is "herclivation".  Of course anybody is welcome to come up with a better term.  "Herclivation" is loosely derived from "Heraclitus"...the Greek philosopher who argued that change is the one constant... "no man ever steps in the same river twice".

Herclivation of the Ghost Orchid would involve introducing a cross between D. lindenii and funalis into the wild.  Out of curiosity I looked this cross up on the RHS website and found it... Polyphylax Gripp's Ghost.  It took a couple tries to find it because the RHS has "Polyradicion" listed as the genus for lindenii rather than "Dendrophylax".

Here's a very brief breakdown of their habitat preferences...

Species of Dendrophylax occur from sea level to about 1600m (D. macrocarpus (Dod) Carlsward & Whitten).  Many are found in shaded sites with high humidity on tree trunks (D. lindenii) but may also be found in xeric habitats of shrubs or small trees (D. porrectus) or on limestone rocks (D. funalis). - Alec M. Pridgeon, ‎Phillip J. Cribb, ‎Mark W. Chase, Genera Orchidacearum Volume 6: Epidendroideae

D. lindenii prefers more humidity/shade while D. funalis prefers less humidity/shade.  The differences in their preferences could result in hybrids with a continuum of humidity/shade preferences.  This general situation was briefly considered in the book, "The Botany of Orchids"...

Cutting of forests and the planting of tree crops in the tropics may provide intermediate habitats which permit the survival of hybrids between orchid species which grow in distinct niches.  An example would be that of populations of plants which grow in sun and others which grow in shade and are thereby ecologically isolated.  Filtered sun in agricultural plantings might support intermediate hybrids.  The hybrids may backcross with the parental types and may cross among themselves.  The result would be a highly variable hybrid swarm.  Recombination types might be more successful than either of the previous species. - Calaway H. Dodson, Robert J. Gillespie, The Botany of Orchids

Given that both lindenii and funalis occur in Jamaica, this exact situation might happen on its own.  Or maybe their populations are too small and far apart for it to happen naturally.  (Not sure what led me to believe that lindenii also occurs in Jamaica).  Or maybe they have different pollinators.

The Ghost Orchid is pollinated by the Giant Sphinx moth (Cocytius antaeus) but I wasn't able to learn whether or not it also pollinates funalis.  Funalis has a shorter spur than lindenii.  It stands to reason though that a moth with a long proboscis (straw) would have no problem drinking nectar from an orchid with a short spur (cup).

It's a given that there's some variation in spur and straw length.  Both the moth and the Ghost Orchid probably didn't simultaneously and independently develop their long appendages over night.  Most likely moths with longer straws had greater fitness because they could drink from a greater range of cup sizes.  

Does Gripp's Ghost have an intermediately sized spur?  It's not that easy to discern, but in this picture of Gripp's Ghost it does appear that the spur is somewhat intermediate in length.  I'm sure that some of the seedlings from that cross had longer or shorter spurs... depending on which parent they inherited the relevant traits from.

If we introduced a "highly variable hybrid swarm" of Gripp's Ghost to Florida then this would increase the chances of finding variations that match some of the available environmental conditions.

Hopefully there would be a variation for the half a million acres of Florida orange groves.  This variation would have to combine lindenii's preference for shade and funalis' tolerance of dryness.  Maybe a slightly different variation would be suitable for Florida Christmas tree farms.  How awesome would that be to purchase a Christmas tree with live orchids growing on it?  It would be really hard top the Ghost Orchid as an ornament.  Talk about value added.  Errrr... well... Jack Skellington would certainly approve.  And maybe Charles Dickens as well.  

Florida's Ghost Orchid, as it is, already has some degree of variation.  But do we really want to gamble its existence on the slim chance that it has enough variation to succeed in modern Florida?  Why not hedge our bets by greatly increasing the amount of variation that it has?

Rather than just having one Ghost Orchid...Florida could have a wide variety of them.  We could give them labels based on their niche type.  The original/current ghost orchid would be the Shady Cypress Ghost Orchid...then there would be the Sunny Cypress Ghost Orchid...and the Orange Ghost Orchid...and the Christmas Ghost Orchid...and the Limestone Ghost Orchid...and so on.

Would it matter to some kid in Florida two hundred years from now that the Ghost Orchid he discovered flowering on the mango tree in his backyard was different than the Ghost Orchid that was adapted to prehistoric Florida?  I really don't think so.  And neither would whichever moth benefited from the orchid's nectar.   Both the moth and the kid would linger longer in the garden as a direct result of the Ghost Orchid blooming on the mango tree.  Perhaps with newfangled video technology the kid could easily and professionally document the moth pollinating the orchid.   Not sure though if his video would be as high quality as my video of a hummingbird hawk-moth pollinating phlox in Afghanistan...

Like I stated in the beginning, it's entirely possible that I'm wrong.  Maybe herclivation isn't the best approach.  But it's based on the fundamentally sound principle that we should avoid putting too many eggs in one basket...

First, diversity often enhances the robustness of complex systems.  By robustness, I mean the ability to maintain functionality (Jen 2005) rather than analytic stability.  Systems that lack diversity can lose functionality.  History has many examples of failure through lack of diversity, the potato famine being among the most notable.  The potato must be counted among the most precious of gifts introduced into Europe during the age of exploration.  Of the thousands of varieties of potato grown in Central and South America at their disposal, the Europeans imported primarily two.  This lack of genetic variation presented a huge target for parasites.  When the potato blight hit, it found field up field of genetically similar potatoes.  Though nearly a million Irish perished, even more relocated to America.  Diversity at the community level - America had a different mix of crops from Ireland - minimized the global impact of the blight.  Had every country been subsisting on potatoes as Ireland had, the famine would have been an even worse calamity.
Second, diversity drives innovation and productivity.  In biology, the forces of mutation and recombination are well known to be primary sources of innovation.  In economies, variation and experimentation also lead to innovation, and, as Arthur (2009) convincingly shows, so does recombination.  In fact, recombination may be the biggest driver of economic and scientific innovation.  As for productivity, I've covered some of this terrain in an earlier book (Page 2007a), but it's worth repeating.  Whether one looks at ecosystems, empires, or cities, greater diversity for the most part correlates with greater productivity.  Cities that are more diverse are more productive and more innovative. - Scott E. Page, Diversity and Complexity   

Luckily, tens of thousands of pioneers wouldn't have to be housed all in one starship. Spreading people out among multiple ships also spreads out the risk. Modular ships could dock together for trade and social gatherings, but travel separately so that disaster for one wouldn't spell disaster for all, says Smith. 
When 10,000 people are housed in one starship, there's a potential for a giant catastrophe to wipe out almost everyone onboard. But when 10,000 people are spread out over five ships of 2000 apiece, the damage is limited. - Sarah Fecht, How Many People Does It Take to Colonize Another Star System?   

