Monday, October 15, 2018

October Blooms and More

October is a crucial month with us in the Philippines. It is still within the rainy season, but the rains seem to be already subsiding. The intense heat of the sun is early for the season. Even at 7 o'clock in the morning it is already hot, you can imagine how it is at noon! Yes what you are thinking is correct, the heat at noon is very unfriendly to both humans and plants. We were joking that we are already at the height of the dry season because of the intense heat. We are already waiting for the typhoon because it comes always with rains, decreasing the heat and refilling our dams for our water in Metro Manila and irrigation water for our major crops like irrigated rice. I hope the cloud formation yesterday is an indication that there will still be incoming rains.

Gardening at home in the province last Sunday morning is already difficult due to the intense sun. I did not go out for butterflies as it is so hot. I already have the wide hat, but still the heat penetrates the head. I did not wear long sleeves, so my arms and hands got darker! Oh how wonderful to be just in the office in an airconditioned room. I said that because i am now already in the office in the big city, very tired but have to work.

Now i am trying to compile some pictures of the blooms and colors i was able to take yesterday. I almost forgot again the date and GBBD.

 Most of our colors come from the ornamental foliage like the Coleus blumei. I have 3 varieties and they give wonderful colors to our front yard. Above is the most lively. Can you see the very small tin can at the bottom? That is just where mother planted it, but some stems rooted on the ground, giving the full and wide clump arising from just one plant.

 This above 2nd variety of Coleus blumei, mayana in our dialect, is a bit darker with more erect growth habit. It gives more subtle color but definitely gives contrast to otherwise all green surroundings.
 The 3rd Coleus blumei variety is totally mauve in color, very dark but lovely too. The contrast against green is very drastic. It is not as prolific as the 1st because the container is much smaller and its other stems did not touch the ground for more roots.

Bothe above and below are from the same plant, just that the top picture are growing on the top portion receiving more direct sunlight. Picture below receives lesser direct light.

 This is an ornamental pineapple, which has been growing for 2 yrs now but still not yet fruiting. But it is lovely with just the leaves, so it is more fun.

 An Aglaonema hybrid also growing luxuriantly at a slightly shaded area.

 Alocasia sp. 

 Thunbergia erecta, growing inside the hoya house

My post will not be complete if hoyas are not included. They are always there with us giving lots of blooms. Above is Hoya diversifolia i let to climb the lanzones tree. Flowering season started last month and now is the profusion of the blooms. I went to the roof to get a better perspective of them.

 This is the lowest portion of the vines of Hoya diversifolia, almost reaching the fence of the hoya house. Some vines reached the top of the canopy and the flowering vines are on the top left side, with their blue sky background.

close-up of the blooms

Hoya blashernaezii

 Hoya buotii purple

 Hoya bifunda ssp. integra

 Hoya nakarensis, a cute little hoya, but floriferous with lots of umbels now

 If you think only flowers are blooming in my area, think again. Even a mushroom looks like a flower. It is growing at the growing point area of a coconut. That pointed shoot is the shoot primordia of the young coconut seedling. I shared this with you as i am very fascinated with an unusual mushroom to unusually grow in a very unusual area! LOL

The lanzones tree being conquered by the hoya blooms will not allow itself not be recognized and given attention. Its fruits are now ripening and in  1 - 2 weeks they are ready for human consumption. Can you see some hoya umbels at the small branch at the center of the picture, on top! I guess they are cohabiting in an ecological term called "commensalism", or they are called "commensal symbionts". Hoya benefits from the lanzones, which is not affected or benefitting from it at all. 

I hope you enjoyed my colors this October. You cannot feel our intense heat, but at least you can join me in appreciating our garden colors. Thank you so much. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Young Lives Convergence

Nature Notes

In my regular morning walks on weekends purposely for documenting our local butterflies, i also see lots of many life forms. Most of them are new to me, i've only seen for the first time and i sometimes still have to do a great deal in identifying them or at least look for the groups of animals they belong. I normally post them in Facebook groups for proper identification. It is challenging if the find is really unusual that i still have to wait for days, and when i cannot anymore wait i also post them and ask my friends here in the blogpost.

The other weekend, i again documented a few plants, insects, spiders and others which i don't know what groups they belong with. I will be posting here first the larvae of insects, and more. Spiders need another future post.

 Both the above and the lower photos are of the same moth. The above is at the pre-pupation stage or last instar of the larva, while the lower picture is the pupa. I am amazed at the disappearance of the black color in the pupa. It is the PALE GREEN AWLET, Bibasis gomata.

Honestly, i have only seen its adult just once at home. This time i hope i will be able to photograph more of them. The Schefflera plant was fully defoliated leaving only half of the individual leaf  to house these pupae. Actually, there's a lot of them there. I took 2 pupae and brought them with me to the city. It has already been more than a week, but they have not eclosed yet.

