Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How Adaptable Are Orchids?

A few years back my best Brazilian friend sent me some seeds of a nice drought tolerant Begonia.  I ended up with around 50 seedlings, one of which I gave to my friend Scadoxus...

Carlos - Carlos = Michelle's Begonia


She said that it hasn't grown much since I gave it to her.  Which is interesting because mine have certainly grown.

Maybe my thumb is greener?  😁  Or maybe I fertilize more?  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my area gets warmer than her area.  We both live in SoCal but she's closer to the coast than I am.

It got me thinking.  What if she had sown all the seeds?   In theory, since her area is cooler, the coolest growing seeds would have had an advantage.  So the seedlings she ended up with would have been better adapted to her conditions.

Is this obvious?

Recently I sowed some seeds from two of my Echeveria roseas.  I grabbed 6 hanging baskets/pots that already had well draining medium in them, placed Sphagnum moss on top of the medium and sowed seeds of E. rosea, Columnea Elmer Lorenz, Anthurium scandens, a couple different Rhipsalis and a NOID Sinningia.  I also placed a few pieces of a NOID Peperomia, Pyrossia and Dischidia on top of the moss.  Then I put each basket/pot in a two gallon zip lock bag.  The hanger made a nice teepee with a hole in the top of the bag.  Lastly I put the baskets/pots in two rows of three on a table in the garage under grow lights near an open window.

The Rhipsalis started to germinate the next day, shortly followed by the Anthurium, and then the rest of the seeds started germinating a couple days after.  There was a significant disparity in the number of seeds that have germinated in the pots.  Here's a pot with a bunch of E. rosea seeds that look perfectly viable but haven't yet germinated...




You'll probably have to click on the picture in order to see the seeds.  Here's the pot with the most seedlings in it...




The two pots closest to the window have the most seedlings, the two pots furthest from the window have the least seedlings, and the two pots in the middle have an average amount of seedlings.  It might be a coincidence, but I'm guessing that it has to do with a difference in temperature.  It's marginally cooler closer to the window.  Right after I sowed the seeds it was over 100F each day for a week.  Even though the pots are right next to each other, they are in a small, but significant, continuum of temps.

According to this website, E. rosea is the best Echeveria for the UK.  This means that, not only is it cold tolerant, it's also cooler growing.  Temps over 100F certainly don't count as cool.  Here's where the plot thickens.  I had placed the two blooming roseas right next to other blooming Echeverias  (coccinea, gibbiflora) in order for the hummingbirds to cross pollinate them.  E. coccinea and gibbiflora are warmer growers than rosea.  So in warmer temps, the hybrid rosea seeds would have an advantage over the species rosea seeds.

Here's a pic of a rosea seed just starting to germinate...




You'll have to look closely to see it.

Right now my Epc Cerina 'Nadia' has a nice big seed pod on it…




Here’s what Cerina’s made of...

81.25% = Epi. cinnabarinum
6.25% = Epi. jamiesonis
6.25% = Epi. radicans
3.13% = C. guttata
3.13% = C. luteola

From what I've read, Epi cinnabarinum is a warmer grower with larger flowers.  So it was pretty popular for the reed-stem breeding that was done in Hawaii.  When I asked an Epi grower here in SoCal about Cerina he said that it has never rebloomed for him or produced keikis.  Fortunately, it has for me.  Here’s a pic of a couple of keikis…





Probably the main difference between the Epi grower and myself is that he is right on the coast.  So his conditions are a lot cooler than mine.  The disparity in Cerina’s performance provides some evidence that it does require a decent amount of heat.

Cerina’s flowers are significantly larger than the flowers of typical reed-stems.  Here’s the only pic that I have of them…


Carnivorous Cattleya


The reason that I removed Cerina’s flowers was to more comfortably/carefully extricate the pollen.  I put the pollen into a small zip lock bag and climbed my tree to pollinate the big floofy white Cattleya.  When I inspected the first flower, I discovered that somebody else had already tried to pollinate it, and had died in the attempt.  I pollinated a couple of other flowers and they developed very large pods.  Unfortunately, when I harvested them, they turned out to be completely empty.  The orchid and I were both tricked.