When a great company, or even a great merchant, has twenty or thirty ships at sea, they may, as it were, insure one another. The premium saved upon them all, may more than compensate such losses as they are likely to meet with in the common course of chances. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations   

Farming is inherently risky. Weather, insects and disease, over which you have limited control or none at all, can wipe you out. One of the ways farmers manage risk is to plant variety. Okay, powdery mildew got your strawberries, but the broccoli’s going gangbusters.  For farmers, crops that are given guaranteed protection from both losses and price drops are lower-risk propositions. - Brian Stauffer, Farm bill: Why don’t taxpayers subsidize the foods that are better for us?   

Right now the Ghost Orchid is in two baskets (Florida and Jamaica) three baskets (Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas) which means that it's safer than if it was just in one basket.  By this same basic would be safer if it grew in a wider range of habitat types.  This could be accomplished by crossing it with D. funalis and other closely related species.  Introducing a "highly variable hybrid swarm" into suitable habitats in Florida would help us hedge our bets against unforeseen changes.

Again, I'm not saying that herclivation is the right answer...I'm just saying that it deserves serious consideration.


*plants and animals, most remote in the scale of nature, are bound together by a web of complex relations. [...] I have [...] reason to believe that humble-bees are indispensable to the fertilisation of the heartsease (Viola tricolor), for other bees do not visit this flower. From experiments which I have tried, I have found that the visits of bees, if not indispensable, are at least highly beneficial to the fertilisation of our clovers; but humble-bees alone visit the common red clover (Trifolium pratense), as other bees cannot reach the nectar. Hence I have very little doubt, that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear. The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, believes that 'more than two thirds of them are thus destroyed all over England.' Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman says, 'Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.' Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district! - Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Natural Orchid Hosts (Phorophytes)

Every once in a while I'll run across a reference to an orchid species growing on a certain species of tree or shrub in nature.  I've recently started to enter these associations into a database.  Wish I had started earlier but...better late than never!

I figured that I might as well share this list on my blog.   It's a little rough around the edges and it's probably always going to be a work in progress.  But I'm hoping that sharing it publicly will help generate interest and help facilitate contributions.   If you happen to run across a natural association that isn't listed here...please share it in a comment.  Given enough eyeballs all associations can be found.

There are three types of natural associations that I'm especially interested in...
  1. Associations of the most commonly grown orchid species...such as Dendrobium nobile, Laelia anceps, Vanda coerulea, etc. 
  2. Associations of the most commonly grown trees here in Southern California...Jacaranda, Camphor, Floss silk, etc.
  3. Associations that occur in drier habitats

Ideally, this list will help people decide which trees to plant.  Whether or not a tree is a good orchid host should be the number one consideration.  Then again, I might be a little biased.

To be clear, this list is exclusively for natural associations.  In cultivation, orchids can be attached to and will grow on a wide range of hosts that they wouldn't necessarily choose in nature.  For example, here's a photo of a Cattleya orchid that's been growing on a tire for several years...

Cattleya Orchid Mounted On Tire

I'm pretty sure that this Cattleya would prefer to grow on some of the phorophytes listed here.

Documenting natural associations is important because it indicates which hosts orchid seeds were able to germinate on.  So not only are these hosts suitable for orchids...they are also suitable for the fungi that the orchid seeds need to germinate.

If we plant plenty of preferred phorophytes, then we can help ensure an abundance of orchids and their fungal partners.  Kinda like selecting plants in order to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  You would just plant the phorophyte and swoosh...orchids would quickly swarm it like brilliant butterflies.   Are there any phorophytes that will attract both orchids and butterflies?    Are there any orchids that attract butterflies?

As many of us know all too well...there's a wide range of animals that love to eat orchids.  So planting the best phorophytes won't only lead to an abundance of will also lead to an abundance of animals that eat the orchids.  Not to mention the animals that pollinate the orchids or use them for shelter.  This in turn will lead to an abundance of the animals that eat the animals that associate with the orchids that grow on the phorophytes that you planted.  Basically, the best phorophytes will have a large multiplier effect on biodiversity.  The most relevant technical term is "facilitation cascade".  My term for this is "linger longer".  Visitors to your garden will have more subjects to photograph.

Another relevant technical term that I also recently learned from the New Zealand Epiphyte Network blog is "synanthrophic" (or... "synanthropic"?).  It refers to plants and animals that benefit from human environments.  Kirby's blog entry highlighted a study that found that mistletoes in Poland preferred growing on non-native city trees.  While googling around for "syanthropic" I found this entry... Synanthropic Habitats.  According to the Expanded Environment's website... it's a non-profit organization...
...devoted to demonstrating alternate ways of responsibly and synthetically integrating biological and ecological agents into the built world. Its goal is to assist governments, municipalities, provinces, organizations, businesses, and individuals to understand, appreciate and envision a more productive relationship between architectural and biological systems for a better and more sustainable world.
What an awesome mission!  Promoting the proliferation of preferred phorophytes should be right up their alley.

Unfortunately, many of these phorophytes aren't readily available in cultivation.  Hopefully we can work together to try and help remedy this problem.  If you grow any of these phorophytes then please share cuttings and/or seeds with others.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Epiphyte Forum?

My thread over at the ant plant forum... Temperature Tolerant Epiphytic Ant Plants


My first post!  I'm going to attach a few epiphytes (topics) to this branch (thread).

I found out about this forum a few months ago on ebay.  I probably did a search for "Myrmecodia" but I can't remember exactly which vendor it was that mentioned this forum in the item's description.

Epiphytic ant plants are awesome so it was pretty great to learn about this place.  I immediately added it to my long list of plant forum bookmarks and every once in a while I lurked around.  It's been on my "to do" list to register and I finally got around to it.

A little bit about me... I live in Glendale, Southern California and I LOVE epiphytes!  I grow a wide variety of epiphytes outdoors year around.  Last year I posted a short blog entry on some of my ant plants... Epiphytic Ant Plants Outdoors in Southern California?  

I think it would be really helpful if there was a comprehensive list of epiphytic ant plants (EAPs) that could be grown outdoors year around in places like Southern California.  How many EAPs don't require a greenhouse in SoCal?  Is it a long list?  If this list was compiled and widely disseminated... then more people would grow EAPs.  Wouldn't you like to walk around SoCal and see EAPs growing on lots of trees?  I know I would!

Now, like I said, I think this forum is great...but there's not much activity.  I'm definitely biased but maybe a better strategy would have been to start an epiphyte forum instead?  Then you could have had a category dedicated to APs.  I'm pretty sure that many of you grow other epiphytes besides APs...right?  Any of you grow any epiphytic blueberries...aka "Ericas"?

