Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ideas For Plant Societies

Bundles aren't inherently bad.  This entry, like most of mine, will bundle a few different ideas and topics together... but they will all be more, or less, relevant to the topic of plant societies.

My friend Monica is a member of the Epiphyte Society of Southern California (ESSC).  A few weeks ago she invited Dave and I over to see her place.   Dave is another ESSC member.  Last year she saw his collection but he still hasn't seen hers.  Unfortunately, he couldn't make it this time... so I asked another ESSC member, Scadoxus, to join me instead.  We'd both already seen Monica's nice collection but it's been at least a year so Scadoxus and I figured that it would be worth it to see it again.

The day before we visited Monica, Scadoxus and I had driven down to Cerritos to attend our very first meeting of the LA/OC plant trading group on Facebook.  In my previous entry I listed a few different seeds and cuttings that I was offering to anybody in that group who was interested in them.  The meeting started at 10 am and it was held in a public park.  It seemed like over 50 people showed up with a wide variety of plants to share and trade.  Some people also brought food and drinks.  Plus there was a plant raffle.

After the meeting ended at 11 am, Scadoxus and I drove a few miles away to attend a begonia sale that was being held at a private residence in Lakewood.  Scadoxus wasn't sure if it would be worth it to attend because it had started at 9 am and she figured that all the nice plants would be gone.  She was wrong though, we found a really nice thick-stemmed begonia (Begonia dichotoma?) for only $5 dollars.  Plus, she ended up getting a good deal on a burgundy plumeria.

The owner of the residence was a really nice lady by the name of Chris.  She gave Scadoxus and I a tour of her collection.  I'm grateful that she did!  Her collection was nicely balanced.  In her shade house she had a specimen Nepenthes that she generously shared cuttings of.  Plus I saw some especially nice Begonias...

Begonia 'Spotted Medora'

I really liked the form of this Begonia.  It was wonderfully shaped like a little tree, so of course I'd want to attach a few miniature epiphytes to it (ie Tillandsia tricholepsis).  I learned that this form is referred to as "standard".

Begonia 'Gryphon'

I really liked this thick-stem begonia, it reminds me of Begonia 'Kudos' (not its real name).

Begonia 'Joy Blair'?

So nice!  It looks like a relatively drought tolerant Begonia.  The label says "Joy's Garden, Joy Blair" but a Google search didn't reveal any relevant results.  I'd really love some seeds of this when it blooms.  Chris did let me collect some seeds from her nice cane Begonias.

After Scadoxus and I finished at the sale, we drove a few blocks away to visit ESSC member Steve.  I'd been to his place a few times before but Scadoxus had never been.  One of Steve's very favorite things is variegated plants... he has many many many different ones.

Steve's Front Yard

Lawn!?  He says that each year the border moves a foot.  From my perspective the rate is too slow.  There should already be a variegated Aloe Hercules right in the center.

Adenia perrieri

Steve had recently acquired this really cool plant with variegated snowflake leaves.

Even though Steve and Chris both love plants and live only a few blocks away from each other for many years... they didn't even know of each other's existence.  Let's say that they had become friends as soon as the second one had moved into the neighborhood.  How different would their collections now be?  I think it's a given that their collections would be better... otherwise there'd be no point in making plant friends!

My first job was working in a privately owned orchid greenhouse.  It was the summer after my freshman year in high school and my task was to divide and repot Cattleyas.  The owner of the greenhouse didn't have any mounted orchids, neither did he have any orchids outside the greenhouse.  I asked him if any of the orchids in the greenhouse could grow outside but he didn't know.  He did however very generously give me a couple big garbage bags full of backbulbs.  I remember excitedly attaching them to the trees in my backyard.  Alas, they all died... except for one Oncidium which managed to put some roots on the tree... which were promptly eaten by slugs.  Still, the fact that I had managed to achieve even a little success fueled my interest in growing orchids on trees.

It was several years later, probably when I was in my senior year of high school that, after lots of trial and error, and after many orchid causalities, I learned the reason why the all the other orchids in my first batch had died.  It had nothing to do with them being unsuitable for growing on trees... it was simply because I didn't attach them tight enough.  And in the case of the Oncidium, I had attached it too low on the tree.

