Celebration – Puya coerulea

0r The whole circle

Last fall, fussing around our seedlings in preparation for the winter, I surprised this 10 month-old Puya coerulea trying to unfold its thorny leaves. Hard to let go of one another at that time, now they start showing the silvery colour of the adult plant foliage.

Puya coerulea - hard to let go!

Puya coerulea – hard to let go!

Right now I took pictures of 1 year old plants! This is something I hope to be able to present for other species in the future as well – The Whole Circle. It will start with the trip when we did the seed collecting, and it will continue with the germination of seeds, and the growth of the seedlings into mature plants. More than often, besides the plant itself it is the story linked to it – a far away place, a dear person, or an unusual event that makes it so special to have and to hold on. I know that most people collect in their trips small stones, pressed flowers, a piece of a branch, or lots of pictures – but by growing a plant you can literally keep that memory alive!

 

For Puya coerulea, is just the mature plant/flowering stage that is missing, but I hope in a few more years to have it as well :) This is a short visual journey, from the trip in Chile and the germinatrix, to this plantlet. A mature plant will resist to at least –6°C, making it suitable for containerized culture here in Ontario as long as is being brought inside for the winter. In milder areas of Canada, like Vancouver and Victoria, it could be grown outside yearlong.

Geum reptans in late November

The Return of the Germinatrix

A rather silly post from last spring inspired by the good growth of a few very special seed collections from the Carpathian Mts. By fall some of them had grown up quite a bit so I added a few other images.

The youngest heralds of the new gardening season are looking grown up now and some are ready to be transplanted. There is the constant chattering and moving around plus that they pick their noses out from under lights as soon as they feel something is happening around.

Hello there! My name is Geum (reptans) and I am from the Carpathian Mts. I am 2 months-old and I like to play under lights with my friends: Anthemis, Oxytropis, and Anthyllis. When I grow up I would like to have a nice big boulder to spread unto by myself. Some say that I’m the most beautiful of the mountain avens, but I’m too little to know about this. My flowers, they say, are very big, bright yellow, like the sun. My fruits will be like fathe.., feater.., feather…I have to go now – farewell!


Hellooo! I want to see who’s there too…Don’t listen to Geum, I’m the prettiest, everyone says so! The mountain avens and all the others are so envious, that’s why I’m playing only with Dianthus (petraeus); she’s pretty too. And my name is Aquilegia (nigricans) and I am going to have the bluest flowers.  Oh! Look who’s talking – the ‘princess’. See how lacy I am and I’ll form a nice clump with lots of white daisy-like flowers. By the way, my name is Anthemis (carpatica)

Kids! I’m just their nanny, I’m wondering what their parents from up the mountain would say….you can see them all in the Botanical Trailblazers page – Bucegi Mountains.

Germinatrix

An updated post from last spring

Thinking of all methods of propagation I got to do over the years: seeds, stem, leafs and root cuttings, division, layering, in vitro culture, grafting, still growing plants from seed remains in the end the most provocative, challenging and rewarding (or disappointing) type of propagation. Maybe it is their magic: the embryo which lies inside, the bearer of two genetic sets of genes, set to carry further the hope, the possibility, the diversity…

The collection of a few alpine species from the Carpathian Mts. last summer, coupled with the fact that every year I would germinate a few species just to see the seedlings withering and/or finally dying in disapproval, made me decide to go the whole nine yards  and bought an used 3 tier light stand.  The first pleasant surprise (from many others that I hope will follow) was to see that the seeds of Puya coerulea, collected two years ago in Chile, have kept very well in the fridge. After placing them under lights, they germinated very promptly and are looking quite healthy. The unusual flower color of Puya coerulea is still unmatched by any other species that I know, not to mention the striking whitish-grey, spiny foliage.

The other equally delightful surprise was the good germination of Nomocharis aperta. Since I first saw a picture a few years ago, I couldn’t forget its beautiful flowers, and I was very glad to receive a few seeds through the Seedex (ORG & HP). Nomocharis is a Lilium relative, you can read a lot about it on the Pacific Bulb Society page – here. The seeds were soaked in a 1000 ppm GA3 solution for 24 hours and sown on 7 February.  If everything goes well, I can look forward to see it flowering in about 3 years J. It should look something like the one in the image below – picture taken in the wild in China by Oron Peri (many thanks again).

 Also all Arisaema, Aquilegia, Roscoea and Dianthus species are easy germinators and can bring someone much joy and satisfaction. I’ll have more images in the next post.