I sure wouldn't be surprised if my friend Dave started a forum dedicated to Ericas.  He really loves them.  But how much activity would it have though?  Maybe less activity than this forum?  But Dave doesn't just grow Ericas...he also grows a bunch of other epiphytes...ferns, orchids, Gesneriads, Tillandsias, Bromeliads, APs, Anthuriums, Hoyas, Dischidias, Rhipsalis,'s a long list.

In theory, a forum with all these groups would be quite active.  And it's a given that there would be plenty of spillover.  Lateral movement is super easy.  Plenty of epiphytic plants are quite happy growing in a moss basket.  So it seems likely that the individual groups would grow much faster together than if they were apart.  Not sure though how large a group would have to be to support its own forum.   Clearly the orchid group is already large enough.  It's large enough to support several forums.  Haven't visited the bromeliad forum very much lately so not sure how active it's been.

How would the categories be sorted in an epiphyte forum?  Alphabetically?  If so, then the ant plants would be at the top of the list!

The simplest approach to starting an epiphyte forum would be to just use this forum.  The domain name wouldn't have to change...just the title and description.  Rather than "the ant plant forum" it would be "the epiphyte forum".  Then you would move all the EAP threads into one category.  Lastly you would change the names of the current categories.  Voila!

When people registered...they'd basically be registering for a dozen forums rather than just one...

Ant plants

And when people told their friends about this forum...they wouldn't just be promoting one group...they'd be promoting twelve groups.  It should generate twelve times the interest.

Perhaps Selby would be twelve times more likely to help spread the word?

Basically you catch more fish with a larger net.  Which is why you should all start blogs if you haven't already done so!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Substantive vs Superficial Selection

When it comes to selection...there seems to be only two categories to choose from...artificial or natural.  But what about when we select for traits that help organisms adapt to nature?  Would we say it's natural selection that's human assisted?  Or artificial selection that's nature assisted?

My comment on Uncommonly early blooming Laelia anceps


The first L. anceps to cross the finish line? What did this guy do for the rest of the year? Cheer on the slow pokes?

The "volunteer" L. anceps on my tree started to put out a second growth back in August...

Laelia anceps

Here's a recent photo...

Laelia anceps volunteer

Given that temps have cooled considerably...and I've reduced water accordingly...not sure how completely the new growth will mature.

My L. anceps was too young to allocate any energy to flowering...but it sure seems theoretically possible to select for a L. anceps that blooms twice a year. The trick would be to cross-pollinate the earliest blooming individuals...which are the fastest and/or the coolest growing individuals. In some cases though they might simply be the luckiest in the warmest and/or most nutritious micro-climates.

But I think it's definitely a good idea if we all feature our orchids that finish the "race" (complete their growth cycle) in record time. Not just with L. anceps but with all epiphytic orchids. For example, this NOID ugly duckling...

Cattleya NOID Early Bloomer Seed Pod Aug 28 one of my "fastest" Cattleya alliance orchids. I divided it this year which is why it finished later than usual. Noting which of our orchids are the "fastest" is basically highlighting the individuals that are better adapted to growing outdoors in Southern California. If we all exchange their pollen then we should be able to make much better progress in this area.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Salvation Army For Plants?

Comment on PATSP blog entry... Anthurium News: The Bad News


I agree with Paul regarding the media...but not so much with regards to the composting. A while back I purchased a cheap NOID out of bloom orchid. When it bloomed for the first time I was rather disappointed with the flowers. You can see a pic of the flowers here. But I kept it around anyways. After a while I realized that it's one of the first of my gazillion orchids to complete its growth cycle. Basically, it suffers from a shortage of style but it's blessed with an abundance of substance. Now it's got a fat seed pod on it filled with around a million seeds. Eventually I might have a large variety of epiphytic orchids that grow all year long outdoors here in Southern California.

Even if some of your Anthuriums are short on both style and doesn't necessarily mean that they will be short on substance in other people's conditions. Plus, style is certainly subjective. So if the opportunity cost of keeping them around is too high...then I'd recommend just giving them away. I'd be happy to take some off your hands for the cost of postage. Or I could trade you some orchid seeds. :)

For a while now I've wondered about the viability of a Salvation Army just for plants. What do you think? Could it would work? Would you be willing to drop off a couple flats of Anthurium seedlings for a small tax deduction?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tropical Texas Orchid Reserve

Reply to thread... Tampa Florida outdoor growing


CA2FLxplant, you don't miss Van Nuys?  hehe.  How much better could central Florida really be?

Actually I sometimes dream about moving to the Southernmost part of Texas.  It's almost tropical there.  I'd like to buy a bunch of acres and start an orchid reserve dedicated to the conservation and proliferation of CAM epiphytic orchids.  I'd attach a gazillion orchids to the trees and let nature select for the most drought/temperature tolerant individuals.  The goal would be to try and move the fittest individuals across the country via reasonably sized "steps".  

Here in California it's too big of a leap for epiphytic orchids to naturalize.   All epiphytic orchids are summer growers... but here they'd have to adapt to being winter growers.  Plus, it's a numbers game...the more seeds you throw at nature the more progress can be made.  And I just don't have enough trees here to throw seeds at. It's not like I can walk around the neighborhood sowing orchid seeds on street trees.  Well...I could...but then I'd probably have to explain to people why I was watering their trees.

Florida could work pretty well but Texas is nice because it's centrally located.  Plus, ideally, there would be a satellite location a few hours drive across the border into Mexico.  This would help function as "insurance".  Kind of like an external hard drive to back up important files (orchids).  If the main computer (Texas reserve) crashed (500 year freeze) then the most important files (orchids) could be easily restored.    

Eventually every botanical garden in the US would have orchids growing on their trees!  I think there's a chance that it might happen anyways...but I'd prefer if it happened sooner rather than later.

I didn't buy those flasks!  Did you?  Unfortunately the same flask is available again for the same way too reasonable price!

Please let me know if you decide to cross everything with E. tampensis and sow the seeds on every tree.  I'd love to hear all about it.  I'm really curious how readily the seeds of E. tampensis (both the species and its hybrids) germinate on trees in Florida.  If they don't readily germinate...then it's either because the precipitation/temperature wasn't adequate...or the necessary fungus wasn't present.  The absence of the necessary fungus would definitely be a problem.  The solution would be to try and proliferate the fungus by attaching inoculated orchids to trees.  I'm under the impression that orchid roots help the fungus colonize a tree.  The more a fungus has colonized a tree...the more likely it is that the spores will land on adjacent trees.  I have no idea how many orchids would have to be attached to trees in order for the virtuous cycle to be "jump-started".  But you're probably on the right track when your neighbors mention that they have random orchids growing on their trees.

