Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Flowering Orchids: Part II

The parade of winter flowering orchids continues.  Truly, this has to be one of the best years for a number of species flowering in my collection.  Some of these plants are rarely seen in other collections.

One of the most spectacular is the yellow-flowered form of Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum 'Winter Sun' x 'Hidden Agenda'.  This is the second time this plant has flowered, and now, the flower scape has become quite robust and the plant is about 30 cm tall.  It is not as robust as the typical for of this species, but it's no wimpy plant either. 

Here is a comparison of the plant shown above with a line bred specimen of the typical species (Phrag. besseae 'Haven' x 'Smokin').  Obviously you can see the differences in the proportions of the flower parts.  No doubt this is a vastly improved flower over the wild type.  Unfortunately, what you can't see, is the  the terrible growth habit of the line bred plant.  While there are several flowers per scape and the flower parts are larger and more robust, the plant does not readily form a clump.  Instead in produces one anemic growth per year at the end of a long rhizome.  This detracts severely from the overall display of the plant. The yellow form has flowers that more closely resemble the wild species type, forms multiple offsets, but only produces 1-3 flowers per scape.

Speaking of Lady's Slipper orchids, this very rare form of Paphiopedilum micranthum var. eburneum 'Bubble Gum' x 'Huge Snow Ball'  started to flower last year on this date.  I purchased this plant in 2006 and it took 5.5 years to produce it's first flowers.  It was well worth the wait.

I am a huge fan of Cattleyas, but have stuck mainly with growing the species Last year a friend gave me a plant labeled as Cattleya 'Alecia'.  I have not been able to find any information on this plant and suspect that it may be some kind of interspecific hybrid.  Whatever it may be, one thing is for certain, this is a spectacular plant in full flower, and attracts droves of attention from anyone who happens to see it.  The fragrance is alone makes it worth growing.  Anyone out there know anything about the origin of this cultivar?

More on winter flowering orchids in the near future...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ohio Native Plant Profile: Adlumia fungosa

If this plant were simply known as "Bleeding Heart Vine" (this moniker belongs to the unrelated Clerodendron thomsoniae), every gardener and their mother would know what it is and be growing it.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  A pretty a plant with a not so pretty name, Adlumia fungosa, commonly known as Allegheny vine or mountain fringe is an elegant and charming biennial deserving of greater use in gardens.  During it's first year of existence, it produces lush mounds of sea-green foliage reminiscent of Dicentra formosa or Corydalis species (to which Adlumia is related).  The following summer or fall, from the center of the clump, a slender stem begins to snake it's way skyward, and from the leaf axils are born clusters of dainty, pearly pink "bleeding hearts' that are born successively over a long period.

Adlumia fungosa flowering in September in a Mogadore, OH garden

An uncommon native Ohio species, the monotypic genus Adlumia can only  be found at scattered sites in Northeastern and eastern part of the state.  I am told that a population occurs in Summit county on an abandoned quarry, so while it may be a rare plant, it does appear to tolerate disturbance in natural ecosystems.  The species occurs over a large geographical range in the northeastern and great lakes states, but is most abundant in the New England states. 

In a family (Fumariaceae) that is well-known for species with exceptionally recalcitrant (unable to tolerate dry storage and/or short window of viability) seeds, this species has seeds that tolerate dry storage.  A friend sent 3 packets of seeds.  Each were harvested in a different year: 2007, 2008, and 2010.  Each accession performed differently.

The pot at the top of the picture was sown with seeds dry stored since 2007, the middle pot sown with seeds dry stored since 2008, and the bottom bot sown with seed from 2010.  As you can see, the seeds can be dry stored and retain viability for at least a few years.  

Close-up of a vigorous seedling of Adlumia fungosa.  This is about the actual size of the plant.

I am going to plant a number of these seedlings around my yard and see how they perform under different conditions.  My yard is quite shady; this should be of benefit for cultivating this species.  The photo of the flowering plant was growing in a shady alcove garden that is protected from strong, drying winds.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lilies for the New Year: Lilium catesbaei

While studying wild populations of Magnolia virginiana for my Master's degree, I was fortunate to discover many other plants that I had never seen before.  An almost constant companion of the Sweetbay was Lilium catesbaei.  Despite its lack of popularity among gardeners (perhaps owing to cultural quirks or a short life-span), there is something other-worldly and enchanting about this species; looking over the sprawling flats of wire grass (Aristida stricta), the flowers of the pine lily are widely scattered and appear to floating among the tousled, blowzy grasses.  My first encounter with this species was in late August 2008.  While driving a desolate stretch of road just East of Bayou la Batre, Alabama, I saw a tiny flash of orange and brought the car to a screeching halt.

The pine savannah along this stretch of road was in serious need of fire and we found only a single plant of Lilium catesbaei.  This solitary plant was growing in a ditch with Polygala lutea.  Awestruck, we studied this solitary plant for the better part of an hour.

On the same trip, but further east in Florida's fabled Apalachicola National Forest, we found this species again, growing as irregularly scattered, single stems dotting the wire grass flats.  The forms in this area had more narrow flower petals, giving the plants a spidery appearance.

This region of the Florida panhandle had just received over 15 inches of rain over the course of two days and everywhere I hiked was covered in standing water.  In this same area, we also found the rare pitcher plant, Sarracenia psittacina.

The 'lobster pot' traps of this species have the ability to trap insects when above and when submerged under water.  Good thing.

Also in the area where lush stands of Polygala cruciata.  This is an exceptionally beautiful plant that lends a purple-pink haze to the drifts of wire grass.  This species is one of the rarest angiosperms in Ohio and can only be found as very small populations in the Oak Openings region.  Also, the seeds of Polygala are among the most interesting to be seen, but in order to appreciate the details of it's anatomy, you will need a microscope.

In 2009 I travelled to the aptly named Green Swamp in Southeastern North Carolina.  Many rare and beautiful plants can be found in this well-known botanical area.

Lilium catesbaei could be found growing as scattered individuals in this area.

Lilium catesbaei is an almost constant companion of carnivorous plants and in this region, some of the most prized species can be found.

Sarracenia purpurea ssp. venosa can be found in abundance, but the Green Swamp is well known as be the last strong hold of the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)