Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Growing Orchids From Seed Is Easy!

Actually, in order to germinate, most orchid seeds require the assistance of a microscopic fungus.  Or they need to be sown in flasks.  There are, however, a few notable exceptions to this rule.  Here's my reply to... growing from seed.


The Northernmost occurring epiphytic orchid in America is Epidendrum conopseum/magnoliae.  It's currently in 3rd place in the Great Epiphyte Race to Canada.  But it's definitely the most cold tolerant epiphytic orchid in America.

Epi conopseum isn't the showiest orchid so I would recommend finding and/or making crosses with it.  Especially with reed-stem Epidendrums.

Unlike most orchid seeds, the seeds of reed-stems have enough nutrients to germinate on their own.  So you can sow the seeds pretty much like you would any succulent with very small seeds (ie Echeverias).

Moss attached to a wooden board placed diagonally in a pot in a zip lock bag.  Reed seeds germinating along with Rhipsalis seeds.  There's also a rhizome of Microgramma vacciniifolia.

Reed protocorms with Pyrrosia piloselloides.  Medium was bark with some moss on top.  Pot also in a zip lock bag.

Echinocactus grusonii VS Epidendrum secundum.  The Golden Barrel cactus won this round.  I guess the pumice was too large for most of the reed seeds.  Pot in a cat litter bin covered in clear trash bag.

Reed seedlings with Anthurium scandens seedlings.   Medium was bark with moss on top.  Pots in zip lock bag.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Finding And Nurturing Things We Love

Reply to thread: Cloudforest plant board.Gone. Its back.


The other day on Flickr I was trying to remember the username of one of the members that I follow. So I sorted all my contacts by the date that they last uploaded photos. I realized that it has been a really long time since most of my contacts have uploaded any photos.

For sure part of it is because of Instagram and Facebook and similar sites. But for me the main issue is figuring out my own responsibility in nurturing other people's beneficial behavior.

I have a garden and it's clearly my responsibility to nurture my plants. If they fail to grow and thrive it's probably because I dropped the ball. I failed to give a plant adequate drainage and/or light and/or food and/or protection from cold/heat/pests.

Tom, for example, isn't a plant in my garden! :) But I definitely derive enjoyment from his blog entries, forum posts and videos. So isn't it my responsibility to nurture him? Admittedly that does sound kinda funny!

But what are the alternatives?

A. It's not my responsibility to nurture Tom
B. Tom doesn't need to be nurtured
C. Tom is adequately nurtured

Tom doesn't need to be nurtured? This would seem to imply that he takes the time and makes the effort to share plant info entirely for his own benefit. That doesn't seem very likely. Clearly he can derive benefit from the act of sharing... but it's gotta be based somehow on the idea that others are going to benefit to some degree from his sharing.

Tom is adequately nurtured? Only Tom can know this! But what if he feels like he isn't being adequately nurtured? "Hey guys, I'm really not feeling enough love!" Is he going to say that?

Imagine if your plants could text you if they weren't feeling adequately nurtured! I think I'd be receiving a lot of texts right about now! Tomorrow I really need to water.

In no case are we mind-readers! As far as plants are concerned, all of us are good at interpreting the clues. If a plant looks wilty, we can reasonably guess that it doesn't have enough water. Obviously plants can't verbally communicate with us but they can certainly nonverbally communicate with us.

Despite the fact that we aren't mind-readers... most of us don't quite feel comfortable communicating that we aren't feeling adequately nurtured. Well... at least not in this context. If we aren't feeling adequately nurtured then we either suck it up... or spend our time doing other things. I think "suck it up" is a military expression? I'm drawing a blank for the non-military equivalent.

I don't quite perceive that it's Tom's responsibility to communicate that he isn't feeling adequately nurtured. I feel like it's my responsibility to communicate my enjoyment of what he's taken the time and made the effort to share. And sometimes I do so.... but I really don't do so all the time. Sometimes I don't have the time or energy to provide some decent positive feedback. Yet, I don't usually feel comfortable simply replying with "That's really great!" It just seems too inadequate. So I settle for nothing.