Cerina’s roots, canes and leaves are also larger than typical reed-stems.  Here’s a side by side comparison of the canes of Cerina and the canes of a typical reed-stem...




The pod that is currently developing on Cerina is hopefully the result of pollen from…

Epi (Pacific Eclipse x Pacific Canary) ‘Yellow Sun’ x Epi magnoliae

Scadoxus purchased it from Sunset Valley Orchids and let me borrow it for pollination.   Its yellow flowers are average sized.  The plant itself is more stocky than the typical reed-stem and the leaves are relatively succulent.  Right now it has a keiki on it with several thick roots.

Epi magnoliae is the Northernmost occurring epiphytic orchid in the Americas.  So it's certainly cold tolerant, but I'm not under the impression that it's a cooler grower.  Andy notes the Florida form as favoring warmer temps.  The other states in which it occurs also have hot summers.

Here's the breakdown for Epi. Pacific Eclipse...

46.88% = Epi. cinnabarinum
39.06% = Epi. radicans
14.06% = Epi. jamiesonis

And for Epi. Pacific Canary...

28.13% = Epi. cinnabarinum
25.0% = na (eh?)
23.44% = Epi. radicans
12.5% = Epi. secundum
10.94% = Epi. jamiesonis

Let's imagine that I split Cerina’s seed pod with Scadoxus.  Hopefully the seeds will be able to germinate without flasking or fungus.  My guess is that cinnabarinum would be pretty influential in the cross.  This should mean that more of my seeds would germinate.  However, this might not be the case if we sowed the seeds in the fall.  Even though my area is warmer than Scadoxus' area in the summer, our temps are more equal in the fall and spring, and my area is actually cooler than hers in the winter.

To keep things simple let's say that Scadoxus and myself each ended up with 50 seedlings out of 1000s and 1000s of seeds.  If we exchanged half our seedlings with each other then I'm guessing that, in my garden, my seedlings would grow faster than her seedlings.  In her garden, her seedlings would grow faster than my seedlings.

Is this obvious?

What really isn't obvious to me is the difference in speed.  I have absolutely no idea how much better my seedlings would do in my conditions compared to her seedlings.  Would the difference in performance be barely noticeable?  Or would it be somewhat noticeable?  Or would it be very noticeable?

To put it in terms of blooming... in my conditions how much sooner would my seedlings bloom than hers?  Would my seedlings bloom a week before hers?  Or a month?  Or a year?

The bigger the difference, the more adaptable the cross is.  The bigger the difference, the more rapidly the cross will conform to its conditions.  Right?

We should all know that orchids are adaptable.  But I've never heard of any experiment or study that has attempted to quantify how adaptable any given orchid is.  Well... maybe I have... Sem and Phylogenetic Analysis of Naturalized and Cultivated Epidendrum in Hawaii (PDF).  In Hawaii, cultivated Epis were compared to naturalized Epis.  It seems that there were some noticeable differences between the two groups.  This is interesting given how relatively short a time that the Epis have been naturalized in Hawaii.

Reed-stems naturalizing in Hawaii isn't a very huge feat.  It would be a very different story if reed-stems naturalized in California.  The time it takes for them to be capable of doing so largely depends on how adaptable they are.

Does it matter to us as orchid growers how adaptable orchids are?  The more adaptable an orchid is, the greater the benefit of growing it from seed yourself.

We've all heard the expression that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.  If orchid seeds don't fall far from their parents, then we can't expect that some seeds will be noticeably better suited to our conditions than other seeds.