 The above are larvae of the MOTTLED EMIGRANT, Catopsilia pomona pomona. They prefer to eat the leaves of akapulko, Cassia alata. However, a lot of them are also eating the golden shower, Casia fistula. The akapulko plant is still small and the leaves are fully defoliated also. At least i am already familiar with them as i already tried rearing it last year until eclosion.

 A single close-up of Mottled Emigrant. They normally are in company of red ants, which protect them in exchange for the food they get from them.

Above is a larva of the bark borer of lanzones. It is a very bad pest that limits lanzones production in the country. They eat the cambium layer of the tree, that cracks the bark which eventually dry. Lanzones fruits emerged from the bark, termed cauliflorous, so when the barks dried up flowers and fruits will not be possible. One distinguishing characteristics of this moth larva is to attach themselves to a string they create to hold on to, so eventualy when it is already safe again they will come up to the tree via that string. I still haven't seen also the adult of this moth. 

 Above is an egg of a yellow butterfly, Eurema blanda. This plant is a weed legume, that thrives well in our area. No wonder we have lots of those yellow butterflies.

 The above thing has been a puzzle to me. I touched it but it didn't budge. I don't even know if it is a living organism or a debris. I checked the close-up playback in my camera and i was intrigued by the design of those leaf-like skirt. It seems to be alive. I searched and asked the Philippine Lepidoptera group and someone confirmed my feeling that it is a house of a bagmoth! Again, it is my first time to see such structure.

Lastly, these are babies too, technically called nymps of grasshoppers. They also defoliated the okra plants, because i saw two groups or patches like this, one patch per hill of 3 okra plants each hill. I am sure when they get bigger they will defoliate a lot more leaves in the vicinity. I just don't know how long will they stay here before they disperse to seek for their own food.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A New Nectar Plant

 Most of you are very familiar with my new nectar plant. This grows not only in the tropics, but also in the sub-tropical climates. This is the common cosmos, scientifically known as Cosmos bipinnatus. The most commonly growing colors in our country are the yellow and orange colors. I found them everywhere, which becomes unrully and unsightly when the leaves are drying and the seeds are already drying on the plant.

Lately, i saw a friend has this red one and the butterflies are alighting, nectaring on them. So i asked for seeds which she sent November of last year. I immediately planted them, that to my surprise they flowered immediately when they are just about less than a foot tall. Their life cycle was too short because they die after flowering. I gathered all the seeds and stored them until this years rainy season again.

To my surprise not even one seed germinated. Probably, they belong to the recalcitrant seeds that must immediately be planted upon maturity. Fortunately, there is already this seedling which was already growing when i planted the seeds. This dropped to the soil last year but got stored in the soil and germinated after a few months. I wonder why that is possible! That remains to be a question to me till now.

We can see that the plant is already very tall even prior to flowering. It is more than 6 ft tall. I searched and found that it is a very well studied plant. It is photoperiodic and the internodes elongate much as a response to long days. No wonder my seedlings last year were very short at flowering because they are planted already during the short days. Hmmm, now i can manipulate that height next time, by choosing the photoperiod desired to attain an intended internode length. That would be interesting. 

By the way, i am forgetting that i got those seeds from a distant province because they are loved by her butterflies. To my surprise, i have yet to see any butterfly nectaring on my blossoms! A lot of them nectar on surrounding flowers, but not one even tried to alight on the red cosmos. What is happening! I only surmise that maybe there are more preferred flowers around it. Or probably, there are still very few cosmos flowers to attract the butterflies. I don't know.

 So i just content myself in taking different angles of the flowers, the back against a lot of bokeh as above....

...the side angle with the pollens showing...

...or the top with the petals slightly angling upwards! 

I am a bit disappointed that butterflies are not nectaring on them. But still i will again plant those seeds to have a patch with more flowers to invite the butterflies. Next time i have many results to observe, many parameters to test. That makes the unexciting more exciting, don't you think so! Let us all see the next generation of red cosmos with moderate stands, lots of flowers on a single patch, shorter internodes and with lots of butterflies....See you next time around.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Blooms in Rainy September

 August/September is the height of our rainy months. Our Rainy Season is also the typhoon months, when the letters of the alphabet are not enough to name them. We repeat the alphabet letters when approaching the end of the year. Last July we already finished 10 letters for the typhoons that passed our Philippine Area of Responsibility. At the moment there is a looming Super Typhoon with the strength of Yolanda looming at the Pacific Ocean. It is said to be at our Philippine Area of Responsibility thip afternoon. Those in Northern Philippines are already preparing, classes are already suspended there, but still we are praying for it to divert its path away from our PAR!