Some time after college I joined the Orchid Society of Southern California (OSSC) and I took the opportunity to look through their collection of old AOS magazines.  I found a really excellent article by Susan M. Stephenson... Orchids Outdoors in Southern California.  It turned out that, at the same exact time that I was an ignorant but enthusiastic kid struggling to grow orchids on my trees... just on the other side of town there was a fellow by the name of Bill Paylen who had lots of orchids happily growing on his trees.  We didn't even know of each other's existence.  If we had, I'm sure that my collection would be a lot better than it currently is.

After finding Stephenson's article I digitized it and sent it to the AOS so that they could put it on their website.  It's been a decade since they did so... how much difference has the article made?  How much difference will this blog entry make in a decade?

The day after attending the Cerritos plant trade, the begonia sale, and visiting Steve's garden, Scadoxus and I visited Monica on the westside.  She has several trees covered in bromeliads, orchids, ferns and all sorts of other plants.  Somehow I didn't take any pictures.  I should have taken pictures.

When Monica visited my place a couple weeks earlier she told me that on her way to work she passed a house with a tree that had big bromeliads in it.  I asked her if she had ever talked with the owners but she said that she was always running late.  When Scadoxus and I were about to leave Monica's place, I asked her how far away the house with the bromeliad tree was.  She said that it wasn't far and told us the street that it was on, but she couldn't remember the closest cross street.

Scadoxus and I decided that it wouldn't hurt to check it out.  We found the right street and and shortly afterwards we spotted the right tree...

Aechmea blanchetiana

This reddish variety is really eye-catching... especially against the white bark of the Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla).  Also in the front yard was a Ficus dammaropsis... along with lots of other really nice plants.

I asked Scadoxus if she wanted to knock on the door.  She said it was all me and went to take a picture of something.  I rang the door and a fellow answered.  We talked for a bit but he was naturally a bit standoffish.  Scadoxus came over and asked the fellow if he knew Jim Jaeger.   He said that he did, which is when a woman came to the door.  As soon as the ladies saw each other they said, "Hey!  I know you!!"

It turned out that the lady, whose name was Sarah, is a member of the La Ballona Bromeliad Society.  Scadoxus had been a member there for around a year which is how she met Sarah.  Sarah had invited Scadoxus over for a tour, but it had never happened and Scadoxus stopped attending the meetings.

Sarah invited us both in and gave us a tour of her garden.  It was really nice.  I should have taken so many photos, but I only took a few.

Artorima erubescens

Artorima erubescens!??  Wow!  Here's a picture of this species flowering in nature (last year I added that pic to the Epiphyte Society Facebook page).  It's from higher elevations in Mexico and quite rare in cultivation.  This was the first time that I had ever seen it in person.  I'm pretty sure that where I live it gets too hot for it... but I'd love to try growing a cross between this species and a warmer growing one.  Ideally the hybrid would be hercuthermal (grows in a wide range of temps).

Anthurium cupulispathum

This species had very big leaves.  I'm pretty sure that it stays outside year around.

Small Succulent

It's happily growing with an orchid on New Zealand Sphagnum moss.  I love companion plantings like this.

Pseudalcantarea grandis

Woah!!!  This bromeliad inflorescence was by far the biggest one that I have ever seen in person.  It blew my mind.

Coral Tree

This variety looks like it could potentially make an especially good host for epiphytes.  I'm always on the lookout for potentially good hosts.

Sarah gave Scadoxus and I several good-sized Anthurium schlechtendalii plants that she had grown from seed.  She even gave me an an entire inflorescence packed with berries.  A few days later I posted a pic of the berries in the Facebook trading group and asked if anybody was interested in some free seeds.  A few people were interested but they lived kinda far away.  One young guy named Joel did come over for some of the seeds and some other plants.  It turns out that one of his professors, Jorge Ochoa, is actually the president of the La Ballona Bromeliad society.

While we were at Sarah's house, another member of the La Ballona Bromeliad society... Gary... came by to visit and share some plants with Sarah.  Gary and Scadoxus knew each other from the society.  We all talked about societies and where there's room for improvement.  There's always room for improvement.  We decided to meet again in a couple of weeks... possibly at the house of another member of their society... Tom. 

