Monday, December 31, 2012

Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" and Magnolia virginiana var. australis

 I have been fortunate to study Magnolia virginiana throughout the species range, with the exception of the recently discovered population in Cuba.  I was charged with the task of creating a germplasm repository, a field provenance evaluation plot and breeding population for this adaptable and horticulturally significant species.  So far we have been evaluating the oldest collections for 5 years.  We also are trialing plants at the Boone County Arboretum in northern Kentucky.  This work is ongoing.

Field studies of this Magnolia virginiana took me to the natural environs of the illegitimate taxon Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana".  Despite the argument among botanists of about the taxonomic status of this entity, horticulturists will soon notice the morphological distinctiveness of these collection.  I have seen this taxon in western Louisiana (it only occurs in south and west of the Red River, populations to the north and along the Louisiana/Arkansas border are Magnolia virginiana var. autralis) and in eastern Texas.  I have also seen the plants growing in cultivation in Aiken, SC which were collected from the westernmost population of this species in Tyler County, Texas.  Here are some pictures of the plants in Aiken.

The opening flower bud and foliage of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana".  Note the more rounded leaves of this taxon as compared to Magnolia virginiana var. australis.  This is the most commonly described between the two taxa, but there are additional differences as well; The leaves tend to be thinner compared to var. australis, the fruits tend to be much larger than either variety (this is consistent in cultivated plants, and the bark becomes rough and scaly and compared to smooth, or ridged and furrowed in var. australis.

A couple of foliage shots of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana".  Note that the plants are flowering.  Photo was taken on August 30, 2008

The fruit of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" in Aiken, SC

The fruit of Magnolia virginiana varieties growing in cultivation at The Ohio State University, from left to right; Magnolia virginiana var. virginiana, Magnolia virginiana var. australis, and Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana".  These differences are maintained in cultivation.

Here are some photos of the distinctive bark of this species growing at Dodd & Dodd nursery in Semmes, Alabama.  This originated from collections in eastern Texas.

Here is the clump of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" growing in Aiken, SC.  These plants are shrubby, but plants in the wild can be quite tall and reach similar sizes to Magnolia virginiana var. australis in the Florida Panhandle.

The photo below shows what a typical Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" looks like when the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem they grow in is properly burned.  Note the rounded leaves.  This picture was taken in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.

Yours truly with plants of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" in Rapides Parish, LA.  Note the tree like growth pattern of individuals that have not been ravaged by fire of hurricanes.  These plants were growing at the edge of a very special bog...

Magnolia virginiana is often found in the presence of Sarracenia species.  In this case it is Sarracenia alata.

A view of the canopy of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" in Jasper county, Texas.

For comparison, here are some photos of typical Magnolia virginiana var. australis growing in Escambia and Liberty counties in Florida.  

Foliage of typical Magnolia virginiana var. australis

The habit of typical Magnolia virginiana var. australis

The original plant of Magnolia virginiana 'Green Shadow' at Shadow Nurseries, Winchester, Tennessee.  Don said that this plant originated among seedlings collected from the historic population in Turtletown, Tennessee (which is also the highest elevation population)

These last two photos are of a yet-to-be introduced cultivar called 'Silver Savage' from Head-Lee Nursery in South Carolina.  It is very difficult to propagate! A very beautiful Magnolia virginiana var. australis!

Orchids of the Holiday Season

There is something about greenhouse orchids that flower during the darkest days of the year that I find particularly refreshing and invigorating.  While I love all the classic plants of the holiday season, it is the orchids that I look forward to the most.  While there are probably many reasons for this, these plants are linked to fond recollections of visiting Pandy's Nursery and Greenhouse / Christmas paraphernalia mecca at Christmas time,   When I was a teenager it didn't get any better; the area's best selection of orchid hybrids, flowering and fruiting citrus standards of seemingly infinite variety, and the finest selection of cyclamen to be found anywhere and were fodder for my fledgling interests in "rare plants". These are great memories to be reminded of and I would grow these plants for no other reason than that.  That being said, interests change, grow, mature and become more sophisticated, and it is not likely that Pandy's carries any of those plants mentioned below! Merry, Merry, Merry to all.

How can you beat this Dendrobium for Christmas colors?  This is Dendrobium lawesii from J & L orchids.  The parents are bicolor forms of the species, but I love the scarlet red of this seedling.  What's even better is that the flowers last for months and the individual canes can reportedly repeat flower for up to 10 years.

A closer view of Dendrobium lawesii.  One of the seedlings I got from J & L is a beautiful white and raspberry bicolor.  I would suspect that if I self-pollinated this red-flowered specimen I would get segregating seedlings in the F2 generation that are bicolored.  Something to do in my (lack of) spare time.  Did I mention that the flowers last for months, and months, and months?

