Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Few Garden Worthy Native Plants

Macbridea caroliniana. Carolina bird's-in-a-nest.  A rare member of the Lamiaceae from the gulf coast that likes a rich, moist medium.  Not sure about hardiness in the North.  An easy plant to increase by vegetative means.

Lilium superbum 'N3 Georgia Jaguar'

Lilium superbum selection from Georgia.  A typical form of the species.

Phlox floridana, the Florida phlox flowers nearly year round under cool greenhouse conditions and is a stunning and vigorous plant.  Unsure about hardiness in northern climates, but Mary Henry successfully grew this at her estate in eastern Pennsylvania decades ago.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Some Native Lilies in Virginia

I love this picture.  This is trailside on the way to Kelly's Knob in southwestern Virginia. There are at least 7 species of flowering plants in this photo.  The ones I can identify at a glance are Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule), Mayflower (Epigaea repens), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Carolina lily (Lilium michauxii), and Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) This photo teaches us an important lesson about how to consider growing choice plants such as these. First, Cypripedium acaule is impossible to grow under conditions that do not closely resemble its native habitat.  The other species here are more forgiving and several of them can be grown in areas outside of their range under modified conditions.  The thing to remember is that these are old soils; they are highly leached and very acidic.  It would be hard, if not impossible, to literally recreate these conditions in the garden.  An absolution can be had.  I have found that many of these plants will grow well in cultivation if planted in a medium composed of 50:50 sphagnum peat to silica (blasting sand).  Certainly, Lilium michauxii and the Ericaceous plants thrive under these conditions.

I was not expecting to see Lilium michauxii here, but was surprised to find dozens of immature plants growing along the trail.  We were able to find one flowering plant and the flower was badly damaged.  Fortunately though we were still able to detect the slight, sweet fragrance reported for this species.  Although I have seen this species in several other more southerly locations, this is the first time I have ever seen it in flower.  For me, this is definitely what botanists call a "Life Plant".

Another view of the flower.  Note that one of the petals and all of the anthers are missing.  It appeared as thought the flower had been pollinated.

Here is a view of the entire flowering plant.  There were several sterile stems at the base that formed a loose clump.  I removed some of the leafy mulch around the base of the plant to find that the bulbs were very shallow, and further inspection revealed that they were growing on top of a shallow stone!  The good part about this was that I was able to collect a few bulbs scales for propagation.  The soil here (if it can be called that) is very unique and characteristic of much of the Cumberland plateau and Appalachian mountain region.  It is essentially 3-8 inches of partially decomposed, oak leaves on top of relatively coarse stone that rapidly gives way to large boulders.  Sounds dry, but conditions could best be described as "moist, but well-drained".

A few more thoughts about Lilium michauxii. The population I discovered was near the northern terminus for this species' distribution.  You might think that plants at this latitude would be at low elevation where the climate is more mild, but these plants were found at about 3500 feet in election.   Even for Virginia, this is a relatively high elevation and I am sure that these plants are subjected to freezing winter conditions and high winds.  My thought is that they may be better plants for more northern gardens where southern genotypes of this species may not be so hardy.  Is anyone growing material from this region or from more northern populations in Virginia?

The Bald on Whitetop Mountain Virginia.  The habitat of Lilium grayi.  Don't get too excited because we couldn't find it.  Probably about 10 days too late to catch the flowers.  Lilium grayi has been something of a conundrum for me.  I have tried to see it in the wild on four separate occasion with no success.  This species continues to elude me.

Here is a lower forested region on Whitetop just blow the bald.  These misty woods are a signature of high elevations in the southern Appalachians and you never know what you might find...

We found several plants of Lilium superbum growing here and most of them were large, but non-flowering plants that appeared to be suffering from drought conditions as many of them were going dormant. 

As we left the forest made our way back onto the bulb, I saw a tiny flash of orange through the mist (can you see the tiny flash?)

Just beyond the stunted, misty forest in the transition zone to the bald were several very large flowering plants of Lilium superbum.  I never get tired of seeing this species. This 6 foot tall behemoth is growing among brambles (Rubus sp.) that likely protect it from foraging deer.  Many stems of the lily were growing in these conditions and were by far the largest plants at this site.

Details of the flower

Skipping forward in the trip to the area around Clinch mountain we came upon Laurel Bed Lake.  In wet sandy areas around the lake are thousands of plants of the beautiful orange fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris).   A few plants can be seen flowering in this photo.

The main attraction at this sight was not the orchids, but a power line right-of-way near the lake where thousands of robust plants of Lilium superbum could be found.  They were in prime flowering condition.  Unfortunately my photographic efforts were thwarted by the driving rain of the afternoon.  This would be prime location for future seed collection

The detail of the reverse of a Lilium superbum flower.  A fitting way to end this post.