The meeting place was confirmed and a few more people were added to the visit.  I decided that I'd like to share cuttings of some of my favorite plants with everybody who was going to attend.  One of the epiphytically enriched trees that I planned to get cuttings from is my Pygmy Date palm.  I figured that it would be a good idea to first take a quick video of the palm before I took the cuttings...

Lots of plants really love growing on Pygmy Date palms because its fibrous mat makes a really great natural medium.

Here are all the plants that I took cuttings of...

  1. Columnea Elmer Lorenz
  2. Dischidia formosana
  3. Echeveria ballsii
  4. Hoya NOID (best epiphyte)
  5. Kalanchoe Elmer Lorenz
  6. Kalanchoe ‘Orangery’ (K. manginii × K. jongmansii)
  7. Kalanchoe porphyrocalyx
  8. Kalanchoe 'Tessa' (K. gracilipes x K. manginii)
  9. Kalanchoe schizophylla
  10. Kalanchoe uniflora
  11. Microgramma vaccinifolia
  12. Othonna capensis
  13. Peperomia Elmer Lorenz
  14. Peperomia hoffmannii
  15. Peperomia Tom Mudge
  16. Peperomia urocarpa
  17. Villadia elongata

I ended up making seven bags...

7 Bundles of Cuttings

Saturday at noon Scadoxus and I arrived at Tom's house.  Sarah, Gary and Phil were already there... Peter arrived shortly after.  I hadn't met Phil or Peter before.

Before eating lunch, and before discussing societies, we took a tour of the garden...

Acacia pendula

What a cool tree!  I'd never heard of it before.  Reminds me of Huperzia goebelii.

Fuchsia tree

Impressive in person, I'd be interested in some seeds.

Hanging Sansevieria

You'd figure that Sansevierias would be good at growing epiphytically.  I tried one on my tree mounted on ghetto moss (not New Zealand Sphagnum) and it survived for a long time but it never produced new roots.  It just slowly faded away.

Kalanchoe NOID

Anybody recognize it?  I'd never seen it before.  It was just starting to bloom and had clusters of small orange flowers.  It's exciting to learn about a new Kalanchoe that could potentially make an excellent epiphyte.

Meiracyllium trinasutum

It's a really wonderful little orchid.  In my previous entry I shared a photo of it blooming on my tree.

Brassavola Jiminy Cricket (Brassavola nodosa x Rhyncholaelia digbyana)

This is another really great orchid that I have growing on my tree.  What's rather exceptional about this cross is that, the larger the plant is, the more often it blooms.  I get the feeling that the one on my tree blooms around 4 times a year.

Begonia 'Colonel Fearing'

An impressive Begonia with Tom helping to provide some sense of its size.

Begonia 'Elsa'

Super striking!   The very light pink flowers contrast with the dark leaves, which have coppery undersides.  I'd love some seeds from this.

Pyrrosia polydactyla

This is a really great species that I received from Barbara Joe Hoshizaki nearly a decade ago.  I've been impressed with its resilience.  The somewhat similar Pyrrosia hastata wasn't as drought tolerant and didn't make it.

NOID Polypodium

This looks very similar to Phlebodium aureum but the fronds sure seem longer.  I'm definitely interested in trying to grow this from spore.

Platycerium Elemaria

ESSC member Fernando loves this cross.  I asked him who the parents were...

When Barbara Joe discovered this plant at the nursery of Mr. Sanchez she thought the parents were P. elephantotis and P. stemaria and her conclusion about the two parents was adopted by the platycerium world, because it looks like elephantotis but the fertile fronds are not straight at the end, rather uneven like the stemaria.  Our friend Dan Yansura conducted a genetic test about two years ago and discovered that the genetic markers of one of the parents was consistent with P. andinum, I don’t think this has been published yet but he mentioned it to me and also to some of the members of the fern group at the gathering in my house.

Niphidium crassifolium

Really long fronds!  It's growing together with Anthurium podophyllum and Begonia nelumbiifolia on top of a big volcanic rock.  What's really cool is that the Begonia has volunteered near the base of the rock.


