Monday, June 27, 2016

Hi Cassava!

I posted the first photo to my Facebook wall. I asked my friends to guess the flower photo, as i am sure not many knows what a cassava flower looks like. I was smiling when i did so, and anticipating a whole lot of guesses. 

I am very familiar with cassava since i was young, both the plant and the roots. We make the roots to some sweet delicacies, and i love all of them. Some Asian countries also use the young shoots as vegetable, but we don't eat that yet. But its flower, i confess, i did not scrutinize till now. I am almost sure that not many scrutinize it too, except for the breeders of course. 

My joke in FB was not that successful though, a breeder friend immediately put the right answer. So the rest of the FB friends already got it from there. 

 From the above photo, will you recognize it at once as cassava flower? I actually love that color combinations, with the slightly darker stripes inside the margins. They look so dainty, don't you think so too?

 They have different maturities in a reproductive branch, as above has flower buds, open flowers, and young fruits also at different stages of maturity and sizes. Even the fruits are lovely too, reddish at the ridges.

Here, the two fruits are almost at the same sizes and ages.

And above is the branch of the cassava bearing the reproductive structures. They are borne near the tips of the stems or the young shoots. Even the leaf petioles are lovely in red. But this case of course depends on the variety, others have different colors.

I hope i imparted a little information to others in these few photos.

Monday, June 20, 2016

More Tropical Season Changes

Aside from last Friday's changes in dormant plants, i want to add some more changes from the very long dry season to the rainy season. These are all in our area and garden in the province. Even if the rainy season is already officially declared in June, and thunderstorms happen most afternoon in the big city, our area is still needing the much needed rain follow-up. Some farmers who planted corns and vegies after the first rains are now praying fervently so their crops will not die. Rains continue to be just in slight drizzles only.

This falcata tree, one of the tallest in our area is now full of shoots, it behaves like it is still in its own country's spring. It is one of the characteristics of species that are only acclimatized in our country, somehow it still retains the old characteristics. But of chores the genes are still there.

It is not only in the big city where the sunsets are not as lovely anymore. Most of my sunset skies are cloudy with only a slight window for the sun. My sunrise in the province, direct to my bedroom window is also a bit dim as above. Only a slight window at the bottom allows the sun to peep through.

We have two mussaenda around the house, the above is our neighbor's, while below is ours. They are both taller than shrubs, but still a low tree. We normally prune them during summer, but this time i was not able to do that. So the branches are taller, and more flowers appear because all shoots have flowers. Actually, they are not real flowers but bracts. The real flowers are inconspicuous and hidden among those lovely modified leaves.

Anothre bulb which has dormancy, the blood lily or Scadoxius multiflorus, bloomed later than the hippeastrum. They produce large very round umbels in a profusion of red bursts, that stay there for at least 5 days. No wonder they are called blood lily in the area they came from. It is not native to our country. 

those umbels are even lovelier in close-up shots

 Some of the Hippeastrum puniceum flowers are still there, but a lot are already spent and wilted. Eventually, this will only be a hedge of green leaves that are still lovely to see there. Those leaves will accumulate food again in the bulb to be ready for next year's blooming.

The back of the hippeastrum also have lovely patterns that are nice to the camera.  My disappointment with this species is its inability to produce seeds, as it is self sterile. Even attempts to cross it with my H johnsonii failed, although i am not sure if crossing was correctly done. I instructed my niece to do that, but nothing emerged as fruit buds. Maybe it is the technique of pollination too, which might not be right, or the timing of crossing. Who knows i did not observe it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

First Heavy Rains Outcome

Our rainy season this year officially started first week of June. It is a much awaited moment to alleviate our extreme heat and discomfort brought by the long dry season, an El Niño year. The effect for humans is not sudden, but a pacifier, as it is still very hot when we go out from 10:00am to 3:00pm. However, the almost daily thunderstorms in the afternoons bring rains to many places. Thunder and lightning are welcome if they will bring in the rains!

The plants are all rejoicing! The first heavy rains immediately produced the transformed look. Dormant bulbs and seeds emerged on cue. Drying branches immediately produced shoots, and in one week growth is already very prominent among all plants. Grasses, nonetheless, are the most responsive and quick. The roadsides suddenly get carpets of green, giving us panacea to bored minds reminiscent of dull surroundings. My soul suddenly engaged again to a new vibrant surroundings. Our garden in the province has been teeming with growths, scents, and lovely blooms. Hmmm, i was not able to go home last weekend, but i am sure lots of them are still there this weekend, waiting for me appreciate them more.

 A week after the first heavy rains, the air around our property is very well scented in the mornings. It is courtesy of the few coffee plants surviving on their own.

 The 2 photos above and the pompoms closed-up below is the 'Liberica' variety, made famous as "Kapeng Barako" in Batangas. The berries are the biggest among the coffee varieties of commerce. Since kids we are already familiar with drinking coffee, mostly from this "Kapeng Barako".

 The above coffee flowers are also sweetly scented, but is the 'Robusta' variety. Its berries are small and most famous in the nearby province of Cavite. It is used with other varieties to make lovely coffee blends, together with 'Éxcelsa' and 'Arabica' varieties. This last one is very aromatic as ground beans, but grow only in colder highlands.

Above is the response of the dormant bulbs of Hippeastrum puniceum to rain. Notice that other grasses around the mounds are not yet growing, but the scapes and some leaves are already showing luxurious growths. 

