Saturday, May 31, 2008

Caralluma hexagona

This very small dainty stapeliad was purchased from the famous Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Thailand. It is a strongly branching plant with forms a small mound or mat over time. I was trying to put an identification to it for some time. At first i thought it was C. greenbergiana then C. foulcheri-delboscii and also possibly C. shadhbana or it could be C. hexagona as well. Yes, i was nearly right. The taxonomist as least according to the chapter Caralluma by B. Muller & Albers in Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants - Asclepiadaceae has reduced all the difficult to spell species epithets to something easy to remember C. hexagona. Let's keep our fingers crossed... you never know when somebody might do some splits or revisions or unearth some earlier published species name than will take precedence according to International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

This is widely distributed species from the Arabian peninsular (Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman). Since it is probably more adaptable given its habitat range that may explain why my clone is heat tolerant. A general rule of thumb is to propagate it during the vegetative phase; it can sometimes collapse without a good reason, remnant branches can prove difficult to root.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Orbea dummeri

On my second attempt keeping O. dummeri, it rewards me with strickingly beautiful flowers. Perhaps it is a more heat tolerant clone after going through a rot or thrive selection process over Southern Taiwan's hot 36 C summers. According to Monograph of Orbea and Ballyanthus by P. V. Bruyns in Systematic Botany Monographs Vol.63, it is a species higher and drier parts of Kenya, and other neighbouring countries of the Rift Valley occuring from 950 - 1600m. The plant in my first failed attempt came from chiller greenhouse of the West, and it quickly perished.

Over the last couple of years, i come to realized that stapeliads are not so difficult to keep if they can tolerate heat in the high 30Cs. Should they look limp and a bit desiccated after their peak growth or flowering season... let them be. They just need a dry rest with a bit of water just to keep them from unrecoverable desiccation. During this period, look out signs of deadly pest like spider mites. Spider mites can easily reduced plants to sad resting state look! When new growth starts, water & fertilize. And if it is a tempermental species take cuttings and keep an extra pot!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mexican Poppy

We were trying to find a short cut to the bank of the Irrawaddy river at Mandalay, Myanmar. On the map it seemed easy enough to cross several blocks and we will get there. Actually, it was easy enough... but we were not prepared for the reality. It cuts through a very poor part of town, full of shacks assembled from any materials that the dwellers can lay their hands on. On top of that... there's no river view! We were greeted with an earthen great wall - a levee that was about 10 m above the shanty town! As i was scaling the dusty loose earth i couldn't help imagining a raging river laden with flood waters during the wet monsoon threatening to breach the levee and wipe out the shanty district. Walking on top of the levee i saw some bamboo dwellings build on bamboo rafts with various buoys on the swallows of a drying river. Some 20 m away i spotted a very distinctively sliver white pricky plant (above) facing the drying river. It had beautiful bright yellow poppy-like flower. My instinct was to look for seed pods but it was a young plant with the first flowers. Its existence would be ephemeral given its loose footing on a levee. Sad thoughts aside..would you agree that this plant should deserve a place in a dry garden:
After some research, it is a well-known weed Argemone ochroleuca from Mexico and had a string of common names like Mexican poppy, pricky-thistle and so forth and has naturalized to most of the seasonally dry areas of the world. Despite its weedy status, i was looking forward to grow this plant but getting this weed proved elusive. Today with luck, i am given a handful of seeds thanks to my friend who had just visited a semi-desert area in India. Okay, luck was secondary, i actually prep my friend with a list of what to look out for when he's there!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Caralluma speciosa

This is one of the very old succulents that i managed to keep alive. Got it "once-upon-a-time" from Out-of-Africa Plants when general succulent prices were much lower. That was before the US housing bubble, when oil prices are in the low twenties, the price of Caralluma somalica in the catalogue was probably at ~$8 and US oversea postage was relatively low and then surface mail option was still available. It wanted to flower couple of times over the past years but the buds aborted. The La Nina cooling effect of 2007 has triggered it to flower over Nov'07-Feb'08 period.

It did not turned out to be C. somalica as labelled but C. speciosa. The perfectly symmetrical ball of inflorescence about 10 cm across is very impressive. Well, the foetid rotten flesh odor will get your attention within a couple of meters. The smell attracts big carrion flies. It took me many tries to get a decent picture - the corona has bright luminescent quality and contrast poorly with the yellow corolla tube; either the corona is overexposed or the dark maroon corolla lobes are underexposed.

This is one of the big clumping Caralluma found in tropical East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda & Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, probably also in Djibouti or Eritrea) on dry rocky savanna or semi-desert lowland habitat. C. speciosa and other like C. adenensis, C. somalica, C. acutangula (C. retrospiciens) and C. edithae are similar species that can be "grouped" together. Now, am awaiting another big clumping Caralluma sp. purchased from Bangkok to flower.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hoya imbricata

Hoya imbricata is endemic to The Philippines. It is found on tree trunks at low to medium altitudes in Bontoc, Rizal, and Laguna Provinces in Luzon and in Busuanga. A thin wiry stem climbs up bare trunk and bears convex disc-shaped leaves up to 12 cm across. If the leaves cannot find a flat surface to wrap around, it will form a half-pouch. In cultivation with limited slab climbing for the growing plant, this takes away the full beauty of this Hoya. Some forms are more attractive with contrasting marble on intense reddish-purple leaves. Ants can take shelter under the leaves or in the pouch. It parallels its cousin Dischida cochleata in its myrmecophytic habit.

The flowers are borne on leafless stems; velvety, and creamy-white 8 to 10 millimeters in diameter. The umbel is geotropic (facing down) and that makes it challenging to photograph. See if you can spot the copper wire that was use to right it up to face the light. This was a 2-leaf cutting gift that my friend brought back from the famous Bangkok's Chatuchak Market. Back then, it was a rare hoya.