Tom and Gary talking about a Lecanopteris.  Many or most, if not all, of the species in this genus of epiphytic fern are associated with ants.  These ferns are super neat but I'm guessing that none of them can grow outside year around in California.  Tom recently acquired this one from the Huntington, I'm pretty sure that he's planning to bring it inside during the winter.  There's actually a forum dedicated to epiphytic ant plants.

Streptocarpella saxorum

I really liked this one but it sure tricked me...I thought it was a Plectranthus!  It reminds me a lot of Plectranthus socotranus.

x Codonantanthus 'Sunset'

Codonatanthus is a cross between Nematanthus and Codonanthe.   This one is growing with Anthurium schlechtendalii and hanging down to the fronds of Niphidium crassifolium.

Dischidia/Hoya NOID

This is one of the plants that I included in the bags of cuttings.  I've see this one in many collections but nobody ever knows the name of it.  Whatever it is, it sure is great at growing epiphytically.  In this entry I shared some photos of it growing on my tree.  There were two seed pods on it.  I managed to harvest one and sow the seeds.  Nearly all the seeds quickly germinated and now I have several seedlings that are almost large enough to come out of the bags.


Tom easily has the nicest collection of outdoor Hoyas that I've ever seen.

Hoya Flowers

What I was really surprised to learn is that Hoya australis regularly volunteers...

Hoya australis Volunteer

How exciting is that?!   Here Tom showed us an australis that volunteered in a pot with a Gesneriad...

Hoya australis Volunteer

I really love the idea of "the coolest weeds".

Hoya australis ssp. keysii?

Not sure if this is the right subspecies.  The leaves of this variety are fuzzy and more succulent than the typical variety.  I have this variety growing on my tree.  So far it has done better than Hoya kerrii.

Hoya Seeds

We looked around for some Hoya australis seeds but they had already flown the coop.  We did find some seeds on this hybrid.  Here are the flowers...

Hoya Flowers

Anybody recognize it?

Hoya pauciflora

The wind was making it challenging to get a clear picture.  I really love how this Hoya is growing from the base of the Platycerium mounted on a tree.  The first time I saw a similar planting was in 2003 at the UCLA Botanical Garden, it was a Rhipsalis growing from the base of a Platycerium.

Anthurium NOID

This nice strap-leaf Anthurium is growing above a nice strap-leaf fern (Niphidium crassifolium).


This Anthurium had big leaves.  It was growing between some Sinningias and a coffee plant.

Anthurium podophyllum

Wow!  From a distance I guessed this was Philodendron warscewiczii.  But it definitely wasn't.  I've been growing this species for a few years and have seen photos of mature plants.  For some reason I had no idea that the leaves got this big!  Maybe the pictures didn't have a person for reference?

After the tour of the garden we had a delicious potluck lunch and brainstormed some ideas for societies.  The next morning Scadoxus and I visited our friend Pat.  He is, or used to be, a member of the La Ballona Bromeliad society.   A little over a week ago he had invited me to see his garden again.  Scadoxus and I had visited him around four years ago and we really enjoyed seeing his collection, so we were happy for the opportunity to see it again.

Hoyas and Tillandsias on Ponytail Palm

That looks so great!  Check out how yellow those Hoya leaves are... they sure are receiving a lot of direct sun.  More sun means more heat.  This most likely explains why I observed a nearby orchid, probably Schomburgkia superbiens, already developing a spike.   Mine would spike later in the year... probably because it was in a more shaded location.  I'm more inland than Pat is so my place is probably ten degrees warmer.  But it seems like an orchid in my shade receives less heat than an orchid in his sun.  Additional evidence for this is how well he has done with the heat-loving Myrmecophila tibicinis.  I'm guessing that's the species. 

The moral of the story is that, if you live closer to the coast and want to grow heat-loving species, give them as much direct sun as possible.  Be sure to gradually acclimate them though.  Also, one caveat is that Pat's orchids are surrounded by bromeliads whose water-filled cups increase the relative humidity, which might allow the orchids to tolerate more direct sun.

Aglaomorpha coronans Mounted on Ponytail Palm

It's really neat to see this excellent epiphytic fern growing on the Ponytail Palm!  In this fairly recent entry I shared this video of Fernando's Aglaomorpha coronans that has wrapped nearly all the way around a palm tree.