One of the hallmarks of Christmas is Laelia gouldiana.  This rare Mexican species is reportedly extinct in the wild and exists only in a semi-cultivated state in a Mexican village, and apparently only oen or two clones exist.  Like other naturally epiphytic  Laelias and Cattleyas in my collection, this species rapidly dwindled in size when I tried to grow it in a container, but started growing well after being mounted.

Laelia gouldiana.  My original plant came from Andy's Orchids

Sophronitis cernua also does much better mounted.  Even this diminutive species produces very long roots that are better adapted to traipsing only a piece of cork or tree limb than being confined in a container.  

Another view of Sophronitis cernua.  I just love this plant.  I haven't purchsed any orchids in a while, but I think I might need to add some more Sophronitis species to my collection...

Here is another interesting Mexcian species, the maybe miniature Barkeria whartoniana.  One of the best features of most, if not all Barkerias is the extensive root systems they make that are beautiful  their own right.

A form of Paphiopedilum insigne.  While not strikingly beautiful, this species is a reliable bloomer.  Most of my Paph collection consists of Parvisepalum types, which flower so infrequently that I feel like I should alert the press whenever one flowers.

A little bit showier is Paphiopedilum farrieanum.  A reliable and easy plant to grow and flower.

A final view of Pahpiopedilum farrieanum

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Too good to be true?

Here are some photos of the very rare and desirable Lilium philadelphicum x Lilium catesbaei flowering for the first time in my collection.  I obtained this hybrid from a friend who made the cross using L. philadelphicum as the female parent and L. catesbaei as the pollen donor.  Now I'm going to backcross this plant the Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum forma immaculata.  That should provide for some fabulous segregates among the progeny that will allow for continuation of the breeding lines in a new direction.  Exciting stuff. I took these photos with a couple different settings, but don't think I captured the true color with either.  What can I say, the sun never really came out yesterday and it's hard to take great photos in the dark.

Odds and Ends

This plant of Cymbidium erythrostylum is flowering for the first time.  Definitely worth the wait. At first I kept hoping the lateral petals would open, but they don't.  Oh well.  The fact that the flowers last for 4-6 weeks more than makes up for this.

This is a Cattleya hybrid that I was given with the name 'Alecia'.  I can find no reference to this, but at this point I really don't care.  Who wants to discount a plant with a floral display like this because a name can't be readily applied.  Some plants are just meant to be enjoyed.

Here is my hand in an attempt to give the flowers some scale.  The fragrance of these long-lasting flowers is to die for.  Perhaps this is a Cattleya hardyana type?

Here is the fabled Lachenalia viridiflora. The flower color is to die for, and only Ixia viridiflora can even come close.  These plants are embarrassingly easy to grow and hopelessly flop all over.  Next year  a nice, lean medium is in order.  This plant always flowers around the time of the legendary Ohio State/Michigan football game.  Is that a good a bad reminder?

Since this is a post of totally random lanes, here is one the make it interesting.  This is a form of Symphyotrichum (Aster) pratense collected in Kentucky.  I have not seen many other forms of this species, but word on the street is that this deeply colored form is something special.  Now I just need to think of a good cultivar name...

Symphyotrichum pratense cascading out of a raised bed.

A side view of the flowers of S. pratense showing the characteristic phyllaries and the scale of the flowers.  These flowers are quite large among our native asters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lilies can do the strangest things...

I received this very rare form Lilium philadelphicum var. andinum forma immaculata (or so I have seen it called) from a friend that produced bulbs through tissue culture.  This form originates from Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, where it was found in one the northernmost populations of Lilium philadelphicum.  

This variant is well-known to the people of this region and is the symbol of the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre (  Rarities such as this can be responsibly enjoyed by botanists and horticulturists when ethical collection protocols are followed to enter such plants into cultivation.  When propagated in vitro this species can be maintained over a long period of time.

You may also be wondering why this plant is flowering now.  Turns out that, despite being notoriously difficult garden plant, when grown in small containers and given supplemental lighting in greenhouse conditions, this species is very plastic and two flowering periods per year can be achieved.  Here is an article about forcing Lilium philadelphicum;8/1/11 

The entire plant is only 8 inches (20 cm) tall and displays the characteristic upper whorls of foliage that defines var. andinum

The best is yet to come.  Today I harvested the pollen of the yellow phil.  I also stained it with acetocarmine and the pollen is quite viable.  Below are some pictures of an F1 clone of a Lilium philadelphicum X L. catesbaei hybrid made by the same friend who tissue cultured the yellow phil.  I am going to cross it to this plant when it opens in a few days.  It will be interesting to see if the cross takes and the ration of yellow progeny, if there are any.

Lilium philadelphicum X L. catesbaei clone showing a robust flowering stem.

Lilium philadelphicum X L. catesbaei