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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fantastic Flickr Stars Shining Brightly

A little while ago a lady in Australia messaged the OSSC facebook page. She asked about a source for some Thunias for her friend in California. The topic broadened a bit and I suggested that she join flickr to share some of her photos. And that's exactly what she did!

MangoPie70's Photostream on Flickr

Check out that Stanhopea! And that Koi pond!

Flickr's kind of a big place so I decided to send her a private message with a list of people that she might be interested in "following".

I scrolled down my main flickr page and compiled a lengthy, but by no means comprehensive, list of some really great orchid/epiphyte growers.

After I sent her the list...I figured why not share it with other people? It sure doesn't make sense to hide a candle under a bushel!

So here's the list that I sent her (in no particular order)...


Carlos my good friend in Brazil. He's usually pretty great at replying to questions...definitely a lot better than I am!

Fuzzy, a plant enthusiast in your neck of the woods. Gotta warn you though that some of his non-plant photos are...a bit...errrrr...PG-13? Sometimes I get a little surprised but it's worth it to see his plant photos! :D

Maurice, in New Zealand. He has a tree which he's covered in epiphytes. It was even featured in one of those home and garden magazines! But he likes to upload mainly bug photos. :D Maurice started an excellent website for epiphyte enthusiasts. You should check it out!

Alfred lives in my neck of the woods. One of the best orchid growers I know! And really lovely photographs as well!

Don is another really outstanding orchid grower. He lives in Santa Barbara (1 1/2 hours north of me). Don grows all? his plants outside year around. I think his conditions might be pretty darn close to your own.

Ken lives in Columbia. His property is teaming with epiphytes everywhere!

Tomas is my good friend in Rome, Italy. He has a famous photo of a Vanda covered in snow.

Peter is in my neck of the woods. Really really nice collection of perfectly grown orchids!

Charles is an outstanding outdoor orchid grower in my neck of the woods. Really beautiful orchid photos! I included one of his photos in my gallery of orchids on trees.

Albert is another outstanding outdoor grower in my neck of the woods. A really nicely diverse collection of interesting and lovely orchids.

Jacob is an expert orchid grower up in Northern California. Lots and lots of rare orchids and other unusual plants!

Puerto Rico Paradise. One of the best private collections of tropical plants! Check out this beauty... Huperzia goebelii


Heh, kinda reminds me of that one 80s New Wave song.

If an orchid grower that you know just joined flickr...which fantastic flickr stars would you point out to them?

Woah, I just realized that my list is really sexist! But is it my fault that Marni and Cynthia, two orchid growers who I really admire, don't share their photos on flickr? *scratches head*

I wasn't going to mention it but I do get all the credit for Alfred and Charles sharing their photos on flickr. :D I cajoled the heck out of them mercilessly! Heck, I even bought Charles a one year flickr subscription* to try and pry him away from his previous website.

Unfortunately, unlike Alfred and Charles, Marni and Cynthia live way too far away to be members of the OSSC. So I didn't get to see them once a month to drop not so subtle hints. :(

Anyways, now it sounds like I'm protesting too much! Well...if anybody else does decide to share their list of fantastic flickr stars....we'll see how many other people don't have any ladies in their list.

Oops, I just remembered that I might have persuaded Tomas to share his photos on flickr...and he lives all the way in Italy. And, obviously, I managed to persuade Valerie and she lives on the other side of the world. So that doesn't do much for my proximity excuse!

*Now you get 1 terabyte of free space

Monday, January 6, 2014

Stanhopea On A Tree

Reply to: Stanhopeas on a Stick?


The most valuable lesson is not to keep all your epiphytes on the same tree.  In other words, don't keep all your eggs in the same basket.  When possible...hedge your bets by dividing your orchids and placing the divisions in a range of hopefully suitable conditions.  Usually 3 pseudobulbs is the standard division size for orchids.  Many orchids can be grown from just a single pseudobulb...but it will take a while for it to reach blooming size.  I think Stanhopeas might be somewhat more difficult with single pseudobulbs.