A study in contrast – Aquilegia species

A group of plants that I really like and hope to increase my collection, are the columbines: Aquilegia spp., and in particular, of course, the alpine columbines. In contrast with the more regular garden Aquilegia varieties, the alpine ones are short in stature but bearing large flowers. In most cases they have a delightful bluish, compact foliage, which in itself makes a wonderful addition to any small rock garden.

Aquilegia scopulorum x coerulea in the rock garden at Wrightman Alpines

Aquilegia scopulorum x coerulea in the rock garden at Wrightman Alpines

All Aquilegia are important food source plants for bees, bumblebees, hummingbirds and hawk moths. Even just for this reason one should include them in the garden. Interesting fact, biologists found that the length of the nectar spurs in Aquilegia evolved to allow flowers to match the tongue lengths of their pollinators. Species with very long nectar spurs, like A. coerulea are pollinated by hummingbirds and hawk moths, while the short spured species, like A. canadensis are fancied by bees and other short tongue insects.

Aquilegia coerulea (Colorado blue columbine) has flowers with very long nectar spurs that look like space ships or sea creatures, wherever your imagination tends to go, up to the sky or down in the ocean. Very variable in height, anywhere from 15 to 90 cm and in flower colours – from white to pale or dark blue; also there are reports of a variety with spurless flowers!

I am greedy when it comes to columbines. This spring I am looking forward to see flowering (and take more pictures) in my rockery a few alpine columbines I grew from seeds: A. jonesii – the smallest of columbines, A. saximontana and A. discolor (that is if my seedlings survive the record low temperatures we have this winter).

 Also ready to greet the pollinators this year: A. nigricans (Carpathians Mts. collection), A. alpina, A. atrata and a semi-double flower form of A. canadensis we discovered in Bruce Peninsula. A few more species are just to go in the Germinatrix now, the most notable: A. coerulea – Colorado Blue columbine, and a very short form of A. canadensis, collected again from Bruce Peninsula.

 

I would note that most Aquilegia species are polymorphic and difficult to define adequately. Some of the variability is because of introgressive hybridization (Flora of NA). Even distantly related species of columbines are often freely interfertile, hence the multitude of hybrids and cultivated forms available. Also, this poses a problem for seeds collection, especially in the case of cultivated varieties if one requires true to type species.

 I will have more on Aquilegia germination and seedlings – Aquilegia canadensis is going to be a featured species in the Wild collected Seeds Catalogue, therefore I plan to test seeds from various collecting sites in order to be able to identify distinct varieties.

 

In a mood for Arisaema part II – Arisaema galeatum

Another great Arisaema that flowers in early spring is Arisaema galeatum. It is another story than A. sazensoo because it has a really big tuber. It is said that can grow to half a kilogram! Last year when I was checking the tuber in early March I caught it just starting to grow and it looked very appealing to me – with a dark-chocolate coating and raspberry syrup on top would be delicious! But I put myself together… This is an Arisaema from the Himalayan range (NE India to Bhutan), which grows during the mansoon months and then the leaves start withering in late summer and goes dormant early. Good to keep this in mind as it shows its requirements for a very good drainage from late summer to fall, and during winter of course.

The flower emerge on the same time with the leaves, on a short peduncle and it has a helmet-like (galeate) spathe, similar with A. ringens. It can be green or brown with whitish veins and has a white, translucent spadix that ends in a thread like whip.  I like to call it Dolphin cobra lily, because that’s what it suggested to me first time when it bloomed – a dolphin emerging for air from within the leaf! 

Just like its sister, A. ringens, the huge trifoliolate leaf is very ornamental. Actually, I consider it among the most beautiful from all Arisaema species I’ve seen. It unfolds slowly and the back pattern with accentuated purple ribs makes it mesmerizing to watch.

It did form two tuberlets two years ago (not a great rate of offsetting), from which one even produced a small flower in its first season! Unfortunately, the rainy weather we had late summer to fall it proved fatal for the smaller size tubers. If someone wants to give it a try I suggest container culture, so it can be moved to a dry place in late summer, or if in the garden a real well drained area, like close to a tree or shrub that would remove the excess water and also provide the part-shade required.

 

In a mood for Arisaema – Arisaema sazensoo

This is an updated post on Arisaema sazensoo – I have more ‘data’ to share now than last year. I am always in a mood for any Arisaema, but especially for the rare ones like A. sazensoo.

