Monday, May 31, 2010

more bizarre plants

Plants put on spectacular shows in their efforts to attract pollinators, much like some humans.  One of the strangest is Ceropegia sandersonii, or parachute vine.  This plant belongs to the milkweed family.  We almost lost ours to the extended Florida freeze this year, but managed to save part of the undamaged vine.  The flower looks very much like a parachute:
From Dragon's Orchid Garden





From Dragon's Orchid Garde

Another oddball denizen of our backyard is a Stepalia gigantea, gifted to us by our friend Carl. It's another member of the milkweed family. Its flowers give it the popular name "Giant Carrion Flower".  We have several of them now, as they root easily from cuttings.  Fetid flowers form from large buds on the leafless succulent branches, attracting flies with their stink.  I really don't recommend you stick your nose in one of these...
From Dragon's Orchid Garden
From Dragon's Orchid Garden

Orchid flowers can easily compete for first place in the bizarre flower category with these blooms... first is Dendrobium spectabile, looking a lot like a nudibranch out of water. The second is Epidendrum Green Hornet, a tiny flower. Both are easy to grow outdoors here in Florida. They love the humidity.
From orchids
From orchids

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bizarre Plants

Every year about this time the Voodoo Lilies begin to grow.  They were here when we bought our house in 1992, and have since been moved to another part of the garden.  In 1992, there was no garden, just dirt and sand and these odd tubers. I've since found information about them in several books.  We are gradually making our little backyard into our vision of a tropical paradise.  In this vision, strange flowers, night bloomers, odd shapes and weird inflorescences abound.  Voodoo lilies, also popularly called devil's tongue, corpse flowers or arum, are related to Jack-in-the-pulpit and Amorphophallus titanium (Titan Arum).

The Titan Arum first flowered in the western hemisphere at the New York Botanical Gardens in August 1937.  According to Bizarre Plants by William A. Emboden, "Visitors other than scientists and reporter-photographers were so numerous that they had to file by the greenhouse and view the the 'beast' through the glass panes.  Had they been allowed into the house, the aforementioned stench (very powerful, and suggested a mixture of rotten fish and burnt sugar) might have made many quite ill."  Since then, many botanical gardens have successfully grown a flowering Amorphophallus Titanum.  Kew Gardens has a very nice page devoted to this incredible plant.

Our much smaller voodoo lily, blooming for the first time, is probably either Sauromatum guttatum or Hydrosme rivieri.  I'm not sure which one.  If you know from looking at the picture below, please enlighten me.  Our friends, Jimi and Leon had a much larger bloom a couple of years ago.  Leon, a talented photographer, took the linked picture.  Ours is just beginning to open to display the red brain-like inflorescence.  We have 6 or 7 smaller ones as the tubers multiply.  Usually, they grow into attractive small treelike forms from 3 to 6 feet tall with mottled trunks and lush green canopies.  We've had heavy rain today (good for tropical paradise!), so I didn't get to smell the flower to see if it really stinks.
From Dragon's Orchid Garden
From Garden
You can grow these indoors in cooler climates.  How you decide to deal with the stench if it flowers is up to you.  I suggest keeping a lot of incense burning.  They like humidity and the occasional misting, and are not particular about soil, but don't like a lot of direct sunlight.  Besides Bizarre Plants by Emboden, I've come to rely on a book given to me by Jimi and Leon,  David Bar-ZviThe American Garden Guides: Tropical Gardening.  Another fascinating look at the history of strange plants is Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart.  In July 2009, the St. Petersburg times included a review of her book.  Ms. Stewart grows her own garden of delights full of poisonous flora.  With a two and a half year old grandson running around our backyard, I wouldn't hazard growing these, but it is interesting to learn that the sago palm, widely grown in Florida, is highly toxic.  All parts of the plant contain carcinogens and neurotoxins and have been know to poison pets who've nibbled on them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

there's a book for that

I am introducing Dr. Mack Hicks, author of Digital Pandemic tomorrow at the library.  He will be there signing and talking about his new book.  As a psychologist, his concern is that our immersion in digital technology has caused us to become increasingly reclusive.  In the book, he lays out a plan whereby we can regain our connection with ourselves, others and our environment.  I do plan to read the book, but only found out I was doing this 4 days ago.  Tonight, I quickly painted this t-shirt to wear (we're allowed casual wear on Fridays and weekends).  It would have come out better if I'd used iron on letters.  I hand painted it and it's not very applelike (meaning perfect).  It occurs to me that an outline of a book with a bite taken out of it would be a great logo.  I'll do another one and take more time with it.  Thanks to Robert Balliot, Ocean State Librarian, for the phrase.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Wayne - the Awesomest Husband in the Known Universe

What would be more embarrassing than having a parade of servers veer toward your table clapping and singing a cheezy Happy Birthday ditty, you...trying to look inconspicuous and failing miserably?  How about having your wife post a blog that's all about the wonderfulness of you?  Yep, that should do it.

Today is the birthday of my husband, best friend, love of my life, my Nailcakes.  Wayne is more handsome today than the day I met him.  Exhibit A:


Wayne can do anything.  He can build a pond, fix his truck (not mine, it's new and requires a computer to figure out what's wrong and computers are not his thing), play nurse to sick cats, and repair a cuckoo clock.  He reminds me to take my vitamins, eat, wake up, stop playing that stupid game!  He gave me two great kids, with no effort required on my part.  They came with the deal.  If I'd gone through labor pains with them (thanks to their mom for that), I'd love them no more than I do now.  David and Kimberly are my best friends, too.  

The plan was to go to the Rays vs. Indians game today at the trop.  My truck decided to croak and is in the shop until tomorrow.  Instead, we took Wayne's '66 Chevy S10 to Target and I bought him new flip flops and Avatar for his birthday.  Then I made him a birthday pie:
It's apple and it's the best damned apple pie ever.  It's for the best damned husband ever.  I love you, Nailcakes.  Happy Birthday.