Another lesson I've learned is that cork is excellent for wine bottles for the same reason it is horrible for mounted retains absolutely no moisture.  You can submerge it in water for a day and it won't weigh any more than before you submerged it.  It's a popular mounting choice though because moisture retention isn't an issue in humid greenhouses.  Plus it's very light, it doesn't break down...and it's relatively easy to cut.

Most fruit trees can work for mounts but lately wooden pallets are my mount of choice.  There's an electrical supply store near where I live and they regularly have broken wooden pallets by their dumpster.   After hours I just back my truck in, quickly throw the pallet in the bed and speed away like I stole the thing.  I think I've got 3 or 4 pallets in my backyard right now.  They should hopefully provide enough mounts for springtime dividing.  The wood might be chemically treated but all my orchids have attached to the mounts no problem.

Ok, regarding Stanhopeas...of the half dozen or so species I've tried...Stanhopea jenischiana is by far the best grower.  My sample size hasn't been large enough to say for sure why this is though.  Maybe I just ended up with an exceptional clone...but they've all done really well.  One division was mounted on a horizontal Avocado branch that I brought from my previous house.  Another was attached to a tree fern plaque.  That division seemed to do the best.

Last year my Avocado branch started breaking down so I divided the jenischiana and attached one of the divisions on my Cedar tree where it's doubled in size...

Stanhopea jenischiana On A Tree

Here's the larger sized version of the photo

Jenischiana is really starting to crowd the Encyclia cochleata!  Hahaha.  They are having a shoving match and the Stanhopea is winning.  That's ok because the Encyclia cochleata, which is about to bloom, can run away...I think.   Also seen in the picture is Oncidium maculatum...which is also about to bloom.  All three orchids are quite I kinda messed up placing them so high up in the tree.

These three orchids are on the "shady" side of the tree.  As you can tell from the color of the leaves it's not really that shaded.  Lots of direct late morning sun.  Maybe somewhat filtered.

Water wise...during the coldest days...first thing in the morning once every 10 days and during the hottest days...every night.  Stanhopeas will definitely appreciate a good couple handfuls of quality New Zealand Spaghnum when you mount them.

When I mount orchids I use 10lb to 40lb fishing line depending on the size of the orchid (perhaps 20lb for a Stanhopea).  The trick is ensuring that the orchid is attached to the mount as tightly as possible.  First I cut an appropriate sized length of fishing line.  Then I tie a slip knot loop on one end.  I wrap the fishing line around the orchid and its mount, go through the loop and cinch the fishing line tightly.  Next I tightly wrap the fishing line around the orchid/mount 3 or 4 more times.  Lastly is the hardest part that none of my friends have really managed to master!  I use the "leftover" line from the first knot to create a slipknot which allows me to cinch down and tie off the rest of the fishing line without losing any tension.  Without this slipknot it's extremely difficult to tie off the finishing line without losing some tension.

If the orchid has any room to shift when it gets hit from water from the hose or a strong gust of wind...then the new roots won't be able to attach and the orchid will start to gradually decline.  Same thing happens when snails/slugs eat off all the new root tips.  The lower an orchid is on a tree...the more accessible it is to slugs/snails.

In my conditions, and with perfect drainage, I've never had any problem with rotting Stanhopeas...even when I've carelessly placed medium on top of them!  CAM orchids are a different story so I use absolutely no moss when I mount them.

If you haven't already seen them...check out the groups for orchid enthusiasts in Southern California...

OSSC on Flickr
OSSC on Facebook

You're certainly welcome to come over for a tour!

Orchids Are Perfect For Cemeteries

Reply to: We Need More Orchid Celebrities


arthurm, at least here in Southern California...when you go to a botanical's extremely rare to see orchids on trees. Most of the orchids can be seen growing in the display greenhouses. So I think it's largely a matter of people not knowing that so many orchids can be grown on trees here. If they were aware of this fact then I'm pretty sure there would be a big boost in orchid sales.

