Thursday, February 28, 2013

Auspicious Plant with Underestimated Fragrance

Talk of things auspicious, this plant is one of them, so one of its common name is Chinese money tree. Another common name is fortune plant and corn plant because it resembles corn leaves. It has a reputation of being auspicious and the owner being fortunate when this flowers, maybe because it takes time before it does. A lot of bees and insects love nectaring in the so many flowers per panicle, in a long spike full of many panicles. Green fruits become red-orange when ripe and I guess that makes it more auspicious for the Chinese and those who believe in this superstition. It is also famous as indoor plants because NASA study reported its ability to trap poisonous gases like formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

We have a long hedge of these to protect soil erosion and a barrier between the road and the citrus trees. They are already tall and mature producing lots of blooms. If that is of any significance, i hope prosperity and happiness for the owners are some of them. However, the name Dracaena fragrans might be an under estimation of its fragrance. A long spike near the house will be bothersome to the residents, as its fragrance borders on overpowering odor, almost awful. Can you imagine the odor of many spikes simultaneously blooming? That happens in our property, so you can't blame my mother and sister for cutting many of the plants, preventing them to produce lots of flowers.

I hope cutting many of them will not prevent the prosperity and happiness due us!

I love the reddish-purple stripes along the lobes of each flower. Lengths of each lobes differ producing lovely protrusions. 

Sometimes, the spike produce panicles on both sides

...or sometimes a panicle is borne from a long branchlet, but with this light it is so spectacular.

The spiky panicles have different flower maturity, so they open at different staggered times.

This is the hedge thickly planted on a slope to prevent soil erosion. Many plants are already cut to about a meter high. Some plants are already flowering as in the left lower portion.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Unwanted Pretty Wildflowers

Hagonoy is our local term for (Chromolaena odorata), a weed that can be lumped with those things called obnoxious. But it has other local names in other country dialects. It is known to have originated from South and Central America, commonly called siam weed, triffid weed, bitter bush or jack in the bush or even devil weed. It migrated to the country in the early sixties and can be found anywhere in the country now. Aside from being very invasive, a single root left in the soil eventually grows so easily. The profuse growth is also  because caterpillars don't like to eat them. Moreover, goats and cattle are poisoned if they eat this because of its high nitrate contents. So they mainly leave this plant alone. Exemptions are some moths and butterflies which cannot resist the flowers. If all these things are not yet obnoxious to you, then i don't know what is!

Farmers exert efforts to eradicate this weed from their property, but eventually they find them again, so keep their farms in check.

A single stalk with lots of branch stalks producing the flowers

 Another photo to show the single stalk or branch with profuse flowers, which will eventually become seeds.

Above is an expanse of a hilly farm fully covered by this weed. 

 In February the flowers are already dried and the seeds are already starting to disperse. Burning the vegetation might not be an easy alternative as the vegetative plant parts remain green.

Umbels of dried seeds ready to disperse with the aid of the wind.

Some of my butterfly enthusiast friends say they love this weed because they see butterflies fleeting on the flowers. However, i disagree as there are many worthwhile and lovelier flowers that are more agreeable with the butterflies. In our case in the property, I seldom see butterflies and bees in these flowers. Maybe with high availability of alternatives, they also would not visit these flowers often. That is my current explanation on this matter, however I will still make a lot of observations from other places before i conclude of my theory.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Untimely Bloom

My Hippeastrum puniceum produced some blooms in February, as a response to an untimely rain. The blooms are very few, but it gave a beautiful surprise. January to April are the normal dry months, this bulb normally bloom only after the long dry spell followed by the heavy rains in May. However, they are now unprdictable, just like the weather. Thanks to the very unusual climate changes, plants gave unusual responses as well. I hope the changes remain just like this, and not the unexpected harmful ones. 

MM3   Ruby Tuesday 2

Monday, February 18, 2013

First Cactus Bloom

This is my first time to see the flower of Haworthia attenuata. The spike is more than two feet in length and the flowers open consecutively. They finished blooming in 3 weeks. The individual flowers are only more than 1cm in length. I scrutinized the morphology of the flower, as i cannot decipher where the stigma and pollens are! When there are only 2 flowers left at the tip of the spike, i physically removed the petals, to peep inside that small throat, and there way below the opened parts are the reproductive parts. Actually, very small ants led me there. I saw them entering that throat, i guessed they are getting something sweet inside it. 

It is elegant on its own, viewed individually like this.

The flowering Haworthia attenuata. I peeped underneath and 2 suckers are now growing. I am so glad with my new acquaintances. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

GBBD for Valentine's Day

Our dry season is here, our last rain was in November. , Even if rain's lacking in December to January, at least the temperatures are a bit colder courtesy of the winds from Northern China and Siberia. But coming February, our grasses, weeds and bushes are now turning to brown. Some trees are also shedding their leaves this time, most specially our national tree, a dipterocarp called narra, Pterocarpus indicus. Only the watered plants in landscaped gardens are still green.

At home in our property, some plants are flowering, maybe to produce seeds before the searing heat arrives. We can't blame them, as very very few shallow rooted plants can flower during our dry season temperatures.