On Reddit (orchids group) you can vote people's posts up... or down. And for sure a vote up is better than nothing. Yet, if you really enjoyed a post, then a vote up is very inadequate.

On Flickr you can "vote" for a photo simply by clicking the star button. I've "voted" for a lot of photos! In some cases a "vote" was adequate. But in plenty of cases a "vote" was woefully inadequate.

Clearly you're not supposed to bite the hand that feeds you. This is a no-brainer. But there does seem to be a bit of confusion regarding rewarding the hand that feeds you. Of course everybody loves a free lunch! Yet...

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. - Adam Smith

We expect plant people to give their valuable time and energy and expertise away for free... and clearly some people are willing to do so in various degrees. But the supply can only truly be optimal when it reflects the demand. So... what's the demand? I'm the only one who knows my demand for Tom's info. Stan doesn't know my demand for Tom's info and vice versa.

I'm pretty sure that it should be really easy to communicate our demand for each other's threads. For most people though this is an uncomfortable concept. We all have absolutely no problem spending our money on plants. Most of us have absolutely no problem spending our money on plant books. Yet, when it comes to spending our money on plant threads... there seems to be an issue.

Why spend your limited money on something that people are willing to give away? Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? But if we feel like the supply of milk is inadequate... and we're not actually paying for milk... then... do we really need to call Sherlock Holmes? Sounds more like a case for Adam Smith!

The other day I joined a new forum. It's not a plant forum. When I joined I made a $10 dollar donation and became a VIP! I didn't do it for the VIP or because I wanted to support the forum. I simply wanted to use the $10 dollars to communicate my valuation of the threads. Well... I really didn't find many threads that were worth my money. So I created some! I created a thread for Adam Smith's book... The Wealth of Nations. And then I allocated half of my donation to my thread. It's a tricky concept because the money didn't go back into my pocket. I simply used it to communicate my valuation of Smith's book. Then I created a thread for Mill's book... On Liberty... and spent $3 dollars on it. These books are available online for free. It was the first time that I had spent any money on them.

And clearly I really wasn't trying to nurture Smith or Mill! Even though they can't see my demand for their books... other people can see my demand for their books. So I was trying to nurture the topic.

Today I was trying to explain this idea to a friend and I was doing a terrible job. A few hours later he e-mailed me a link and asked if that was what I was trying to describe. The link is to a page on the libertarian party (LP) website. To be clear, I'm not a libertarian and I'm definitely not trying to promote their agenda. But on that page, the LP explains that they are trying to...

1. Raise money
2. Choose a theme for their 2018 convention

They essentially combine these two things. People who are interested in a theme can spend as much money as they want on it. If you scroll down the page you can see how much money has been donated for the various themes. So it's essentially a survey, but voting has been replaced with donating. Participants essentially kill two birds with one stone. They donate money to the LP and use their donation to communicate their demand for a specific theme.

For politics it's often argued that buying influence subverts the will of the people. But if somebody donates money to a plant forum, does it subvert anybody's will if the donor uses their contribution to communicate their demand for specific threads?

From my perspective, it should be easier, rather than harder, to find and nurture things we love.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Epiphytic Orchids Versus Cold Rain

Laelia anceps var. veitchiana 'Fort Caroline' blooming on my tree here in Southern California.  It was raining!  I shot the video through a window screen.  In the neighbor's window there's a Phalaenopsis  watching my Laelia.

Every day the Phal dreams about growing on a tree... but not in California.  Phals are by far the most common orchid so it's a terrible travesty that they can't grow on trees here.  I'm sure that there are probably one, or two, exceptions but Laelia anceps is a much better bet.

A few years ago I picked up my anceps from the raffle table at the Orchid Society of Southern California (OSSC).  Ben Boco had been nice enough to donate it to the society.   Check out another of his Laelia anceps blooming on his tree...