Tillandsia Spike

I thought that this spike was quite nice.  Not sure if it was full of buds or pods though.

Euphorbia stenoclada Phorobana

Wonderful phorobana!  "Phorobana" is the word I came up with for when a potted plant has been epiphytically enriched.  This spiny succulent Euphorbia is packed with the super charming Tillandsia albertiana.  The Tillandsia has nice red flowers so I'd really love to see this phorobana in full bloom.

Tillandsias Under Shade Cloth

Almost the entire backyard is covered in shade cloth.

Epiphytically Enhanced Pseudo-Tree

It's a concrete tree with some epiphytes.  I like the idea of sticking a Ficus thonningii right in the fork and letting it "strangle" the concrete tree.  The red flower is from Tillandsia albertiana and there's a Peperomia scandens variegata growing from the base of the Aglaomorpha coronans.  I gave Pat that Peperomia and I love what he's done with it.

NOID Plectranthus

This is another plant that I gave Pat, it sure is funny with its small, white, sequential-blooming flowers perched on such long stalks.  I actually find the form of this plant quite appealing.  It's good for growing epiphytically.

Kalanchoe 'Tessa' and Friends

This hanging pot mostly contains plants that I gave Pat.  He has done especially well with Kalanchoe 'Tessa', there are several similar baskets.


I like the form of this.  It's similar to something that I have, but mine is more compact, which might be because of more sun.

Coniferous Phorobana

It's a little challenging to see but there's a Tillandsia attached to this bonsai.


It's a big monopodial orchid!  I'm guessing that it's not Darwin's orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale).  I showed Pat the picture of my friend's Angraecum and he say that's not it.  The mystery shouldn't last too long though because there's a spike on this orchid.  Not sure if he brings it in his greenhouse during winter. 


This very stout Tillandsia with a "trunk" was in his greenhouse.

Variegated Ficus benjamina

This is from Bill Baker's collection.  I'm pretty sure that Steve has a variegated Ficus benjamina, not sure if he has this variety though.

Hanging On

If you look closely you can see a wild... Anole!!!  Also seen in the photo is... Epidendrum Burtonii?

Baby Anole

Trying to take a picture of these lizards with my cell phone was... challenging.  It's been a while since I missed lugging around my "real" camera.

It was awesome to see anoles in Pat's garden.  When Scadoxus and I visited the first time I was super surprised to see one in the backyard and since then I've wondered whether any were still around.  This time when we visited I saw at least four different ones... I was thrilled to see that they are thriving.

Out of curiosity I searched Google for some relevant terms and found that Len Geiger, a garden blogger down in Vista, has brown anoles in his garden.  He guessed that their eggs were in the pots of palms that he purchased from Rancho Soledad Nursery and he isn't very worried about them becoming invasive...

I would hazard a guess that there is not much concern here, as the Green Anoles have been found in many areas around San Diego for a while now and can’t seem to spread past only the best microclimates with the ideal landscape for them. The Brown Anole is even more tropical in nature than the Green Anole. Who knows what the future holds with them here in San Diego. Perhaps another freeze like I had in 2007 could wipe them out? Alien or not, the Brown Anole has added character to my garden. 

He concluded with...

Brown Anole Lizards are certainly entertaining to watch and photograph. They are a welcome addition to my garden even though they were most likely a stowaway. I enjoy them so much that I am now actively trying to trade some of my Brown Anoles for some Green Anoles a friend has in his garden in San Diego. I’ll keep you posted…

Searching Google some more I found... Lizard Fieldwork is Just a Metro Ride Away in Los Angeles.  That's Pat's garden!  What's interesting is that the article doesn't say anything about the garden itself.  The focus is entirely on the lizards.  Did the biologists even notice the incredible variety of really interesting plants?

I also found a blog dedicated to anoles... check out this first photo in this entry.... Anole Annals World Cup: Round One.  There's no mention of the fact that there's a Myrmecophila (albopurpurea?) orchid in full bloom.  Did the biologists even notice the orchid?