Assuming that Cerina’s pod is full of seeds, what should I do with them?  Of course I’d be interested in splitting them with Scadoxus in order to try and measure how adaptable the cross is.  But I’ve also considered the idea of dividing them among the members of this forum.  If there are 10,000 members perhaps each one would receive 10 seeds.  Heh.  The more members that successfully germinated their seeds, the more adaptable the cross is?

In order to get the individuals that are best suited to my conditions, I should sow all the seeds myself.  It’s always better to select from a larger pool of trait combinations.  But what if I divide the seeds among 10 members?  On the one hand, a smaller pool means somewhat less well-adapted seedlings.  On the other hand, if 10 other members also grow the same cross, then… what?

My number one plant rule is to hedge my bets.  The other day, when I inspected one of the pots with E. rosea seedlings, I discovered half a dozen tiny bush snails.  I have no idea how they got in there… but it’s a good thing that I hedged my bets by sowing the seeds in 5 other pots, each in their own ziplock bag.  If I shared Cerina’s seeds with 10 other members, then hopefully I would be able to obtain some seedlings from these members if something happened to mine.  This alone is adequate justification for sharing the seeds.

In terms of making progress though, would there be any benefit to sharing the seeds?  Here’s how I personally define “progress” when it come orchids…

Drier growing (requiring less frequent watering)
Cooler and warmer growing (hercuthermal)

Let’s say that I give 10,000 seeds to my friend Orchid Dude.  If he keeps the seeds/seedlings in one of his greenhouses, then the perfect conditions won’t provide an advantage to the individuals that are exceptionally drier growing and/or hercuthermal.  So if he shares some of his seedlings with me, because something happened to mine, then I’d be glad that I hedged my bets.  But his seedlings probably wouldn’t be very “progressive”, for lack of a better term.

So in terms of maximizing progress, the seeds should be shared with the members whose conditions/culture will favor the most progressive individuals.  In other words, the seeds should be shared with the members who will provide optimally challenging conditions.  Except, the large majority of people with optimally challenging conditions probably aren't members of this forum.  So I'm leaning towards the idea of auctioning off the seeds to forum members in order to raise money to promote the thread dedicated to the project.

49 comments:

  1. I am sure that whatever method you choose to disseminate the seeds you will end with a large enough selection of seedlings to work with. I agree that the more recipients of the seeds you get the greater the progress. You can randomly send seeds to the four corners of the globe and see what you get.

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  2. I liked the little seedlings and how they grow. I learned that when you plant seedlings in hot or cold temperature ,you have to be careful.

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  3. it is a good blog but i didn't get what you were talking about when you said "Here’s what Cerina’s made of..." because a lot of plants are written there. is it a hybrid of a lot of plants? Or maybe a hybrid of another hybrid?

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    1. Take a look at Cerina's family tree. You can see the parents, and grandparents. You can click on them to see their family tree.

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  4. I never new that you can germinate with fungus.Wow that is so amazing.

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    1. The rule is that seeds contain enough nutrients to germinate. Orchid seeds are an exception to this rule. In order to germinate, they must receive nutrients from a microscopic fungus. But even this exception to the rule has exceptions. Reed-stem Epidendrums are orchids, but their seeds do contain enough nutrients to germinate.

      What would happen if we switched the rules? Imagine if the rule was that seeds did not contain enough nutrients to germinate. In order to germinate, they must receive nutrients from a microscopic fungus. What would a coconut look like?

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  5. What I have learned is that Cerina's flowers are larger than the flowers of typical red stem. Now I know that Cerina's flowers are larger than the flowers from the red stem.

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  6. I think it is a good idea that you put your Ziploc bags with the seeds in them different distances from the window so that next time you would know the best spots for them.

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    1. I totally agree with your method

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    2. The #1 plant rule is to hedge your bets. Don't keep all your eggs/seeds/plants in the same basket.

      I just shared the link to your blog entry with my friend in Australia. We were talking about Dragon Fruit. Maybe that's what your cactus is? Are you going to put them all in the same pot or different pots?