It's possible that other epiphytic plants besides orchids help to spread the necessary fungus.  At the end of August my friend brought back a piece of Pyrrosia piloselloides from either Thailand or Cambodia. She gave me a small division and I attached it to a section of old trellis wood covered in New Zealand Sphagnum. I stuck part of the mount at an angle in a pot filled with bark and topped with a layer of Sphagnum. So the fern is both potted and mounted. Kinda hedged my bets. I thoroughly watered the fern and then I sowed some monopodial orchid seeds all over the surface of both the pot and the mount. The seeds were from...

P. vandarum x V. tricolor
R. imschootiana x R. gigantea?

Lastly I stuck the pot/mount in a zip lock bag under lights in my garage. The bag isn't completely sealed.

The fern quickly started to grow and last week I spotted one fat protocorm right next to the fern. It was just starting to put out its first leaf...which now looks a little wide for a vandarum cross. But perhaps the tricolor leaf is dominant.

I'm guessing that the orchid seed germinated as the result of fungus from the fern root. Although, the fern is attached to a maybe that's where the fungus came from.  But I definitely wouldn't be surprised if some populations of Florida's most common epiphytic fern...Pleopeltis polypodioides...had the necessary fungus in their roots.  So it's entirely possible that attaching this fern to trees might also help spread the necessary fungus.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Can Epiphytes Help Reduce Climate Change?

Reply to comment on The last uninvaded frontier?


Derrick, the other day I tried to imagine how much carbon dioxide would be absorbed if every Phalaenopsis ended up on a tree rather than in the trash when it finished blooming.  Unfortunately, even if the interest was there...the commonly available Phalaenopsis hybrids can't grow outside in places like California.  On the other hand, pretty much every New Zealand epiphytic orchid can grow outdoors somewhere in California.  If the cold tolerance of mass produced orchids could be improved...and many of them ended up on trees...then perhaps climate change could be reduced.

Right now I have four seed pods developing on my Neofinetia falcata hybrid that's growing on my Ficus macrophylla bonsai.  The pollen came from two Phalaenopsis hybrids and one species.  I'm hoping that the cross will have the best of both worlds...large, colorful flowers and temperature tolerance.

New Zealand has two epiphytic monopodial orchids that I know of...

Drymoanthus adversus
Drymoanthus flavus

Are they more cold tolerant than Neofinetia falcata?  I don't know.  I don't know anybody outside of New Zealand that grows them...or any other native NZ orchid for that matter.  For all I know they could be the key to reducing climate change.


Anybody know approximately how many Phalaenopsis are produced each year?  In terms of carbon dioxide absorption...would it be the equivalent of say 1,000 acres of rainforest?

Phorobana Shows

My thread in the forum... Plant on Plant Action


Hi everybody!

I recently joined this forum to share a link in this awesome thread to some photos of orchids growing on cactus/succulents.  Since I'm here I figured that I might as well subject you to more of my plant on plant propaganda.

How many of you grow plants epiphytically?  I already know the answer...not enough of you!  Everybody should grow plants on other plants.  Perhaps the most accessible case I can make for doing so is that you'd increase the chances that visitors to your garden would take more photos.   In technical would improve the value to space ratio.  In simpler terms...visitors would have more reason to linger longer.  

For are a couple galleries of accidentally epiphytic and two.  As you can see there's lots of photos of cacti growing on other plants.  These accidental epiphytes improved the value to space ratio.  We know this is true because people lingered longer and took photos that they wouldn't otherwise have taken.  The value to space ratio would have been improved even more if those accidentally epiphytic cactus had orchids, bromeliads or Tillandsias growing on them.

Last week I attended a cactus and succulent show at the LA Arboretum.  Guess how many of the entries had epiphytes attached to them?  Not a single one.  A few weeks earlier I attended an orchid show at the Huntington.  Guess how many of the entries were growing on cactus/succulents?  Not a single one.

If I had to predict the future...I'd guess that the lines between plant shows will be blurred.  If people only had time to go to one show...they'd pick the one that gave them the most bang for their buck.  This will be the show that has epiphytes growing on potted plants.  Visitors would linger longer in front of each entry...admiring the epiphyte...or the phorophyte...or both.  And because each entry would have broader's a given that more photos would be taken.  Each additional photo taken and shared online would help provide the show with more publicity.

The question is...will this future happen sooner or later?  Personally I hope that it happens sooner!  I expect great things to happen as a result of this cross-pollination.

Not quite sure what this "holistic" show would be called.  The best word that I've been able to come up with is "phorobana".  There's always room for improvement though so if there happen to be any wordsmiths out there feel free to throw some other suggestions out there.  One qualification is that new words should meet the google alert standard.  Basically you should be able to subscribe to a google alert for the word and not be inundated with irrelevant results.

So...does anybody have any questions? Aloe ramosissima a suitable host for Angraecum aloifolium?  I don't know the answer...but I'd sure like to find out!  For the past couple years I've been growing several dozen miniature epiphytes on a Crassula Gollum. The Crassula has excellent drainage so I can water the epiphytes with decent frequency.

If you're interested in learning's my overview of growing plants epiphytically.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Hasty Case For Naturalizing Epiphytes

Reply to thread... Video of Cattleya Blooming on my Tree


Thanks! Regarding your honest questions...well...did you ever see the SNL skit with Christopher Walken where he needs more cowbell? I guess I'm the same way with orchids on trees. When I drive around Southern California I shout out the window..."all these trees need more orchids!"

As far back as I can remember I've always been a fan of more nature. When I was a kid my mom bought me the book "Vanishing Eden". It was filled with pages and pages of plants and animals that I really didn't want to vanish. Shortly afterwards I saw Bladerunner for the first time. I really loved the movie but I really didn't want the future to look like that.

Basically, when people attach orchids and other epiphytes to trees...they help to offset the loss of nature elsewhere. There's a lot of nature being lost it's not just sufficient to add plants to the's necessary to add plants to trees. Doing so helps to create a virtuous cycle.

An orchid on a tree will help widely disperse far more necessary fungus than an orchid in a pot will. Here's how I've illustrated this...

When more fungus is dispersed to surrounding trees...this increases the chances that orchid seeds will germinate on them. So more orchids on trees will lead to more orchids on trees.

Orchids and other epiphytes on trees help facilitate cascades. As we all know too well...orchids are an excellent source of food for a wide variety of "pests". But adding an orchid to a tree doesn't just provide more food for aphids, mealy bugs, slugs and bush also provides more food for the spiders, lady bugs and lizards that eat these pests. Plus, an epiphyte on a tree can provide shelter and a home for all sorts of animals. Flowering epiphytes can also provide nectar to a wide variety of pollinators.

In addition to facilitating's important to naturalize orchids because this helps to subject them to the process of natural selection. The more orchids that sidestep this selection process...the less orchids that will be able to survive in nature. The world is constantly if nature changes in one direction...but orchids change in another direction...then in the future we will only be able to see orchids in conservatories. We're not doing anybody any favors by overly protecting orchids from cold or drought.