Imagine if every garden in Los Angeles only had one plant in it... a geranium.  How much wildlife would there be in LA?  Not much!  Wildlife would be super scarce.  Now let's say that every garden had a different plant, this would mean marginally more wildlife.   Logically, if every garden had as many different plants as Pat's garden... and Sarah's garden... and Tom's garden... then it would mean an abundance of wildlife in LA.  It should be pretty straightforward that more plant biodiversity means more wildlife biodiversity.  From my perspective, the biologists should not focus their attention on keeping nonnatives out of Los Angeles, they should instead focus on making gardens as hospitable to the widest variety of wildlife possible, which depends on maximizing plant biodiversity.

Coincidentally, there was a hint of this in a recent article in The Atlantic about fishing cats...

Trading notes on the cats’ behavior, the two researchers will look at how Colombo may be changing Ratnayaka’s cats, then use those insights to recommend ways to conserve the city’s wetlands and make its crowded neighborhoods more hospitable to cats and other wildlife. “The things I’m suggesting don’t mean that you have to clear a bunch of buildings and make sure people don’t go into the wetlands,” Ratnayaka says. “I’m saying very simple things, like grow some plants on the sidewalk, grow some trees on the pavement so that birds can come and sit.” - Paul Bisceglio, Are Cities Making Animals Smarter? 

In order to maximize plant biodiversity, plants should be attached to other plants.  In a video that I shared on Youtube you can see an alligator lizard hanging out on a Dendrobium (discolor x canaliculatum) orchid that I attached to a Pachypodium lamerei...

When I attached the orchid to the Pachypodium I created a new niche.  More epiphytes means more niches.  Do I have enough niches in my garden to support alligator lizards and anoles?  If not, then my garden needs more epiphytic enrichment!

There are many different yardsticks that we can use to measure how awesome a garden is.  One possible yardstick is the variety of reptiles and amphibians thriving in the garden.  The greater the variety of reptiles/amphibians... the more awesome the garden.

Here are a few interesting species that have established, more or less, in one or more locations in Southern California...

Brown Anole - Anolis sagrei
Common Coquí - Eleutherodactylus coqui
Green Anole - Anolis carolinensis
Indo-Pacific Gecko - Hemidactylus garnotii
Jackson's Chameleon - Trioceros jacksonii

Chameleons are my favorite reptile.  Steve used to breed Jackson's Chameleons, it would be really great if he started doing so again.  I'd be happy to trade orchids for chameleons.  I'd especially love chameleons that were bred to eat mosquitoes... and squirrels.

A while back in this blog I used the term "linger longer" to refer to garden diversity.  The greater the diversity, the longer you linger.  This applies to both flora and fauna.  Thanks to the anoles in Pat's garden I lingered longer.  I would have lingered even longer if there were also chameleons in his garden.  Ideally there should be so much biodiversity that I'd never want to leave!

So why not have a biodiversity society instead of a bromeliad society?  One issue with general, rather than specific, societies is that the bundle of topics is so large that too many presentations are going to be irrelevant to people's interests.  For example, the topic of SCHS's last presentation was "Midcentury Landscape Architecture in Southern California".  Personally I'd be far more interested in a presentation about Stefano Boeri's vertical forests.  But even a specialist society will have the same issue.  Nobody is equally interested in every genus that's in the bromeliad family, I'm far more interested in Tillandsias than Pitcairnias.

The benefit of having specialized societies is that people can pick and choose which societies they are members of.  In economic terms, this is consumer choice between societies.  But what would happen if there was also consumer choice within a society?  People could have the opportunity to decide how they divide their dollars/dues/donations between a society's topics, just like they currently have the opportunity to decide how they divide their dollars/dues/donations between societies.

Scadoxus, for example, used to be a member of both the begonia society and the bromeliad society, but then she stopped being a member of the bromeliad society.  Naturally she stopped paying dues to the bromeliad society, but she continued paying dues to the begonia society.  How she divided her dollars between the two societies reflected how her interest was divided between begonias and bromeliads (all else being equal). 

But what if the bromeliad society had been a generalist society that had given their members the opportunity to divide their dues between topics?  Scadoxus would have divided her dues between bromeliads and begonias, so would all the other members, and the presentations would have been optimally balanced between the two types of plants.  The supply of begonia presentations and bromeliad presentations would have been determined by the demand for them.  Tom and Sarah sure grow lots of begonias... what about Pat?  I don't remember seeing a single begonia at his place.  Remind me to remind Scadoxus to share a division of the $5 dollar thick-stem begonia with Pat.