Even though anceps is a great orchid for California... there's  definitely room for improvement.  I'm guessing that they really don't take advantage of our winter rain.  Where they come from it rains during the summer and rarely rains during the winter.  Here in California it's the opposite.

There aren't any epiphytic orchids that are native to Mediterranean climates.  The only exception MIGHT be Polystachya ottoniana...

However, there are certainly quite a few epiphytic orchids that have no problem growing when it's cooler.  For those of you who grow orchids outside in SoCal (or similar climates)... this time of year you can identify your cooler growers by checking to see which of your orchids have active root tips and/or new shoots.  These will be the orchids that are actually taking advantage of our winter rain.  In theory, they could be crossed with more warmer growers in order to develop crosses that grow and bloom year around...

I think it's a pretty awesome goal to have far more productive epiphytic orchids so let's compile a list of species and hybrids that are happy to grow during winter here in SoCal and similar climates!

Here are some other links that should hopefully be of some interest...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Number One Plant Rule

My comment on Tom's blog entry: The staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, a cold hardy subtropical fern

My comment has a bit of spoiler so I recommend reading his entry first!


Wow!  Really excellent story!  Great info and pics!  It was very interesting and entertaining to read about your Platycerium's successes and setbacks. I kept thinking that the "reveal" would be that your Platy was finally killed by an exceptionally cold winter.  So the suspense had me sitting on the edge of my seat.

Several years back, thanks to Craigslist, I got a really great deal on an overgrown NOID Cattleya. I divided it and ended up putting divisions on around a dozen different trees.  All the divisions quickly established and grew quite well.  Each year they all flowered.  Then a few years later... my garden got hit by a freeze and around half of the divisions were killed.  Some of the causalities were only a foot away from survivors.

This exceptionally cold event confirmed my number plant rule... don't keep all my eggs in one basket.  Hedge my bets! No two locations in any garden are going to provide the same exact amount of protection. Every garden has an incredible variety of microhabitats.  So if it's a plant that I'd be sad to lose, then I endeavor to maximize my chances of success by hedging my bets.

With this in mind, whenever I share divisions of cherished plants with friends... I be sure to let them know that I'm not being nice or generous or altruistic... I'm simply insuring my plant!

Sharing is caring?  Sharing is insuring! So it's a good idea to cultivate a network of strategically situated plant friends!  Heh.

Of course for plenty of plant enthusiasts a primary goal is to have an impressive specimen.  Which is fine... if the plant has already been adequately insured.  But with plenty of plants it's easy enough to propagate them from seed/spore. Just sprinkle some Platy spore on some wet floral foam in a pot... place the pot in a zip lock bag, set it by a window and voila! Your Platy's insured!

The benefit of propagating from seed/spore is that the apple might fall far from the tree in the direction of greater cold tolerance.  Progress is a function of difference.

Here's a pic of the Cattleyas a few years ago...

Cattleya Portia coerulea

And a relevant quote from the father of modern economics...

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Encyclia cordigera Blooming On A SoCal Tree

Ok, maybe there shouldn't be an Encyclia cordigera on EVERY tree in SoCal... but it should certainly be on MOST trees! It does like heat though so the closer to the coast you live the more full sun you'd have to give it.

The large Tillandsia is Tillandsia ehlersiana. Thanks Andy!

I'm uploading this video for my friend Carlos in Brazil...

He doesn't have any videos yet! But I can't complain too much because he does share quite a few photos...

Here are some other links that should hopefully be of some interest...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Largest/Longest Orchid Seeds?

On 29 June I received a box from a really nice friend.  Thanks friend!  The box contained some super neat mini Tillandsias and a couple tubes of orchid seeds...

Epidendrum wrightii
Schomburkia undulata

The Epi is a species of reed-stem so I was very curious whether its seeds are as exceptional as the other reed seeds that I've sown.  My friend had informed me that the wrightii seeds contain lots of "cotton".  This was interesting to hear because I typically associate cotton with monopodial orchid seeds.  When I saw the wrightii seeds they did indeed look like they had lots of cotton.  Upon closer inspection I realized that, unlike with monopodial orchid seeds, the wrightii cotton was actually part of the seed!