The orchid family is so successful because they throw a lot of seeds at nature. If we want the orchid family to continue being so successful... then we have to help orchids throw more seeds at nature. If we help throw enough orchid seeds at nature...then it doesn't matter if future conditions are colder/hotter or wetter/drier...there will be plenty of orchids that have sufficiently suitable combinations of traits.

Perhaps it's somehow inevitable that the future will have plenty of trees with orchids growing on them. I don't think this is the case though. I regularly search flickr for orchid tree...and the rate of relevant additions is pretty low. So I do what I can to try and help encourage more people to think outside the pot.

What do you think? Do I need to be so persistent? Does your individual foresight show you a future with an abundance of orchids on trees? Will the world look like more like heaven...or...?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Video of Cattleya Blooming on my Tree

See video description for more info.

Do you wish you could grow orchids on trees too? You can! Just grab a houseplant and attach an orchid to it. Of course not all houseplants are equally suitable phorophytes. Which houseplants make the best phorophytes? I don't honestly know. But hopefully some of you brave experimenters will be willing to try and find out.

Here are some ideas... Growing Orchids On Houseplants

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Orchid Seeds Available For Flasking

A few years ago I sowed various orchid seeds on my tree.  Much to my pleasant surprise some of them actually germinated.  Right now there are around half a dozen seedlings left...down from around two dozen.   The largest seedling looks a lot like Laelia anceps...and I'm guessing that's what the rest are as well.

Seeing the tiny green blobs on my tree motivated me to try and pollinate more orchids.  Unfortunately I haven't noticed any new protocorms on the tree.  Not sure why that is.  It might be because the year the seeds germinated we received more than twice the usual amount of rain.  Perhaps the extra rain created a fungus feeding frenzy.  Or maybe it's because I haven't sown any L. anceps seeds since then.  Last year I failed to adequately hedge my bets so none of the L. anceps flowers that I pollinated developed pods.  But I've also sown a few other orchid seeds in baskets/mounts and some have germinated.

This year I've been especially consistent with pollination and as a result there are quite a few pods in various stages of development.  But because symbiotic germination hasn't been consistent...I'd like to hedge my bets by sharing orchid seeds with anybody interested in flasking them.  Bet hedging, from my perspective, is by far the most important plant lesson.

My primary breeding goal is to make progress in terms of drought tolerance.  It would be wonderful if there were more and more orchids that could thrive with less and less water.  This is especially relevant here in parched Southern California.  So over the past several years my primary purchasing criteria has been drought tolerance.

How much progress can be made in terms of drought tolerance?  Not exactly sure...but I do know that there's always room for improvement.   The orchid family's success is the direct result of each seed pod containing a multitude of chances to discover where there's room for improvement.  In other words...orchids are really good at hedging their bets.

My secondary breeding goal is to make progress in terms of temperature tolerance.  Most drought tolerant orchids are warm growers.  I plan on crossing them with my early growers.  The result will hopefully be drought tolerant orchids with a wider range of growing temps.

Basically, my overall goal is to select for orchids that are better suited to Southern California.  This means selecting for individuals that are more Mediterranean.  I'm pretty sure that the orchid family's gene pool is large enough to develop an epiphytic orchid that can thrive here without any supplemental water.  When will this orchid be developed?  That depends on the quantity of different trait combinations that are thrown at Southern California.  More combinations mean less time.

Here are some pods that are available or will be available...starting with those that have been pollinated with pollen from Psychilis krugii...which is many of them.

Besides being drought tolerant (growing on a cactus)...P. krugii blooms all summer long.  It successively/sequentially blooms on the same spike.  As soon as one flower starts to fade...another starts to open.  Having an extended blooming period is another example of bet hedging.  It increases the chances that some seeds will be dispersed when conditions are sufficiently suitable.  Personally, I really enjoy having an orchid that stays in bloom for so long.  The flowers aren't very showy it would be nice if some of the crosses were also successive bloomers but had larger and/or more colorful flowers.

I'm guessing though that the sequential blooming trait will not be dominant...especially since P. krugii isn't the pod parent.  So the first generation will probably have to be crossed back onto P. krugii in order for the successive blooming trait to express itself in some of the second generation crosses.

Here are some of the orchids that I've pollinated with P. krugii pollen...

Bc Maikai?

Brassocattleya Maikai?

Pollinated Sept 2
Pod Sept 13

Brassavola Jiminy Cricket (Rhyncholaelia digbyana x Brassavola nodosa)
Pollinated Aug 19
Pod Aug 26

Brassavola nodosa
Pod Aug 26

Cat NOID Early Grower
Pollinated Aug 26
Flower and Pod Aug 28
Pod Sept 13

Anybody recognize this NOID Cattleya?  I bought it out-of-bloom for cheap.  When I saw the flowers for the first time I was a bit disappointed.  They are kinda homely.  But then it dawned on me that this Cattleya is one of my very first orchids to complete its growth cycle.  This earned it more than a few points and TLC.  I divided it this past spring which is why it bloomed later than it usually does.  What happens when this C-I-W grower is crossed with a successively blooming warm grower?   Perhaps future generations will have a longer blooming period than P. krugii does?  Can we eventually select for an orchid that's always in bloom?  

Cattleytonia Why Not 'Roundabout' (Guarianthe aurantiaca x Broughtonia sanguinea)
Pod Aug 26
Pod Sept 10 (harvested same day)

Lc Clayton Waglay var alba (Laelia anceps x C. Claesiana (C. intermedia x C. loddigesii))
Pod Aug 26
Pod Sept 13

The three orchids that make up Lc Clayton Waglay...the one Mexican Laelia and two Brazilian Bifoliate Cattleyas...are some of the very best orchids for Southern California.  It shouldn't be a surprise that Clayton Waglay is a really strong grower here.  Hopefully adding P. krugii to the mix will result in an even stronger grower.

Potinara Hoku Gem
Pollinated Aug 19
Pod and flower Aug 26
Pod Sept 13

Failed pods...

Caulocattleya Chantilly Lace 'Hildos' (Cattleya El Dorado Splash x Caularthron bicornutum)
Pollinated Aug 19
Pod Aug 28
Aborted Sept 2

Encyclia NOID
Pollinated Aug 11
Pod Aug 28

Anybody recognize this Encyclia?  Context...

 Encyclia NOID Context

 Close up...