Arisaema sazensoo, is one of the first Arisaema to emerge in the spring, just like its cousin A. sikokianum. It is native from Kyushu, Japan and resemble a little A. sikokianum but the spadix doesn’t have such a pronounced white ‘pestle’. The spathe is usually deep purple, recurved over the spadix and the leaves are trifoliolate, like you can see in the images. It was thought to resemble a Buddhist monk in meditation – ‘zazen’, hence its name sazensoo, or at least that’s what I read. Anyway, you can tell it is a very charismatic Arisaema!

Arisaema sazensoo

Arisaema sazensoo

Another characteristic is that it stays in flower over a very long period of time, comparing with other Arisaemas. It had one attempt to form seeds, which proved sterile, but two years ago in late fall I had the very pleasant surprise to find that it had produced an offset (a tuberlet)!

On a few websites you’ll read that A. sazensoo is a non-offsetting species, but obviously someone got it wrong. In the images below I can present now the tuberlet that has grown quite well in one season (A. sazensoo doesn’t have a big size flowering tuber). More than this, the old tuber shows very clear another tuberlet (which is best left to detach by itself).

Like many other Arisaema species, it prefers a part-shade location and can be grown very well in a container, where a good drainage can be easily provided. Best transplanted in late fall with fresh potting mix and kept dry over the winter.

Twitching and switching

Finally, with some delay, after twitching and switching I am happy to announce that Botanically Inclined has a new base camp. Unfortunately, a free-hosted blog doesn’t suit my future endeavours, but change is good and keeps one motivated.  I am still twitching and not completely ready to shed my old skin, so for a while, until I keep transferring, updating posts and get acclimated, I will switch between my two base camps – often when one needs to climb further, the return to the previous base camp is necessary in order to get adjusted with the altitude :)

I cannot thank enough everyone for reading and finding some inspiration in what I call my ‘scriblings’. Sharing together with you the passion for all things green is what kept me motivated and made it all worth. Your feedback is always much appreciated and please be patient – I am still using the wordpress platform but it’s a new experience and I am not that knowledgeable in computers as I am in plants.

To celebrate the announcement and sweeten the transition I took a break – after all it’s Sunday and we won the hockey gold medals at the Olympics!!! With this new, stimulated energy I started to recount our trekk on the Inca trail from a few years ago:

Flowers of the Incas

Bomarea sanguinea

Bomarea sanguinea

Let’s make a big jump and land in Cusco via Lima. One needs to spend a few days here for altitude acclimation. Needless to say you have to book your trip in advance, and this can be done very well on-line nowadays. There is plenty to do in Cusco, after all you are in the ancient Incan Royal City: bask in the sun in Plaza de Armas, visit the museums, the shops, take pictures or just wander around and see what plant species are growing in the area read more HERE at my new base camp (I’m there – lots of twitching to do).

Flowers of the Incas

A recount of our trekking trip on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu – part I

You may ask: what is the motivation of trekking on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu? Probably everyone has their own reasons: adventure, the curiosity to see some archaeological wonders, botanical quest, celebration, or just a mixture of everything. It is considered the most famous trek in S. America, with the final destination at the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu.

But let’s make a big jump and land in Cusco via Lima. One needs to spend a few days here for altitude acclimation. Needless to say you have to book your trip in advance, and this can be done very well on-line nowadays.  There is plenty to do in Cusco, after all you are in the ancient Inca Royal City: bask in the sun in Plaza de Armas, visit the museums, the shops, take pictures or just wander around and see what plant species are growing in the area J. A few archaeological sites can be visited nearby, most notable and accessible on foot being Sacsayhuaman, but I disgress.

Your guide and team of porters will pick you up at dawn, and for a few hours drive to the starting point of the trail. While in the car, the realization that you’ll be actually retracing ancient Inca trails starts to settle in. Usually the Inca trail makes everyone think of Macchu Picchu. Actually, it is just one among the many trails of a large network that used to stretched from Ecuador to Chile and Argentina, connecting distant corners of the Inca Empire. The trails were used for transportation, religious and military purposes. Special messengers called ‘chasqui’ were delivering messages and light items, running on these trails (supposedly hundreds of km per day) from one place to another. One last stop in Ollantaytambo, where the statue of the Inca General Ollanta, wishes you good luck.