That's a really great idea to tie some keikis to the trees at the golf course! The higher up you attach them the less likely it is that somebody will swipe them. But wouldn't you be surprised to see somebody standing on top of a golf cart trying to grab some orchids!

Over in Miami, an orchid enthusiast attached some orchids on the trees in his local dog park...and I think they are still there.

The most likely location near my house is a cemetery. I suppose I could attach some orchids on the trees there. But then I'd have to visit several times a week to water them during summer. It's not like they don't water's just that they don't water high enough. But maybe a few trees get hit pretty high up with sprinklers.

Hmmm...actually...what if I set up a drip watering system with a big water bottle suspended from a branch?? I wonder what the slowest drip rate could be for a Laelia anceps during a typical summer day? I should experiment to find out.

A cemetery is a perfect place for orchids the sense that the prime real estate is all taken. That's why epiphytes are epiphytes in the first place!

Yeah, you're right that you can't show your orchid at your society meeting if it's attached to a tree! can if it's a miniature orchid attached to a potted tree. In the future every bonsai will have at least one epiphyte attached to it. Epiphytes add plenty of interest and value to bonsais!

Here's CB's photos sorted by popularity.

Another awesome orchid photographer...orchid dude.

Friday, January 3, 2014

We Need More Orchid Celebrities

In this blog entry I'm going to attach four epiphytes to the same branch...

Epiphyte 1 - Improving on some common expressions...
  • kill two birds with one stone -> attach two epiphytes to the same branch
  • don't keep all your eggs in one basket -> don't keep all your epiphytes on one tree 
  • there's more than one way to skin a cat -> there's more than one way to attach an epiphyte 
  • out-of-the-box thinking -> epiphytic thinking (added 14 Dec 2014, context: Herclivation)
It would be awesome if these improved expressions caught on!  Please feel free to use them and report back on the results.

Epiphyte 2 - Orchid celebrities...

What's an orchid celebrity? It's a specific orchid plant that has been photographed by several different people.

For's a Cattleya blooming on a tree in the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden (Oahu, Hawaii)...
I created a gallery on flickr for this Waimea Cattleya.

It's so cool that so many different people documented the same orchid over a time span of 8 years.  We can roughly measure the orchid's progress and see how much variation there is in its blooming time/duration.

Is this Cattleya on a tree the biggest orchid superstar?  Do you know of any other specific orchid plants that are more famous?

Personally, having looked over a ton of photos of orchids on trees...I haven't found any other orchid that comes even vaguely close to being as famous.

For example, if you look through photos of orchids at the Fairchild Botanic Garden in Miami'd be hard-pressed to find the same orchid photographed by two different people.

So why are there so few orchid superstars? Shouldn't there be more? Here are some of the factors involved...

1. Showiness - The more spectacular an orchid is...the more likely it is that people are going to think it's worth the effort to photograph and worth the effort to share the photos with others. And when it comes to star power...some orchids have more potential than other orchids.

2. Exposure - Even if the orchid is the most spectacular and showy specimen ever...if it's in a private garden then it's probably not going to be documented by numerous different people. But even in a public two locations are going to receive the same exact amount of foot traffic. Locations nearer the entrance are going to receive far more traffic than locations far off the beaten path. But even if the orchid is located near the entrance...a spectacular orchid that's high up on a tree will receive far less attention than an orchid that's located closer to eye level.

3. Blooming duration - Even if the orchid is spectacular...and it's in a public garden near the entrance....and it's at eye level...if its blooming duration is very short...then this will decrease the amount of people who will photograph it.

4. Photo tagging - Even if many people take photos of the same orchid...if they don't tag the photos with the relevant keywords then it greatly decreases the chances that others will see the photos. Part of the problem is that botanic gardens often struggle with providing effective signage.  They should share both the common and scientific names of their orchid stars on highly visible signs.  Doing so will increase the chances that visitors will take a photo of the sign in order to tag the photo with the relevant keywords when they share it on the internet.  In situations where the common or scientific name isn't known...a unique name should be given to the orchid.