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  7. I also think plants in the plastic bags can grow faster in hotter places. But it is depending on what plant it is either if it is a plant that grows in the hot sun or in a cooler spot. By the way, our teacher has a greener thumb than you and we all have green fingers.

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    1. This will help me because I will be able to know where to put different plants.

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  8. I really like Anthurium Scandens. Now I know that when the same plants are in different areas or are added something different they can grow differently or one may not grow.

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  9. I learned that when you put the pots in different places one of them might grow more seedlings then the other.

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  10. I learned that if you put plants in different places one of them will grow even bigger faster than other plants. If you get it big enough maybe you can get that plant to make another one of those plants.

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  11. When you wanted to pollinate the big floofy cattleya, you saw that someone was trying to pollinate it, and it died. And when you harvest them, there was a big pod, and nothing was in there.

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  12. It is too bad that the big seed pods were empty!

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  13. I enjoyed all the texture and the detail in the text. The way you did your really it was amazing. I think you should make more blogs about plants. I loved how you showed me what a germinated echeveria looks like. And your Cerina has a beautiful. I learned that when seeds come from cold places the don't grow that much but when plants are in warm temperature it grows bigger.

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    1. That is a true and funny statement about the fingers. BTW

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  15. Nice set of information! I didn't know Epi Cinnabrainum was a warm grower. By the way, My teacher has a magnificent green thumb!

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  16. I learned that different types of plants can grow in different temperatures and different spots. By the way our teacher has a really pretty green thumb and yours is brown. Eventually,me and my classmates will all have green thumbs as well.

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  17. It was a great blog so much info on what can help me in the future because I to would like to be a botanist. It is great that you did on experiment on were to put your plants. So now you know the right spot to put seeds when they are germinating.

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    1. Your right I bet he spent a long time working on that entry. It inspires me to want to learn alot about plants.

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  18. The seeds have to have the same temperature they originally had to grow. For example, if you have an indoor plant that has a cool temperature and you put it in the hot outdoors it will get sunburned and will not grow.

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  19. You inspire me to grow some plants and I think your right when you said plants don't grow so,big when the are in cold temperature and it grows bigger in hot temperature.

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  20. I learned that by the different kinds of temperature a plant can grow. Like I bought a succulent last year and I put it in a hot spot because succulents like the heat. So i put it in the hot spot and a few days later I saw that it was starting to grow big.

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  21. this is so cool i didn't now that the plants grow faster with the temperature it needs oh and by the way my teacher has a very green thumb and yours is brown.

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  22. What I learned is that since my teacher lives closer to the coast, so it would take her plant longer to go than yours. So that means that it depends where you live and the habitat of the plant it use to live in. By the way my teacher has a way greener thumb than yours.

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  23. I learned you put the plant in warmer places they grow faster than putting them in the cool places and waiting longer time for them to grow.

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  24. It is sad that you did all the work just to find out that the pods were empty. Oh I also learned that depending on temperature the plant comes from it would grow better in that same temperature somewhere else. By the way my teacher has a greener thumb than you do.

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  25. i have Learned that putting plants in the cooled would take longer for it to grow. And in the sunny nice warm place would grow faster.

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  26. What i learned is Cerina's roots , canes leaves are also larger than typical reed stems.

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  27. I learned that plants will grow better if they are in a warmer area.Now I know that I need to put my plant experiment in a warmer area that way the plant will grow bigger.

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  28. I will move most of my plants to cooler places because of the result your seedlings had when they were closer to the window which was a cooler area. Oh and by the way my teachers thumb is greener than yours by a mile.

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  29. Depending were you live the plants will grow depending the
    area you live at. The weather will tell how they will grow.Plants are a huge responsibility they need water every day and sunlight.They also need room to grow .

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  30. And by they way Ms Jarrett has a greener thumb than yours

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  31. I learned that depending on were the temperature you live, the more your plants will grow. And by the way Ms. Jarrett has a greener thumb than yours.

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  32. I learned that depending in what tepeture you are in.

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