Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lithops Flowering Season

Lithops  bromfieldii  var.  insularis 

Lithops, commonly known as "Living Stones," are succulent plants from South Africa and Namibia.  While they are primarily grown for their interesting form and color, (they indeed  look like small, colorful stones), they also produce attractive flowers.  Lithops are "short day" plants.  They produce their flowers in the late summer through late fall, as the hours of daylight grow shorter and shorter.  As September comes to a close it's the species Lithops bromfieldii, and its varieties, that are in the midst of their flowering period.
The plant shown above is actually two 4-headed plants I potted together to fill a 4 inch square (10 x 10 cm) pot and provide a more attractive display.  I grew the two 4-headed plants from seed sown in 2004.   My lithops spend the summer outside in full sun, but under a cover of clear plastic to control the amount of water they receive.  In the winter they all come inside the house to a sunny, south facing windowsill.  I've been growing lithops for quite a few years, but it is always a great thrill to watch them produce their bright, cheerful flowers in the fall.     

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Seedling Variation


Seedling Variation in Titanopsis calcarea

One of the exciting, and yet sometimes frustrating, things about growing succulents from seed is you never really know what you are going to get.  This is especially true when the pollination is "open," meaning you don't control the origin of the pollen. You know the identify of the female plant, because that is the plant from which you collect the fruit and hence the seed.   However, often you don't know the plant which supplied the pollen that pollinated that female plant.  That was the situation for seed I harvested, and sowed, from a Titanopsis calcarea plant in the autumn of 2011.  The result was approximately 12 seedlings which were moved outside to one of my over wintering frames in the summer of 2012, and basically forgotten.   This spring, I began cleaning out this over wintering frame and rediscovered the seedlings.  Most were typical Titanopsis calcarea, they looked just like the female parent,  but three were different.  They were definitely T. calcarea, but they looked different.  They displayed the variation that often occurs when you grow from seed. 

Seedling #1 (above) is Titanopsis calcarea but compared to the parent plant, the tips of the leaves are more pronounced and the warts (the round markings on the leaf tips) are larger and lighter in color.  For me, it's more attractive than the parent T. calcarea.
Seedling #2 also has the tips of the leaves more pronounced, but the warts are not as numerous as on seedling #1 and not as white.  It too is quite different in appearance in comparison with the parent plant. 
Seedling #3 is perhaps the most interesting.  Again, the leaf tips are more pronounced, and the warts large and white, but now there is a noticeable red coloration surrounding the warts.  The white warts, surrounded by red, on the ends of gray-green leaves produces a very different and attractive looking plant. 
All three seedlings are still Titanopsis calcarea, but they are all slightly different from each other and different from their parent from which the seed came.   That's the fun of growing from seed.  Such noticeable variation doesn't always occur, but it occurs often enough to keep one's eyes watching those emerging seedlings very closely with the excitement of removing the wrapping of a new gift.  As those seedlings grow you just never know what you are going to discover.   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Big Smelly Succulent Flowers

Stapelia  gigantea

If you like LARGE flowers, you will love the flowers of Stapelia gigantea.  If you like FRAGRANT flowers, you will NOT like Stapelia gigantea.  Here we have a succulent plant with large  flowers, that resemble, and smell like, the decaying carcass of a dead animal.  Why?

The answer lies in the type of insect that pollinates Stapelia gigantea.  Perhaps you have already guessed, the pollinators are flies.  Indeed, if you have a flowering Stapelia gigantea, you will find a constant stream of flies coming to the flowers, and the flowers themselves inhabited by fly maggots. 

If you have space, a lot of sun, and warm temperatures, Stapelia gigantea is easy to grow.  Provide plenty of water during the spring and summer growing period, and keep drier and warm over the winter.  If you have Stapelia gigantea and it has never flowered for you, you are probably not providing enough sun.

Stapelia gigantea is native to large areas of south-central and south-eastern Africa.