Any other factors?

So which of these factors is the most significant in explaining why there are so few orchid celebrities?

I think it's pretty straightforward that everybody would benefit if there were more orchid celebrities. Our hobby would certainly benefit...and so would the botanical gardens. The more orchid celebrities a botanical garden has...the more incentive orchid enthusiasts would have to visit it. The more orchid enthusiasts that visit...the more photos of the garden that will be shared on the internet. This publicity will generate interest in both the botanical garden and the orchid hobby.  It's a virtuous cycle with many positive externalities.

Epiphyte 3 - Orchid roots and their fungus...

Recently I ran across this article on the relationship between orchids and fungus...Orchids Are as Finicky as the Fungi That Nourish Them

A few people who commented on the article questioned how the fungus benefits from the relationship. You can read the comment that I shared... The Symbiotic Relationship between Orchids and Fungus

Basically, the orchid roots help the fungus colonize the tree.

Did anybody notice that the Waimea Cattleya's roots are dangling rather than attached to the tree? It almost seems like the botanical garden somehow places the orchid on the tree when it blooms...and then they take it down after its done. That would be kinda strange though. Another possible explanation is that the tree has properties that prevent the roots from attaching to it. I wonder what kind of tree it is.

Here's a pretty darn great example of orchid roots attached to a tree...

Vanda Growing on a Tree in Waimea Valley

The orchid fungus is too small to be seen with the naked eye...but we can use mushrooms to represent the fungus...

Orchid Fungus Symbiotic Relationship

The more orchid roots that the Vanda has growing on the tree...the more mushrooms there will be growing on the roots...and the more mushrooms there are...the more spore that will be released. The more spore that is released...the greater the chances that some will land on suitable microhabitats on trees in the area. The more mushrooms growing on trees in the area...the greater the chances that the Vanda's seeds will land on them and germinate.

The success of an orchid is directly tied to the success of its fungus...and vice versa. They need each other to succeed. Well...that's my theory.

So if you want orchids to continue to be successful... don't grow them in pots. Growing an orchid in a pot greatly limits the amount of fungus spore that is disseminated. In other words, growing orchids in pots significantly decreases the chances that their fungal partners will succeed.

Epiphyte 4 - Growing orchids on trees...

There's a very common misconception that you need to live in the tropics in order to grow orchids on trees. This is entirely untrue. You can grow orchids on trees wherever you live. The difference is, if you live in a colder'll just have to bring your trees inside for the winter. In other words, you'll have to grow your orchids on potted trees. To learn more please read...Growing Orchids on Potted Plants.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Started New Year With Hi-5?

I'm curious if anybody started the New Year with a hi-5. A good hi-5 is awesome and it's hilarious when your friends hi-5 fail.

I was kind of surprised to discover that there isn't already a hi-5 competition. So for fun I created a page on facebook to try and get the ball rolling...

Hi-5 Competition

How would a hi-5 competition even work? I guess there would be two person teams. And each team would need a name. The judges would give points for style, enthusiasm, accuracy, loudness and...? How would the judges be selected?

Ummm...would each team be able to pick a song to hi-5 to? Would that be optional?

Should there be an entry fee? And the winning team gets all the money?

What about a category for random partners? For some reason I'm thinking it would be kinda interesting. We could see which two strangers hi-5'd each other the best . It would be like finding an awesome random arena partner (if you catch that reference you're a geek :D).

While I'm at it...let's consider the more or less relevant economics (haha...any excuse to talk about economics!)...