  Encyclia NOID

Laelia pumila coerulea

Laelia pumila Coerulea

Pollinated Aug 26
Pod Sept 13
Aborted Oct 1

Rhyncholaelia digbyana
Pod Aug 26
Pod Sept 13
Harvested Sept 25

Why the really long pod?  It must have lengthened after I pollinated it...right?  But why?  And when exactly did it start lengthening?  It doesn't make much sense for the Rhyncholaelia to waste energy increasing the distance of the race course after somebody has already reached the finish line.  It makes more sense to increase the course distance before anybody has reached the finish line.  Making the selection process even more difficult would help ensure that the winner was fit least in terms of endurance.  Given that this pod didn't have any seeds...perhaps none of the P. krugii pollen managed to reach the finish line.

Other pods...

Aerides? NOID
Pods Aug 28
Harvested Sept 17

Pretty sure that the Hummingbird pollinated it.  No other monopodials were blooming at the same definitely a self.

Angraecum Longiscott (longicalcar x scottianum)

1st flower - Angraecum calceolus and Vanda suavis - Aug 11
2nd flower - Cyrtorchis chailluana - Aug 19
3rd flower - N. falcata and Aerangis mystacidii - Sept 4

The first two flowers didn't develop pods...but the third has.  Another example of hedging.

Pod Sept 13

Bc Maikai? x Brassavola nodosa
Pollinated Aug 27
Pod Sept 13

Brassavola nodosa x Cattleya harrisoniae
Pod Aug 26

Brassavola Jiminy Cricket x Bc Maikai?
Pollinated Sept 2

Cattleya harrisoniae x (B. nodosa and P. krugii)
Pod Sept 13

Cattleya Penny Kuroda x (Mexican Laelias, Lc Clayton Waglay var alba, P. krugii)
Pods Group A Context Aug 26
Pods Group A Aug 26
Pods Group A Sept 13
Pods Group B Aug 26
Pods Group B Sept 13

There were two pseudobulbs that had around a dozen flowers each.  I pollinated around half the flowers on each spike and half of those have developed.

Dendrobium phaleonopsis? x Dendrobium Gatton Sunray (pulchellum x Illustre (chrysotoxum x pulchellum))
Pod Aug 26

Dendrobium phaleonopsis? x Dendrobium hercoglossum
See above

Dendrobium phaleonopsis? x Dendrobium moschatum
See above

Epidendrum radicans spontaneous

A friend of mine has quite a few different colored Reed Stem Epidendrums.  Last week, with his permission, I harvested a dozen ripe seed pods.

Lc Clayton Waglay var alba x Cattleya Penny Kuroda
Pod Aug 26
Pod Sept 13

Neofinetia falcata x _______

This N. falcata had one spike with four flowers.  One Sept 4 I pollinated all of the flower with fresh Angraecum Longiscott pollen, one flower with fresh Aerangis mystacidii pollen, one flower with not-so-fresh Mystacidium capense pollen and one flower with old Phalaenopsis pollen.  Another example of hedging.

Here's a photo of the flowers on Sept 13.  As you can see, only one flower developed a pod.  Which of the four donors would you prefer to be responsible for the pod?  Can you guess who is actually responsible for the pod?

Psychilis krugii spontaneous

My P. krugii isn't very I prefer it to channel its energy into producing pollen rather than seeds.  But I guess it was the hummingbird that thought differently.  I could have removed the pod before it developed...but I decided not to step on the hummingbird's tiny toes.  The pod might not be a self because around a foot away an Encyclia spontaneously developed a pod at around the same time.

Failed pods...

Encyclia NOID x Brassavola nodosa
Pod Aug 28
Pod Sept 13

Encyclia NOID x (Mexican Laelias, Cattleyas)
Three Pods Sept 13

On Aug 27 I pollinated nearly every flower with a mix of pollen from Mexican Laelias and Cattleyas.  Given that only three pods took...I'm guessing that the Mexican Laelias pollen was too old.  And given that the Cattleya pollen largely consisted of relatively fresh Penny Kuroda pollen...I wouldn't be surprised if that is who is responsible for these three pods.  Unfortunately all three pods recently aborted.

For some reason it seems like I haven't had very much success with Encyclia intergeneric pollination.  Earlier in the year I had two very nice Encyclia cordigera var roseas bloom.  If I remember correctly I tried crossing them with Mexican Laelia pollen but pods didn't even form.  Same thing with Encyclia Orchid Jungle, Encyclia fowliei and a few others.  It's pretty good incentive to keep better track of pollination efforts.  That way I can avoid wasting good pollen on the wrong orchids.

A recent pollination...

Epidendrum viviparum x Epidendrum secundum
Pollinated Sept 19

There are also quite a few spiking orchids that I plan to pollinate...

Hopefully my consistent pollination streak will continue and I'll have pods for days.

Anybody interested in some seeds?  If so, just private message me your e-mail and I'll add it to a notification list.  Whenever I harvest a pod I'll send an e-mail to the list.  If you'd like to flask the seeds then you'd simply reply to the e-mail.  Should demand exceed supply...priority will be based on the following criteria...

  1. Return on Investment (ROI).  Not unlike the Parable of the Talents.
  2. Bribes.  There are numerous drought tolerant epiphytic orchids that I don't have.  
  3. Public documentation.  Blogging and/or posting in forums about your flasking technique will earn you points.
  4. Flasking experience.
  5. SoCal residents.  
  6. Outdoor growers.  
  7. Members of the Epiphyte SocietyESSC or OSSC.

Any questions?  Let me try and guess a couple...

Can you buy seeds?  Sure, everything has a price.  

Can you have the seeds professionally flasked?  Yup.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Growing Orchids On Houseplants

Context: Growing orchids as epiphytes indoors


You can either attach them to a dead branch...or to a live branch. My vote is for a live branch. Some possible candidates...

Coffee tree
Pachira aquatica
Phoenix roebelenii

Clearly they aren't all equally suitable to grow inside and be everybody's phorophyte. But that's what experimenting is all about. At the last show I went to a random lady said, "if you're not killing plants...then you're not stretching yourself as a gardener".

Which of these possible phorophytes will give you the most branch for your buck? One "shortcut" is that several of them can be grown from fairly large cuttings. Another technique for greater girth is...if your climate is suitable and you have the space (and patience), you can plant the phorophyte in the ground and then dig it up when the branch is thick enough.

Perhaps for a typical Phalaenopsis the branch should be at least as thick as your wrist.

In order for the Phal's roots to attach to the branch...the orchid has to be very firmly secured. I use a slip knot method to maintain tension in the 20lb fishing line.

If you do it'll be able to water two plants at once...the Phal and its phorophyte. If the Phal is thirstier than its host, then you can attach it with some moss. You can also give the host a faster draining medium. Then the orchid's roots would extend into the phorophyte's medium. Quite often bonsai growers use orchid mix as their medium.

You can always raise the phorophyte's root crown above the soil line. This will help hedge against rot and provide a bit more surface area for the Phal. Plus, then you can see two sets of exposed roots...the Phal's and the phorophytes.