Low Pressure Areas (LPA) are common with us. These LPAs strongly attracts the Southwest Monsoon rains that eventually got many areas to flooding situations. Until now there still are flooded low-lying areas even if the rains happened weeks ago. It is a big problem for health and sanitation. Fortunately, our area in the province is in the uplands, and my area in the city is the same as well. At least going home from the office is not at bad as others experience, as in going through floodied streets. '

Plants in the province are now luxuriously growing, blooming as much as they can to produce seeds before the dry season comes again.

 One of the lilies that started blooming in July still has some scapes till now. This Crinum zeylanicum gives a strongly sweet scent that serves as air freshener near the gate.

The hoyas are confined in an enclosure near the terrace, and early afternoons are laden with scents that nobody will ignore. Even just an opening umbel from one plant will already get your attention. Imagine the fragrance from the lots of umbels of different species in my garden! A visitor will just say OMG or Whew! A scent will prod a visitor to locate where that is coming from, and they will learn the characteristics of that hoya! Sometimes they really get hooked! HUH.

 Hoya celata (formerly called Hoya pubicalyx White Dragon) is a prolific bloomer whenever it starts blooming. New buds immediately develop as the previous buds drop. 

 Another form of Hoya pubicalyx but is not as famous as the common one. This has longer internodes and roundish, clear green leaves. The chimera flowers look like that of the 'Royal Hawaiian Purple', but the umbels are bigger. It now has 4 umbels at different stages of maturity.

 Hoya buotii (purple) is also a floriferous species. A bigger plant produces a lot of umbels that bloom at almost the same time making a wonderful sight. Once-in-a while it produces some flowers with 6 corollas, and that makes us hoya hobbyists very glad. Can you see it at the rightmost side?

 Hoya mariae grows profusely with vines facing everywhere, that you need immediate attention. A week you forgot to guide the shoots and you will end up with a very difficult situation, it will deliberately embrace a nearby stem to cling on. Removing twining stems often break the younger portions that earlier attention to unwind them will be better.

 Hoya buotii (yellow) 

Hoya multiflora is known for its floriferousness, sometimes with an umbel in every node. However, mine is not growing nicely and suffered much during last dry season. It needs a good Relative Humidity in the surrounding air to grow healthily.

 Hoya ilagiorum, also flowers consecutively after every flower drop, but vegetative growth is not as fast as other species. My plant is a bit lanky with lesser leaves.

This Hoya pubicorolla ssp. anthracina is producing a few umbels, and they are all big and beautiful. Can you visualize it. 

 Hoya lacunosa is one of the small-umbelled hoyas, with also small leaves. But the size is compensated with the very lovely sweet scent, which everybody likes.  Sometimes it has a lot of simultaneous umbels open at the same time. 

Please bear with me in posting a lot of hoyas, i am a hoya addict, i confess! I always tell new hobbyists that it is addictive and contagious, so they must decide immediately before they are hooked. They are what use most of my time in the province during my weekends, the reason i always go home on Saturdays. I am sure you will understand. And i also warn you, if you are just starting to appreciate them, or starting to buy the first one! 

The most loyal orchid in my garden, despite neglect it still produce flowers looking very elegant and standing high among the rest of them, a Vanda orchid. It really is the Queen of the Flowering Plants!

And another loyal and self-supporting orchid with very subtle, cool color is this vanda.

 A lavender Pentas lanceolata is much loved by this Common Mormon. We have lots of butterflies, but this one never forgets to visit this pentas. 

 Another nectar plant in my garden is this Ixora javanica. It actually becomes a tall bush, like a small tree. It suffered setback because the original tree was killed to give way to the garage. This new plant is just starting, but already giving the characteristically very big umbels, also loved by butterflies.

 an introduced species, now relegated near the dump

Caladiums respond favorably to the wet environment. I already took the picture as more leaves enlarge because in a little while the hawkmoths will fully devour their leaves.

 This caladium variety is lovely too in that area with very thin topsoil. It covers the not so nice area there. I planted it there specifically because they produced so very big aand tall leaves when planted in richer soils. In this area they are shorter and narrower, producing more compact growth.

 Look at the caladium when planted in rich soil. That big leaf at the left is more than 2 ft wide. Other leaves are following that size. Eventually i will get some corms and plant them too in nutrient deprived soils to produce more compact growth.

Thunbergia erecta 

 Caesalpinia pulcherrima, planted at the edge of the property, as a hedge. It is also host for the yellow butterflies.

Lastly, the Queen of the Night, Epiphyllum oxypetalum was not able to wait for me before it bloomed. Some bloomed in July which i did not see also. I always go home a few days after their big event. They open before midnight with strong fragrance, and they are already closed in the morning. Last week they opened on Thursday while this picture was taken Saturday. There still are a lot of them in many stems. A bit disappointing but we don't seem to have very good communication lines. Or i was not able to send a very exact instruction. The next blooming season will still be next year, that seems to be a long time.