Joel is a member of the Los Angeles Carnivorous Plant Society and he informed me that there aren't any membership dues.  Everybody simply pays $3 dollars when they attend a meeting.  This makes more economic sense than people paying for meetings that they don't attend.

For the LA/OC plant trading group nobody pays anything, given that they meet in a public park and don't have any speakers.  What's especially great about this society is their Facebook group.  Unlike traditional societies, interactions don't only occur once a month, at anytime members can use the Facebook group to share pics and knowledge with each other.  As a result, the trading society is far more interactive than the bromeliad society.

The La Ballona Bromeliad society does have a Facebook page, but it doesn't have a Facebook group.  It has been a couple years since the admin has posted anything to their page.  The OSSC also has a Facebook page, but Erin, the young and hip president, regularly posts to it, so there's a decent amount of interaction.  However, there isn't nearly as much interaction as there is in the plant trading Facebook group.  By this measure groups are much better than pages.

It's really easy to create a Facebook group.  Recently Scadoxus and I created a group for her begonia society.  Right now she's pretty much the only one posting anything, but a couple other people have also posted.  Joel posted a pic of his drought tolerant Begonia.

Admittedly, it does take some time and effort to share photos and knowledge online, but it's a really great way to demonstrate that a society is worth joining.  Ideally a society should have several members who go around photographing other members' plants and posting the photos online.  Exhibit A... this blog entry!

From my perspective it took way too long for me to meet and visit Pat, Sarah and Tom.  Part of the issue is that I don't live in their area so I'm not a member of their bromeliad society.  But even if I was a member this wouldn't have guaranteed that I would have visited them.  Scadoxus was a member for a year and she didn't visit Sarah or Tom.  I'm not sure if the society is the reason she met and visited Pat.   Sarah, Tom, and Pat have all been members of their society for years... yet Pat has never visited Sarah or Tom, and they've never visited him.   If they had visited each other years ago it's a given that all their collections would be a lot better.  Maybe Pat would have some excellent begonias and maybe Sarah and Tom would have lots of anoles.  Right now Pat has several Aglaomorpha coronans, but he doesn't have a single Niphidium crassifolium.  With Tom it's the reverse.  Then again, it is entirely possible that I overlooked an Aglaomorpha coronans at Tom's place.

Pat and Monica only live 2.4 miles away from each other, and they grow and love many of the same types of plants, but they've never visited each other.  I suppose this is kinda my fault.  I should have done a better job of creating a connection, but such connections really shouldn't depend on one person.  Neither should they depend on happenstance.  If Monica hadn't happened to drive by Sarah's house, and if Scadoxus and I hadn't happened to drive over, then we all would have missed out on so much.  The optimal society would minimize the chances that members would overlook important things.

A society is a bundle of things that aren't equally important/useful/beneficial.  Optimizing a society depends on understanding the economics of bundling.

At Tom's house, after we finished brainstorming society ideas, I gave a bundle of plant cuttings to each person.  Tom, Sarah, Phil, Gary and Peter each received cuttings of 17 different plants that closely match my preferences.  Will all these plants closely match these people's preferences?  Probably not, different people have different interests.  Also, at least in Tom's case, he already had several of the plants that I had included in the bundle.

It should be pretty straightforward that it isn't economical to give somebody a plant that they...

1. aren't interested in
2. already have

If I was omniscient then I could have perfectly customized each bundle for each person.  But I'm not omniscient.  Nobody is.  This is why communication is so important.  I could have emailed each person beforehand and asked them which plants they were interested in.  The reason why I didn't do this is because I didn't have their email addresses.  In the absence of communication, bundles are going to be suboptimal.

At plant sales, it's rarely the case that plants are sold in bundles.  Nearly all the plants are sold individually and people can pick and choose which plants they put in their boxes.  This allows vendors to see the demand for each of the different plants that they sell, and it allows shoppers to only spend their money on plants that they are actually interested in.