The seeds with long "tails" are the wrightii seeds.  Interspersed with the wrightii seeds are seeds from Epi radicans x Epc Orange Blaze.  Above the penny are seeds of Schomburkia undulata.

Here's what the wrightii seeds looked like after I soaked them for one night...

They clumped together just like Tillandsia seeds do when you put them in water.  Perhaps soaking before sowing isn't the best approach for wrightii seeds!

Here's some basic info about orchid seeds...

The orchid seed has no endosperm.  The seed consists of a simple, dry outer coat with a small mass of undifferentiated cells which form a pro-embryo.  This unit can be easily carried in air currents and may travel long distances before coming to rest.  - Calaway Dodson, Robert Gillespie, The Biology of the Orchids

Some more info...

Numerous mechanisms and devices promote appropriate carriage and secure anchorage.  The buoyancy of orchidaceous "dust" seeds is due not only to small size but also to a large airspace between embryo and testa; wall sculpturing and overall shape (usually fusiform) also help to keep them aloft and may encourage attachment to rough bark.  Tillandsioid bromeliad seeds feature hooked coma hairs for better attachment; similar devices on a much smaller scale adorn microsperms of shootless Chiloschista. - David Benzing, Vascular Epiphytes


Experiments indicate that buoyancy and mobility correlate with the apportionment of mass between the coma and the seed proper.   - David Benzing, Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation
More broadly, the epiphytes achieved relatively low terminal velocities at least in part because they allocate proportionally more biomass to the coma vs the seed proper.  Percentages (60.0-61.7%) of the aggregate seed mass represented by the flight apparatus grouped the obligate (T. utriculata and T. fasciculata) and faculative (T. ionochroma) epiphytes together, with saxicolous T. sphaerocephala (41%) as the outlier.  In short, the more consistently bark-dependent the taxon, the greater the relative cost of the coma, the more buoyant its seeds, and the greater the dispersal range.  - David Benzing, Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation

All Tillandsia seeds have endosperm.  This makes them heavier than orchid seeds.  In order to achieve greater buoyancy and travel greater distances... the Tillandsia seeds have "parachutes"... aka "comas".  The larger the coma, the more epiphytic the Tillandsia.

Does Epidendrum wrightii have a coma?  Kinda?  We can guess that the point of these appendages is to increase buoyancy and to help the seeds attach to bark.  But why don't other orchid seeds have these appendages?  Maybe they don't need them because they aren't as heavy as the seeds of Epi wrightii?  This would imply that, unlike orchid seeds, the seeds of Epi wrightii do have at least some endosperm.  And if most reed-stem Epis do have some endosperm... then we can guess that Epi wrightii is more epiphytic than most reed-stems.

According to Wikipedia (and Arditti and Ghani)... Epidendrum secundum has the distinction of having the longest seeds in the orchid family... 6.0 mm long.  Let's take another look at the comparison photo I took...

The penny is 19.05 mm in diameter... or around three Epi secundum seeds.  In the above photo we can see that the seeds of the Epi radicans cross have a short tail.  We can guess that Epi secundum seeds have a longer tail.  We can also guess that this is what Arditti and Ghani included in their measurement of the Epi secundum seeds.  So if we're including tails in the measurement of orchid seeds... then the seeds of Epi wrightii are a lot longer than the seeds of Epi secundum.

Are there any reeds with seeds that are longer than wrightii?  If so, then this would imply that they were more epiphytic than wrightii.

There are numerous species of reeds and I've only see a very small fraction of their seeds.  Hopefully this post will encourage people to share photos of their reed seeds.

It's really exciting to discover that wrightii seeds are somewhat similar to Tillandsia seeds.  This gives us some material that's potentially very useful in terms of breeding for orchids that are more epiphytic but have seeds that are easier to germinate (don't require flasking).