In terms of watering depends on several factors...the temperature, the phorophyte, its medium...and the quantity and type of moss you gave the Phal. Personally, I'd water the Phal as soon as I attached it...and then wait and see how many days it takes for it to look wilty. The next time I watered the Phal it would be a day or two before it was likely to show any signs of drought stress. Generally though, a newly mounted orchid will require more frequent waterings than it will when it has numerous roots (straws) crawling all over the branch. So at least initially, you'd want the phorophyte's medium to drain especially well.

It might take some tweaking to get the drainage balance right...but attaching the Phal to a live branch will definitely increase the value to space ratio. You'll get more value for the same amount of space.

Check out these nice blank canvases...

Blank canvas 1

Blank canvas 2

Blank canvas 3

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Value to Space Ratio - Linger Longer

The Los Angeles Fern & Exotic Plant Sale/Show is this weekend at the LA Arboretum.  Are you planning on attending?  Maybe?

One of the vendors, Yvette, often sells Kalanchoe uniflora. You could buy it and attach it to your tree. After a couple years it would look like this...

Kalanchoe uniflora

I think of it as the poor man's Sophronitis. To see what I mean, check out this photo of Sophronitis cernua blooming on a tree in Brazil. Woah!

Just as spectacular is this Sophronitis brevipedunculata blooming on my Crassula "bonsai"...

Sophronitis brevipedunculata

Well...maybe it's a little bit less spectacular. But it's sure more spectacular than a Crassula without an epiphyte!

More orchids on trees? Ok!

Here's Vanda tricolor/suavis, a Dendrobium kingianum hybrid and a Dendrobium nobile hybrid blooming on my Cedar tree...

Vanda tricolor suavis, Dendrobium kingianum and nobile

Epiphytes offer plenty of ways to improve your garden's value to space ratio. If you've attached epiphytes anywhere...then please feel free to share the photos on and/or here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Anybody Interested In Microcoelia Seeds?

Several months ago I tried pollinating my Microcoelia exilis with pollen from a random Neofinetia hybrid. It was really not easy to do. The Microcoelia flowers are very tiny! Without a microscope or magnifying glass it was extremely difficult to try and remove the specks of Microcoelia pollinia and insert the much larger Neofinetia pollinia. After around two weeks of trying I threw in the towel.

Not too long afterwards...I noticed that some of the tiny ovaries were starting to swell a bit. And now I have around a dozen tiny seed pods on my Microcoelia.

My guess is that it's extremely likely that they were all selfed rather than crossed. I'm pretty sure that in my clumsy effort to remove the pollen I simply managed to self pollinate the Microcoelia flowers. But I could be wrong.

With most of my seed pods I just sow the seeds on my tree. But in this case, because it's not a common orchid, I'd prefer to go with the traditional method. All leafless orchids should definitely be more widely available.

Is anybody interested in the seeds? A few criteria...

1. Must be in the US
2. Must be experienced

This isn't the kind of seed for experimenting with. So if you're interested in some seed...then you must be able to provide some evidence that you've successfully germinated monopodial orchid seeds before.

Plus, I'm going to expect a reasonable percentage of seedlings in return. Maybe 10% or so. Of course there's no guarantee that the seeds are viable.

Not sure when the seed pods are going to be ready to harvest. They look like they could pop any day now. But for all I know it could still be another couple of months. I try and inspect them on a daily basis...and as soon as the first pod starts to open...I will remove all the pods.

So far Microcoelia exilis seems to be a really great outdoor leafless orchid for Southern California. I have two of them. The one with seed pods I traded for last year. This winter was pretty mild though. But my first exilis had no problem with a previous winter's temps down to 32F. Both of them bloomed this year and they started putting out new roots early in the year.

They are both mounted without any moss and located pretty high up under 50% white shade cloth. During the coldest days I water them once a week in the morning. During the hottest days I try and water them every night.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Create Hyperlinks For Flickr

Flickr allows you to add hyperlinks in a few different places...but it doesn't create the hyperlinks for you.  At the request of a Flickr friend...

Copy and paste the URL into here...

Enter the text for the link

Create Link

Test the link:  

Copy and paste this code into Flickr

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Introduced Species Can't Always Reduce Biodiversity

Comment on: The last uninvaded frontier?


One thing I feel compelled to note is that it can't be the rule that introduced exotics decrease biodiversity.  Or else each exotic plant introduced to the Hawaiian Islands over the past 28 million years would have reduced biodiversity.  You can't have much biodiversity if every introduction results in the loss of one established species. can't have any biodiversity because the second exotic plant species would simply have replaced the first...and the third species would have replaced the second...

It could certainly be prudent to play it safe by arguing against the introduction of any species anywhere...but I think the priority should really be determining why some introduced species increase, rather than decrease, biodiversity.

The first plant to establish in Hawaii was like the first person on the bus.  They had their pick of seats.  It would be surprising for the second person to board the bus and force the first person out of their seat.  "Hey, that's my seat!"  It's not the greatest analogy because we have to imagine people being better suited to certain seats on a bus.

How many seats (microhabitats) are there in Hawaii?  We can imagine an epiphyte boarding the bus and seeing that all the seats were taken..."it's ok, I prefer sitting on the roof".  Epiphytes have no problem sitting in really uncomfortable seats.  That's why they really increase the biodiversity to space ratio.

When I spent three years in the jungles of Panama...I really can't say that I saw a lot of people sitting on top of the buses.  Epiphytes were the exception rather than the rule.  Then again, I spent most of my time on the "drier" Pacific side.

Oncidium cebolleta grows in the dry forests of the Americas and Dendrobium canaliculatum grows in the dry forests of Australia.  I would be extremely surprised if their cross introductions resulted in the loss of biodiversity.  There are plenty of empty uncomfortable seats.  Or maybe they would say to each other like two old time western gunslingers..."this here town ain't big enough for the two of us".

Epiphytic orchids, unlike other epiphytes such as bromeliads, rarely ever have high density populations.  Generally they are few and far between.  For me this seems to indicate that the rule for introduced orchids will not be a reduction in biodiversity.

Not sure if I'm remembering/interpreting a paper correctly...but a study of established reed stem Epidendrums in Hawaii seemed to indicate that they've already started to noticeably differentiate in the past 50 or so years since they've naturalized.  It's pretty amazing how quickly they've adapted to the selective pressures of a new environment.  I wonder how long it would take for them to become a new subspecies...and eventually a new species.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Inspiring Orchid Facts And Figures?

Reply to: Seeking inspiration on orchid presentation


A. Orchids are the largest plant family. Around 10% of all flowering plants are orchids...most of which are epiphytes.

B. An orchid capsule can contain a million seeds.

C. A is the result of B. Each unique seed is one chance for success. One million seeds equals one million chances of success. Imagine an Easter Egg hunt with only one Easter Egg. The more kids participating in the hunt...the greater the chances that the Easter Egg will be found.