Seeing and knowing the demand for different things is just as important for a plant society as it is for a plant vendor.   At the Los Angeles Fern Society at the beginning of every meeting they all stand and recite the pledge of allegiance.  The OSSC used to do this, but Erin decided that it wasn't worth keeping (the opportunity cost was too high).  I learned from Sarah that her bromeliad society hasn't done this for years.  What is the demand for this part of the society?   If the demand is small, then it makes sense to discard it.  But if the demand is large, then it really shouldn't be discarded.

It really wouldn't be difficult to reveal the demand for all the different parts of a society meeting.  Let's take the La Ballona Bromeliad society for example.  Right now the annual dues are a very reasonable $10 dollars.  When Scadoxus pays her dues, she could be given the option to use them to rank the different parts of the society...

$7 - buying
$2 - show and tell
$1 - presentations
$0 - raffle
$0 - refreshments
$0 - pledge of allegiance

How she divided her $10 dollars between the different parts of the society would reveal their relative importance to her.  Just like how she divides her money between bromeliads and begonias reveals their relative importance to her.

Right now the bromeliad society doesn't know the demand for each of its different parts, so naturally the supply is going to be wrong.  Maybe the refreshment table is too big while the sales table is too small.  Maybe too much time is spent on presentations while not enough time is spent on show and tell.  The only way the balance can be optimal is if it accurately reflects the different preferences of all the members.

A plant show typically has three parts...

1. sales
2. show
3. presentations

Personally, the sales are always my #1 priority.  I'm pretty sure that I'm the rule rather than the exception.  So it doesn't make any sense for societies to charge vendors and pay speakers.  It should be the other way around!  Heh.

A generalist society with consumer choice will be much bigger and better than a specialist society.  As a result, it will be able to tackle large projects... such as turning local schools into botanical gardens.  Scadoxus is an elementary school teacher and she and her students have been botanifying their school.  I've personally donated a ton of plants, but imagine how many plants a big society could donate.  If every school was a botanical garden then imagine how many students would join plant societies.

How difficult would it be to change the La Ballona Bromeliad society?  All organizations are inherently resistant to change...

The simplest form of this explanation is that the outcome is fully explained by “path dependence” and “inertia;” that is to say by the contingency of what happened in the past and by the difficulty of changing the status quo, even if the status quo no longer reflects the purposes or circumstances that resulted in the contingent outcome that was deposited in the present by the past. - Ian Lustick, Institutional Rigidity and Evolutionary Theory: Trapped on a Local Maximum

I'm happy to share the ideas in this entry with the leaders of any and all plant societies, but I'm not confident that they will correctly estimate their importance/usefulness/benefit.  And it's not like all the members have the opportunity to use their donations to rank ideas for plant societies.  But there's always the option to create a new society.

Last month Scadoxus invited me to attend a patio peek where she lives.  I accepted her invitation and was really happy that I did.  Her area has lots of green thumbs!  You can see some pics in this entry.   Since then we've been brainstorming the idea of creating a general plant society for the people in her area.  We both really liked the format of the LA/OC plant trading group and have decided to essentially create a branch for Culver City.  Once a month on a Saturday morning people in the area can get together and share, sell and trade plants.  It would be really wonderful if Monica, Pat, Sarah, Tom, Gary, Phil and Peter joined this society.

The members of any plant society collectively grow a wider variety of plants than any individual member grows.  The members of a plant society have also collectively read more articles/threads/blogs/books and watched more videos about plants than any individual member.  This means that the society as a whole has more plant knowledge and experience than any individual member.  Basically, the society's brain is larger than any member's brain.  The larger a society is, the larger its brain is, and the greater the benefit of accessing it.

Not too long ago ESSC member Bonnie created a group on Facebook... Southern California Rare Plant Addicts (SCARPA).  I'm a member and so are 103 other people.  Thanks to the Facebook group, it's far easier to access SCARPA's brain than it is to access SCHS's brain.  The issue with Facebook groups is they don't reveal how important a post is, they only reveal how popular it is.  So a Facebook group isn't optimal at making the group's brain accessible.  The most useful thing about a group's brain is prioritizing... deciding how to divide attention between begonias and bromeliads... and between Tillandsias and Pitcairnias.  Figuring out the group's priorities depends on each and every member having the opportunity to use their donations/dues to reveal their demand for things.