This is the growth of the H. puniceum in the same area 3 weeks after the first heavy rains. A lot more of the hedges are at the right side of the area, but my niece did not take the photos. She just sent it to me by FB.

close-up of the Hipeastrum puniceum

Hippeastrum roseum planted in a pot. The bloom is a bit smaller than H puniceum, but the stripes on the petals make it so lovely. By the way, i read somewhere that its more correct name is Rhodophiala rosea. 

 Hippeastrum johnsonii blooms ahead of the H puniceum. It actually emerged immediately a week after the first heavy rains.
 They made the area more lively and conspicuous. I wish there still are some followers when these dehisced. I hope to take more of their photos.

 even the back is so attractive for me

This crinum is newly planted, the friend who gave it to me said it becomes a very big plant. It hasn't acclimatized very well yet to the sun, so still under some potted plants, but it already produced that scape to become white scented blooms. Unfortunately, i didn't see the blooms.

You can still see the very dry grounds despite the first heavy rains. Grasses are not emerging yet, but this endemic Proiphys amboinensis already sent scape and leaves. Its umbel of white flowers is also scented and very beautiful. However, it only blooms once a year during this condition. The rest of the year will only be showing the maturing leaves, somehow looking like green hostas.

 this succulent, sedum, was already blooming during the dry season, but becomes lovelier with more flowers after the first rains.

Of course, i will not end my post without the hoyas. They also responded so well with the rains, the leaves got washed, environment gets colder and humidity increased. They love it. 

bloom of the above mother plant, Hoya pubicorolla formerly Hoya pubicalyx 'Black Dragon'

Hoya benguetensis plant (above) and close-up of the umbel (below)

 Hoya multiflora, they also call this shooting stars hoya

 the more common Hoya carnosa, lovely even if they are around for long

 Hoya mindorensis

 Hoya Viola

Next weekend when i go home, i am sure there are already lots of butterflies. Their larvae will have lots of host plants, which i am sure will now roam around our nectar plants including the hoyas. Butterflies, here i come!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Hoya Critters

 A lot of critters make the hoya garden their home. Some are on the leaves, some on the stems, some on the spaces between them, but most of them inhabit the umbels. These are parts of the flowers that could give them a lot of food as well as safety. There are those that do not anymore leave once they have experienced the luxury of living within the umbel.  And many of those are transient dwellers that only come at night when the nectar is available.

It is now raining once-in-a while in our area, so we are already considered at the wet season. More critters might probably be happier, however these are photos still during the dry season. You can see that the leaves are still dirty full of dust and debris. We have difficulty with water supply so the plants only receive them at the root areas, only at night. 

 This cotton bug, Dysdercus cingulatus, are common residents of hoyas. They normally stay on the stems and leaves, but this one lingered at the developing umbel. I sucks juices, but maybe if their population is not plenty they will not pose a big problem to the plants. I pity killing them, they are so lovely, so i just let them there. I hope there are predators, so only a few will be left sucking my hoyas.

Again here is the cotton bug now on the bigger buds. I cannot see the proboscis at the act of sucking, so i cannot fully say or judge it based on my suspicion. But i know it is a sucker for juices, so maybe i was just not able to fully document it in action.

Those white crab spiders are perennial residents inside the umbels. They walk slowly, but drops through their lifeline when provoked. I call them the smiling spider because of the smiling design at its back. They hide inside the umbel to ambush whatever insect they can hold on to. This time it was successful with a bee, as bees are nectar seekers at daytime. 

If you look closely there are very small flies that roam around the predator and the prey. I guess they are hoping for the leftovers of the spider. These small flies always immediately roam around during an ambush, trying to sip on maybe the crumbs! hahaha.

This one is a night moth, and i found it at the vicinity of the hoya garden. I also cannot say it is a perpetrator of the crime of stealing the nectar, the juice, or whatever. Nor will i be able to say it is an accomplice! Whatever is its purpose at the vicinity of the crime did not give me a is so faprima facie evidence. Whatever, it is a lovely moth with those lacey abstract design on the wings.  

This is a daytime visitor, very difficult to picture favorably as it is always fluttering non-stop. It can easily say it is exempted of any crime because the evidence shows it is sipping nectar only on the pentas flowers. Honestly, i haven't seen it on any hoya flowers yet. It is so fast and doesn't want to wander inside the hoya plants.

This is the most common sight during the dry season. And those millions of baby spiders or "spiderlets" sparkle with the morning sunshine. They stay in a small hanging area in space with only holds to the plants, but when agitated a bit even by the wind they start falling on the lifelines, like the photo above. If i don't stop agitation they will fully migrate to any objects around, but i normally stop after they scattered. Eventually when the nuisance stops, they all slowly go up again to a convergence. I just didn't observe if their mother or any adult is left there to tend to them. I believe they were left on their own for their own survival. The plenty of numbers ensure a few that will survive and continue the generation.

And if you think only the minute insects go to the hoya garden, oh no, you are wrong. This is the most intimidating or scary among the hoya visitors. It climbs and eat whatever that mouth can hold on. But in fairness, this is the mother who doesn't come near the garden because it is on leash at its own house. Its 2 kids are the most irritating, hard headed and stubborn among all them. Sometimes i get too mad at them that i throw small stones to drive them away!