D. Orchid seeds don't contain enough nutrients for them to germinate on their own. This mean the dust like seeds can travel great distances. But the trade-off is that wherever they land there has to be a certain type of microscopic fungus. The fungus penetrates the orchid seed and provides it with the nutrients it needs to germinate. To learn more...

1. The Symbiotic Relationship Between Orchids And Fungus
2. We Need More Orchid Celebrities

E. The Orchid family has more succulent species than any other family...including the Cactus family. In other other plant family has more CAM species. To learn more...

Which Family Has The Most CAM Species?

F. Regarding pollinators...

1. Wide variety of pollinators...even crickets.
2. As you already mentioned they can lure some pollinators by smelling like dead meat
3. They can tricks hoverflies by pretending to be distressed aphids
4. They can trick lonely male pollinators
5. They can smell like a hornet's prey

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guess The Story Of The Flickr Follower

Yesterday I received an e-mail notification from flickr that I have a new follower...Wm Ray.  It's a good thing...a bit of positive feedback that floats my way every once in a while.  Like always, I clicked the link to see his (I guess) photos.  Because...if my photos match his preferences...then maybe his photos will match my preferences.  It's happened before.   Hmmm...which is better...gaining a new follower or finding a new person to follow?  Errr...followee?  That's not a word.  Oh wait...I just googled it and it is a word!

Ray didn't have any photos...or favorites.  It's not too unusual.  For the heck of it I clicked on his profile page and saw this...

First I looked to see who else he might be following...and I discovered that I'm the only one.  That's unusual.  And then I looked to see when Ray joined flickr...2011.  I laughed.  I didn't have to wasn't was entirely involuntary.  Why did I laugh?

A few related things were triggered in my brain...

Imagine going back in time and walking into the very first orchid nursery.  I think perhaps you wouldn't be too impressed with the selection.  "What?  No Dendrobium canaliculatum crosses?  Shucks!"  Kinda like going back in time and walking into the very first candy store.  "What?  No almond joy?  Sheesh!"

Maybe a long time ago (2011) Ray joined flickr and wasn't too impressed with the selection of photographers and/or orchid growers.  Except, I've been a member since 2007...but not actively until maybe 2009.  So it took three years for A. Ray to find me or B. for my photos to finally match his preferences.  Maybe a kind of tipping point was reached and my photos finally crawled into the threshold.

The paucity of clues created a very holey story that stole a chuckle from me.  Of course I can't help but wonder what the real story is.  Anybody want to guess the real story?  It's probably pretty mundane.  Anybody want to make up an outlandish story?  Is anybody else only following one person on flickr?  If so, who and why?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Linger Longer: Platyceriums and Bonsais

Reply to: Mounting Platyceriums


Charles Alford sells some really nice Platyceriums.  I've always been satisfied with the value to price ratio.  He only sells four times a year though.  You have to e-mail him to get on his list.  But he offers many neat epiphytic ferns that you can't get elsewhere.

Tom has a nice collection of Platyceriums...all outdoors year around here in Southern California.  Also good value to price ratio.

Growing Platyceriums from spore is pretty easy.  The hardest part is the waiting.

One thing that's pretty great about Platyceriums is that they make perfect baskets for all types of plants.  This can greatly increase the value to space ratio.  For example...

Begonias, Impatiens
Orchids (Oncidium, Zygopetalum)

Bifurcatums are fairly common here in Southern if somebody shows me one it's like showing me an empty basket.  I have the same perspective with bonsais.  A nice bonsai will have a pretty decent value to space ratio...but it's still a tree without anything growing on it.  It's a blank canvas.

Hopefully in the future every Platycerium will have at least one plant growing in it and every bonsai will have at least one epiphyte growing on it.

Imagine if Frank attends a bonsai show or a fern show.  Let's say that he has a budding general interest in plants.  What's the average amount of time he spends looking at each entry?  Two seconds?  I'm pretty sure if each bonsai and Platycerium had one companion plant...then the total amount of time he spent looking at the exhibits would increase.  How much would the total time increase if each entry had two companion plants?

Depending on the preferences of the exhibitors...the companion plants could stand out and instantly grab your attention...or they could be more like Easter Eggs (media).

When I first moved into my plant friends would walk right past my Cedar tree.  As I started attaching more and more plants to it...visitors would linger longer and longer.  I refer to this as the Man Man Zou standard.  It's Chinese for "walk slow"...or "walk carefully".  As in you'll want to take your time so that you don't miss any delightful details.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Green Thumbprint

Reply to: Weird Succulent!


I'm always talking about's pretty ridiculous.   Actually I recently thought about walking around my neighborhood knocking on doors and asking people if they wanted some free Aloe thraskii seedlings.  I have two flats worth.  LOL...I just tried to imagine people's reactions.  *awkward*

I'm very socially inept...but it would be kinda neat to walk around and see how much variation there was among the siblings.  I think some of them have Aloe vaombe as their other parent.  Around 5% of the seedlings have leaves that are noticeably wider and redder.  Plus, they put out their second leaves sooner than the others...hybrid vigor perhaps...hopefully.

Maybe I could avoid the awkward interactions by just leaving the seedlings on people's porches.  Perhaps I could do this once a year...kinda like a creepy Santa Claus....errrrr...Aloe Claus...wearing a dried Hercules leaf like a necktie?  Should we pick one day of the year where we all go around the neighborhood leaving small gift plants on people's porches?  Who do we have to call about starting a new national holiday?  If anybody left any edibles on my porch I'd have to find somebody to trade with.  Unless it was a longan seedling.  Or a coconut seedling.

Maybe the bees will bribe me to be Aloe Claus.  They LOVE really closely matches their preferences.  How many jars of honey would I have to find on my porch in order for me to go around disseminating thraskii to all my neighbors?  5 jars?

Hmmm...I just remembered that when I was growing mom persuaded several of the neighbors to plant Jacarandas as street trees...and she even paid for some of them.  She's long gone but the trees are still there...blooming so nicely...and then making a mess.

Has anybody else left a noticeable green thumbprint on their neighborhood?  I wonder who left their green thumbprint on my neighborhood...the street trees are really really tall Washingtonia robustas...

Washingtonia robusta

It's no joke when their dead fronds fall!

If I disseminated thraskii to my neighbors...once they were large would be super cool to leave this miniature orchid on people's porches.  In this zoomed out photo you can see that it's growing on an Aloe.  That would be my green thumbprint...a neighborhood with a bunch of miniature orchids growing all over a bunch of tree Aloes.


Lots more on the topic of green thumbprints... The Eden Exercise