Rescuing Rarities: Update on experimental work with Lilium iridollae

This sea of green may look like a bunch of nondescript seedlings, but are actually seedlings of Lilium iridollae.  These seedlings are the product of seeds started cold and moist as described in the previous blog post about this species.  Although the seeds took much longer to germinate than those started in warm temperatures, a large percentage of them germinated and I was able to pot up about 160 more seedlings.  These plants have made rapid growth and many of them have produced as many as 5 leaves and counting.  The robust growth of these seedlings has allowed me to disseminate the seedlings to experienced growers.  If there is anyone else out there interested in working with this species please contact me.

Here is another view of the seedlings.  Note the red infusions in the new growth. 

Here are some of the seedlings from the seeds started warm.  As previously described, these germinated much quicker than those started cold and some of them have made rather large plants already.  The container in this picture is 4 inches in diameter and is included for scale.  The panhandle lilies are growing much more rapidly this year than last.  These, like most lilies, want a steady supply of nutrients, and when given this, they produce several leaves per season at the seedling stage.  Some of the plants are already producing stolons.

Here is the detail of one of the larger L. iridollae seedlings.  The original seedling bulb is in the middle, and the new growth and stolons off to the sides.  I have a feeling that this plant may produce at least one flower next season.  By the way, I have been repotting several of these seedlings at this time of year, during the growing season, and as long as the roots are not allowed to dry, they don't mind at all.

Here is another view of the same plant.  Despite the thick, contractile roots, these plants remain rather shallowly rooted.  It's interesting to note the partially develop leaf-like structures at the base of the plant.    Some of the develop into mature leaves, but most will remain as is.  Perhaps these are photoreceptors for measuring day length?  Maybe they are just a product of ideal growing conditions?  My other native lily seedlings have not produced this sort of growth, but are healthy and vigorous.  Anyone have any ideas.

Here is a view of one of the more typically sized bulbs.  This bulb is about 1.5 inches in diameter.

I am very pleased with the progress of my work with the panhandle lily.  To add another element to my study and interest in this species, in a few weeks I will be heading to the panhandle to see this species flowering in the wild.  I am majorly excited about this!  Also, I will be able to assess phenotypic variation in the species and mark exceptional populations for seed collection in November.  Also, while conservation of this remarkable species is my primary goal, I have also thinking about how it can be used in hybridizing.  While I have entertained many ideas in this arena, one experiment I would like to try is crossing L. iridollae to western North American lily species and hybrids.  In particular I would like to cross the species to some of the Bullwood hybrids ('Coachella', 'Lake Tulare', 'Lake Tahoe', and 'Rosewood').  Anyone out there growing them and have an extra bulb to spare?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lilies for Life

Here is a georgia genotype of Lilium superbum from Nearly Native Nursery.  This is called Lilium superbum 'N3 Redneck'.   This distinctive flower is more infused with reddish hues than many wild forms where orange is the dominant color.  Several more selections of L. superbum from Nearly Native Nursery are about to flower in my collection.

While perhaps not so exciting at this point, this picture holds many promises.  These are a mixture of trumpet lily hybrid seedlings started back in February.  They have been growing like weeds and are already quite large.

An individual, 1-gallon pot with several trumpet lily seedlings.  These plants are definitely exhibiting some hybrid vigor.  Perhaps there will be a few flowers next year.

This year I was given a variety of very, very choice Lilium species seedlings that had been started in vitro.  The robust seedlings that result from this treatment are easy to transplant, and larger than seedlings started in seed pots and in plastic bags with perlite.  The seedlings in this picture are some Lilium papilliferum that are growing like mad.  The bulbs were about 0.5 inches in diameter when I received them and are at least three times that size now.  I was given many choice species, all started in vitro, that are growing vigorously.

Here are a couple of bulbs of Lilium pitkinense.  This species rapidly produced an initial flush of large, lush leaves and is now putting out a second flush of growth and it appears one of the plants on producing a blind stem.  To the left of this plant are some seedlings of a yellow flowered form of Lilium philadelphicum.  Although small, these seedlings are growing very well.

Here is an exceptional yellow L. philadelphicum seedlings that has produced a blind stem.  These seedlings are slower than some of the other species, but are continually producing new leaves and an extensive root system.

I am hesitant to show these because things can easily go very wrong with this species.  From the same generous friend came these seedlings of a naturally occurring Lilium bolanderi hybrid.  So far, so good.  I'm not going to get too excited about these yet.

I am excited about all of these lily seedlings (there are more to show), but I am particularly excited about these Lilium ledebourii.  I have long lusted for this species and am happy to report that these seedlings are quite happy at the moment.

Success with these seedlings has inspired me to try my hand at sowing seed in vitro.  So far I have sown several species and success has been mixed.  Contamination has not been a problem, but failure to germinate (so far) has been problematic for a few things.  There have been some notable success.  One of them is the vary rare Lilium lijiangense.  More on in vitro seed sowing in the future.

And finally, a couple of things that will flower this year.  This is a form of Lilium michauxii from Tallapoosa Co. AL that I grew from bulb scales.  This is the first flower.  Can't wait!