Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chirita drakei

Gesnariad is a group of plant that i don't grow. It is just too herbaceous and soft. Well there are interesting exceptions like Sinningia cardinalis with soft wooly felt covered leaves rising from a large tuber. It has a nice rosette of leaves, and i wish it is as compact as in Echeveria. But nevertheless, it has some xeric characteristics... thick succulent leaves protected by short silvery white hairs which attracted me. This interesting Chirita is found on expose limestone karst in Halong Bay area, Vietnam. There is a watercolor plate in Wild Plants of Ha Long Bay which suggests C. drakei. The inflorescence is kind of unique, with a pair of large basal leaf bracts. It is described as spring flowering and will appreciate cooler temps for good flowering. Unfortunately, the buds aborted possibly due to high temperatures here on the seasonless equator. The plant will eventually lean over to form a woody cascading bush with multiple rosette of silvery green leaves. It should make a good uncommon bonsai subject. Currently with only a primary stem, i'm trying to propagate by rooting leaf cuttings.

There appears to be several species like C. linearifolia (S. China), C. balansae (N Vietnam) with a similar vegetative form and limestone karst habitat. Let's hope that my C. linearifolia survives domestic UK mail and another trip via airmail

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hydnophytum- Part 9

For some reason, this does not look like a typically antplant. The basal tuber is not large relative to the leaf, there are few signs of ant entrance holes or looks like it can house ants. The tuber is also hairless or thornless. This is Hydnophytum simplex. The epithet simplex is probably means simple in Latin... but my google search gives veneral disease - herpes simplex and simplex as in geometry. Nevertheless, anything that comes from Aru Island off New Guinea in the Arafura Sea is rare in cultivation and very exotic. The attractive bright red berries in the insert is borned on a "branch" like cauliflory or "stem flower".

With big leaves and photosynthetic green tubers it likes ample water however, it is surprisingly tolerant of water stress. It does not shed leaves in response to drought. Instead the leaves curl-up and young leaves develop permanent deformity if water stressed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hydnophytum Sp hairy flowers - Part 8

I thought this would be just another H. moselayanum variant. Was lucky to be visiting my friend in southern Taiwan just when he returned from a trip to Jakarta. He brought back goodies (some ant plant seedlings) and offered me to pick a few. They were deemed to be of 1 type. Actually, the seedlings are most indistinguishable. I just picked 3 most dissimilar plants... and it turned out that one of them is really different. This one has got hairy flowers. And not only that the leaves and internodes are longer compared to other H. moselayanum under similar exposure to sun and watering regime. While free-flowering, it seems to be less self-fertile. Perhaps it is still a yound plant and sexually immature. The tuber has entrance holes "raised" like an annulus. It will be another one of those interesting species in need of locality data!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hydnophytum Sp - Part 7

This is a very interesting H. formicarum look alike. The tuber ridging and color resemble H. formicarum from Singapore. Well, the leaves are much bigger almost 10 cm long and 7 cm across. The leaf resembles some of the shrubby Ixora sp which is also incidentally from Rubiaceae. We have yet to see mature berries and like H. formicarum aborts easily during windy and dry weather.

This specimen comes from the island of Halmerhara, the largest island in the Maluku group. One would expect it to possess more xeric characteristics given its geographic location lies between much larger island of Sulawesi and New Guinea on the monsoonal zone. Large floppy leaves are kind of ill-adapt for seasonal climate, we are not prepared to allow it to shed its leaves at this point until we get more seedlings.