On the classic 4 days trek, you’ll hike a section of 43 km, from the start point – simply named km. 82, and reach Machu Picchu in the forth day. The start is located along the Urubamba River and belongs to a zone called by the locals ‘Quechua’ (Quechua was the language of the Incas). The elevation here is around 2600 m.

The trail has four main areas as regards to vegetation and altitude and is one fascinating journey from an arid landscape, through mountain scenery, lush cloud forest and subtropical jungle. The beginning is quite dry and dusty in July-August, passing small farmhouses and the scenery is a combination of introduced species, like Eucalyptus with native species of Puya, cactus and agave. At same point the trail enters the Cusichaca Valley and if you look upwards on the steep cliffs there are glittering Bromeliads, mostly Puya and Tillandsia (various species). If lucky, maybe you’ll spot a few orchids like Epidendrum and the so called Giant hummingbird. We weren’t so lucky about the giant hummingbird but got a glimpse of the very colourful Sparkling Violetear!

First day ends at the Wayllabamba camping grounds, at 3000 m elevation. Of course, you’re too excited to sleep, although you should prepare for the second day…Sleep or no sleep, you have to get going. The landscape changed to what’s called ‘submontane, subtropical humid forest’. While in awe for the breathtaking scenery, you’ll also have your breath taken away by the steep climbing. It is the time to reach the highest point of the trail: Warmiwañusca Pass at 4265 m.

But before that I will point in part II of the story, at the Polylepis forest the highest forest in the world!  Back to my twitching, and I hope to see you here next week…

 

 

 

 

Strongylodon macrobotrys close up

New York Botanical Garden: Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory it is the NY Botanical Garden centerpiece and a fine example of the Victorian-style glasshouse. It underwent quite a few restorations since it was built in 1902 and today it hosts 11 interconnected galleries, each recreating a different natural habitat. A green paradise under glass, and although we visited one year in late May, I can only imagine how much more wonderful would be to visit there during the winter time!

The Aquatic Collection includes, besides aquatic plants of course, a few tropical vines that make a lush curtain across the room. Strongylodon macrobotrys (Fam. Fabaceae), called the jade vine or turquoise jade vine, it is a vigorous vine from Philippines, which looks almost artificial when flowering. Its waxy flowers of an almost never seen colour, needs to be touched to be sure you are not visiting in a parallel reality! (In some cases plants have waxy flowers/leaves as an adaptation to keep them from becoming waterlogged). Unfortunately the rapid destruction of the rainforest in Philippines put Strongylodon macrobotrys on the list of vulnerable species. Other interesting vines flowering were Aristolochia gigantea (Fam. Aristolochiaceae), a Brazil native, called Brazilian Dutchman’s pipe or Giant Pelican Flower and Thunbergia mysorensis – Indian clock vine.

There would be so much to talk about other species like the Mexican tree fern – Cibotium shiedei or Cavendishia grandifolia, but for now while I am updating posts, just a few highlights:

Erythrina coralloides

Sun, colorful dust and el aguacate

Back home from a short trip to a mountainous region of Mexico, I was thinking about what images would be best to express the uniqueness of the area? Too many! In words it would be equally hard, even for a talented writer. So I decided to go with the technique of choosing the first four words that came into my mind, and these were: SUN, COLORS, DUST and EL AGUACATE. I can only show the colours here and maybe just a bit from the sun shining through them:

Winter in Mexico means dryness, acceptable warmth with cool nights and mornings. The deciduous trees have lost their leaves and are flowering (!), and everything else looks happy in the sun. In the mountain regions of the Michoacan State, the avocado trees (Persea americana) are thriving, and small orchards have expanded everywhere since my last visit there.

Persea americana – agacuate (Mexican), avocado (English) – is native to Central Mexico, from where it was introduced in other parts of the world. Cultivated in Mexico since a long time, the aguacate name comes from the word ‘āhuacatl’, meaning testicle in Nahuatl, an Aztec idiom, in relation to the fruit shape. It is an evergreen tree with coriaceous leaves, like many other species from the Lauraceae family. It flowers in the winter and in contrast with its big fruits, the numerous flowers are very small, yellowish and grouped in erect panicles. The flowering behaviour of the avocado is very unusual, known as “synchronous dichogamy” (if interested read more here). Only a few flowers will form fruits and on the same tree, there are fruits of different sizes, which will mature gradually. The Mexican variety of avocado has aromatic leaves too, and can be used as a condiment. In the image you can see a small orchard thriving underneath beautiful Pinus montezumae stands.