Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lithops Up Close

Lithops  fulviceps  

I have a lot of plants.  That's nice, because it allows me to grow and experience a wide range of different cacti and other succulents.  However, it also means there are so many plants to care for that it is difficult to spend time with any one individual plant.  That's not nice.  For the past several years I have enjoy my plants en masse, but missed the individuals.  Within the last few months I have realized that I am missing out on really seeing, and enjoying my plants as individuals.  Today I got up close and personal with one of my Lithops fulviceps.  I had forgotten how attractive this species can be, especially when it is endowed with a grand network of wonderful red lightning bolt streaks that dance between the bluish-gray warts.  Beautiful in every sense of the word.   

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Collecting Obesa Seed

Euphorbia  obesa   -   Collecting Seed

If you have a male and female plant of
Euphorbia obesa in flower at the same time there's a good chance the flowers on your female plant will be pollinated and set fruit.  The fruit is a small rounded capsule holding three seeds.  A modest sized plant, such as the one at the right, usually produces six to ten fruits and thus 18 to 30 seeds.  However, there's a difference between the female producing seeds and your chances of harvesting them.
As the fruit of E. obesa dries, pressure builds up along the seams, and when one of these seams splits, the seed is propelled outward with substantial force.  The force is great enough to propel the seed up to ten feet (3 meters) away from the plant.  If you do not have some type of mechanism in place to collect the flying seeds, or prevent them from being propelled, you will lose most, if not all of the seeds.

The plant at the right has propelled most of its seed.  There is only one fruit with seed remaining.   There are a number of tricks use to prevent the fruit from splitting and throwing off the seed.  One is to put a dab of glue on the side of the fruit.  This will prevent the fruit from splitting with force and hold the seed in a partially split fruit or allow the seed to drop into the pot.  A piece of tape is sometimes used around the fruit to accomplish the same thing.

Another method of getting the seed, is to collect it after it has been expelled from the fruit.  Some growers cover the top of the plant with a piece of mesh or nylon, (like a hat covering the fruit)  to trap the seed when it is propelled.  The catching material is secured around the plant with a rubber band or string.  I have a number of plant and I prefer to use a large trap (seen at right).  I use a plastic crate that is lined inside with window screen.  The plants with fruit are placed inside and the crate covered with another piece of screening.  As the seeds are propelled from the fruits, they are trapped within the screened crate.  Some seed will fall into the pots but 80 percent usually ends up on the bottom of the screened crate.  I can collect hundreds of seeds with this method with very little work on my part, save making the trap crate.  The screen allows air and light (although there is about a 20 light reduction due to the screen) to get to the plants and I keep the plants dry during this seed collection period. 

Of course you still need the basics, flowering females plants to produce the fruit and seed, and at least one male plant in flower at the same time for pollination.  I have never had to take a hand in the pollination.  My plants are outside and ants seem to do most, if not all, of the pollinating.  Strangely however, I have also had flowering plants set fruit inside the house, and I never saw a single ant.  I have no explanation for how this pollination occurred....invisible ants....or poor grower eyesight.   

Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013 NCCSS Show Plants No. 5

The  Euphorbia obesa  Family

Another entry category we have in our C&S Society's Annual Plant Show is "Parent/Offspring".    In this category you enter seedlings, rooted cuttings, or rooted offsets, and the plant(s) from which they came.  My entry this year was a pot of Euphorbia obesa seedlings, and the parent male and female plants that were used to produce the seed.  Euphorbia obesa is a dioecious species, which means there are male and females flowers, and they are produced on separate plants.  To produce fruit and seed you need both a male and female plant in flower at the same time.   Shown below is the female plant on the left (unfortunately not in flower), the male plant on the right (the tall guy), and the seedlings (the kids) in front. 

The "other" problem (in addition to having a flowering male and female plant) to producing Euphorbia obesa seed is that the fruit is a regma, a capsule that when ripe explodes and shoots the seeds far and wide.  Thus, there has to be some procedure set up that can capture the seed when it is expelled.  There are three seeds per each fruit and they are relatively large.  The seed germinates easily and this is the only way to produce more plants, since E. obesa rarely, if ever, produces offsets. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

2013 NCCSS Show Plants No. 4

Lithops Collection


Our (National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society) Annual Show has an entry category called "Collections" in which groups of related plants are entered.  Since we have very few lithops growers in the society, I always try to enter a 'collection' of my lithops.  Lithops are always popular with show visitors, many experiencing them for the first time.  Young visitors are particularly excited by these 'stone-like' living things, while it sometimes takes a bit of convincing for older visitors to believe they really are plants.  
Clockwise from upper left, Lithops dorotheae, Lithops karasmontana,  Lithops lesliei var. hornii, Lithops bromfieldii var. insularis, Lithops bromfieldii, Lithops lesliei var. venteri
Included as part of the entry was information describing lithops, their morphology, growth cycle, and native habitats.  One of the great enjoyments of the annual show is discussing the wonderful world of succulent plants, including lithops, with the show visitors, many of whom have never seen these strange and unusual plants.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Show Plants No. 3

Agave  'Kisho Kan'

This is a Japanese cultivar that I've only had for a few years.  This was the first time I entered it in the show and it won first place in the Agave Section.   It is an attractive plant, and smaller than many of the other agaves.  I particularly like the fact that it doesn't produce a lot of offsets, which can rapidly destroy the symmetry of the smaller agaves.  Agave 'Kisho Kan' is easy to grow providing you provide a very sunny location, a well drained potting mix, and plenty of summer water.  


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Show Plant - No. 2

Haworthia  limifolia  'Striata'

I like this form of Haworthia limifolia, although my plant has a narrower leaf than some clones I have seen.  I entered it in the Haworthia Section of our C&S Society Plant Show but there were a number of really nice haworthias exhibited and my poor little plant didn't fair well in the judging.  :(   It doesn't produce the vigorous stolons of the regular H. limifolia, thus no plants sticking out of the pot drainage holes. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

NCCSS Show Plants - No. 1

Tephrocactus  geometricus

The National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society's (Washington, D.C. C&S Society) annual Plant Show will continue tomorrow, but here's my favorite plant for today.  There was little doubt that it was also one of the visitors' favorites.  Quite a few visitors were convinced this was artificial, green painted ping pong balls glued together.  It's real alright, closely related to the opuntias and native to northern Argentina.  The green, spheroid stems are analogous to the pads of the opuntias and the plant produces a new one on each arm each year.  It is a  neat and strange looking plant.  One of the outstanding cacti of the show this year.