First up to bat is Kirzner!
Entrepreneurial discovery represents the alert becoming aware of what has been overlooked. The essence of entrepreneurship consists in seeing through the fog created by the uncertainty of the future. When the Misesian human agent acts, he is determining what indeed he 'sees' in this murky future. He is inspired by the prospective pure profitability of seeing that future more correctly than others do. These superior visions of the future inform entrepreneurial productive and exchange activity. The dynamic market process is made up of such profit-motivated creative acts in regard to the future. - Israel M. Kirzner, How Markets Work 
In this case, I'm the alert! :D I became aware of the fact that there isn't a hi-5 competition. So I, the entpreneur, the Misesian human agent...acted. What motivated me to act? Profit. Of course it would be nice to become a billionaire as a result. :D I'd buy a ton of acres in the southernmost part of Texas and create the closest thing to Eden in the US.

But even if I didn't make a single penny...I could still profit by all the enjoyment I derived from seeing unbridled enthusiasm at its finest...and knowing that I was instrumental in bringing that much more joy to the world.

So that's the vision which prompted me to act. But every action has an element of risk. I don't have a crystal ball...I can't see the future. Maybe it's a mistake because there won't be enough interest. Maybe it will be a mistake because there will be unforseen negative consequences. Clearly though I judged that it would be a bigger mistake not to act.

Next up to bat is John Holbo. Here's part of what he wrote during our discussion on selling votes...
Consider three ways of allocating votes.

You get more votes the longer you are willing to sit in a chair in a room for hours on end with nothing but nothing to do.

You get more votes the longer you are willing to do the downward-facing dog.

You get more votes the more you pay.

These are all potential methods of measuring intensity of preference. In some ways they are all better than the system we have got, because they all attempt to measure intensity at all, whereas one person-one vote does not. That said, they are all obviously flawed.
Resources can't be put to their most valuable uses if we don't know the intensity of people's preferences. A hi-5 can help reveal the intensity of somebody's preferences...

"Let's go on a road trip to our favorite orchid nursery!"

Enthusiastic hi-5...right?

Starting a facebook page for a hi-5 competition also indicates some degree of intensity in my preference for this particular use of society's limited resources. This is because I had to sacrifice alternative uses of my limited time. I could have spent that time trying to find orchid celebrities!

Markets allow us to decide exactly how much we are willing to give up for what we want. This accurate input helps ensure that the output will match society's actual preferences/priorities.

Next up to bat...coconuts??
Also in August 2011, the CEO of Milestone Capital, Ved Prakash Arya, was crushed and killed when a coconut palm tree fell on him in Mumbai. Following the incident, the local municipal authority resisted proposals to cut down the trees, noting, "We don't allow chopping down of coconut trees. The possibility of coconut trees falling down is very rare. The tree sustains huge wind velocity and suits the weather condition of city." - Wikipedia, Deaths by Coconut
Is hi-5'ing riskier than sitting under a coconut tree? Did you know that there are some coconut trees in the southernmost part of Texas? Lately I've been thinking more and more about starting a botanical garden down there. It would have tons of coconut palms and orchids. The goal would be to move both of them further and further north.

Is this a valuable use of society's limited resources? Is there a demand for a botanical garden in Southern Texas that's got an abundance of coconut palms and orchids growing everywhere? Would it be worth the risk of some people potentially being bonked on the head by coconuts?
An individual human life has no equivalent. But that is not to say that nothing can be ranked with, let alone outrank, a human life. The French government knows that each year several drivers lose their lives because of the beautiful roadside avenues of trees, yet they do not cut them down. Even aesthetic pleasure is (rightly) allowed to outrank a certain number of human lives. - James Griffin
How many more drivers would lose their lives if those beautiful roadside trees looked like this...or this? Perhaps it will be a moot point though when cars drive themselves.

So which would create more joy? A hi-5 competition or a botanical garden in Southern Texas? I don't know...but I think I know why orchids are so successful.

Each of their seeds represents a unique idea...and they throw a lot of different ideas out there. Each seed pod can contain a million seeds. If you throw enough ideas out there...then you greatly increase your chances of success!