Sansevieria trifasciata or mother-in-laws tongue, or snake plant flowers. These are planted under the trees so receive only filtered light, but at least not very strong sun's rays.

I bet not many among us are familiar with croton's flowers. They are born in spikes longer than a foot. They do not flower yearly, so I am also excited seeing them bloom.

This wild Lantana camara is very invasive but favorite of butterflies, sorry for this one as it was captured by the spider web. The stems form a mat of canopy with clearings underneath that serves as covers for resting chickens that feel the searing heat too. We have free-ranged chickens so love to rest under this.

This lily flowered in May when the rainy season started, these are now the ripe berries

fruits of orange Heliconia, but Heliconia doesn't stop flowering even in the dry season

red kalanchoe, cactuses are desert plants so they are at home with our conditions

red-orange Hippeastrum puniceum that flowered out of season

Orthosiphon cristatus, catwhiskers, still giving lovely whiskers.

 Turnera subulata never fails to produce the love of bumble bees.

 The remaining sepals of the 4 o'clock flowers still look very much like flowers, those seeds turn black when ready for planting, Mirabilis jalapa

Hibiscus rosa-sinenses also continue to reach for the sky even during the hottest days. It is one of the most drought tolerant species in our part of the world. When hibiscus hybrids cannot tolerate dry season temperatures, this traditional variety can. And it is already a big bush.

The side plantings of Ixora coccinea never fail to satisfy the butterflies. At the left is the Euphorbia millii, not stopping to produce flowers too.

My Photo 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Truth about Hippeastrum

Hippeastrum puniceum, is a much loved ornamental in the bulb industry. It has been with me since i was born, freely growing in our yard. They are on-show during the rainy season, May to January, and out of sight or dormant during the dry season, February to April.

I have long been calling ours as amaryllis, thinking that is the common name and the Hippeastrum puniceum as scientific name. I just realized that amaryllis and Hippeastrum are two different genus. It has a long history of being together in a Genus and have been formally separated just lately  into two separate Genus. Discussions lasted 5 decades from 1937 to 1987. Amaryllis are those from South Africa and Hippeastrum, from South America. The origin of the two genus are easier for me to understand because our colonizers were Spaniards and Portuguese.  Formally they are separated, but informally they are still together. The confusion arise because most of the Hippeastrum sold as bulbs are colloquially called amaryllis, because not many people know that they are formally " botanically divorced" by the International Botanical Congress.

Above is an old photo of our hippeastrum hedge in our garden

So, now i am more confident to call ours as Hippeastrum (our local term actually is lirio). Our climate is more of the hot tropics, with around 36°C at the height of the dry season. Our bulbs are directly planted on the ground, self-supporting, neglected and only given particular attention when they bloom. This happens after the first heavy rains at the start of the rainy season in May. Staggered blooms last for a few weeks, followed by prolific green leaves that eventually dry coinciding with the start of the dry season in February. By then, we will not see its trace again unless we scrape the soil covering the bulbs.


Growth and development of hippeastrum are in two phases. Vegetative growth that follows blooming signifies active photosynthetic manufacture of its food in the leaves, then stored the manufactured food in the bulbs. When food storage is complete they are more equipped for flowering and reproduction. Leaves will eventually mature and die during the dry season. This coincides with its second phase of development called period of dormancy. Failure to flower can be due to a few reasons, but mainly because stored food in the bulb is not sufficient to sustain reproduction or flowering. This only means that leaves dried early or grown in shady conditions restrained food manufacture. Malnourished plants are naturally inhibited to reproduce, otherwise the offspring are not fitted to live to sustain life! How wonderful.

Flower forcing for bulbs in the tropics can be done with two strategies. First is by inducing early bulb dormancy, and second by breaking dormancy. Inducing dormancy of bulbs in pots is done by gradual withdrawal of water to induce fast drying of leaves and stop active physiological processes in the bulb. Then the pots can be placed in shaded areas to avoid bulb scorching. That is simulated starvation for about 6 weeks, after which they can be put back to sunny areas with full watering.

 Above is a bulb planted on the ground and watered in last week of January, 
this flower is in early February

Bulbs growing directly from the ground, with dried leaves or dormant for about six weeks can be induced to flower by heavy watering at once. They can even be dug, allowed to sit on gravels with water. Gravels hold the bulbs to keep them afloat, otherwise bulbs sunk in water will induce rotting. In two weeks growths or flower stalks will be obvious. In our climate those bulbs on the ground did not receive rain since November. They can either be watered luxuriously on the ground in January or they can be dug, put in water to break dormancy and enjoy the blooms.

My small experiment of breaking dormancy by letting bulbs sit in water in January. Spikes appear after 3d and flowers lasted for 2-3 weeks, because some bulbs produced 2nd spike. 

Some gardeners here, due to lack of knowledge on the principles of its growth and development, still do the strategies of those in the temperate climates. That is because they rely heavily on the internet. But putting in the refrigerators is not actually necessary because our bulbs can stay outdoors, even on their growing positions in the ground, until their dormancy is completed. Or if needed, dormancy can be cut by just watering them. Temperate climates only dug them during their dormancy, and put inside the refrigerators because bulbs freeze and are killed in winter. Knowledge makes work easier and cheaper!