Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kalanchoe bracteata

Another interesting species of Kalanchoe from Madagascar yet again. This is a species that closely resembles K. orygalis. K. orygalis has leaves covered by a layer of deep bronze hair or scales whereas K. bracteata has silvery white hair or scales instead. This is typical K. bracteata and it also has a naked cousin totally emerald green with out hairs or scales. This species is very drought, heat resistant and easy to propagate from leaves. It is a beautiful succulent, and will need to be re-started leaves or re-planted from cuttings otherwise it grows leggy when the older leaves shred.  Another species that's very similar but more sparsely hairly is K. hildebrantii.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Stapelianthus keraudreniae

Another species of Stapelianthus from Betioky district in south western Madagascar. This species is different from other Stapelianthus due to the raise annulus resembling some species of Huernia like H. zebrina. Also, the annulus appears to be viscid or sticky in the absence of dew.  During watering, I took care to avoid wetting the flowers. However, it is only strong enough to trap dirt as i did not see any dead ants or other insect stuck on it.  The flowers of Stapelianthus are quite diverse, tubular in S. decaryii , raise annulus in S. keraudreniae, recurved in S. insignis and open standard in S. hardyi, S. madagascariensis etc; more so than other genera of Stapeliaceae (Huernia, Stapelia).  I hope to find others like S. calcarophilus, S. madagascarensis.  Being a sub-tropical stapeliad, it adapts well under tropical conditions.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Stapelianthus pilosus

This is an immediately distinctive plant amongst the stapeliads - stem densely covered with white hairs. For those more familiar with huernia, it is like Huernia pillansii with denser and softer hairs. Originated from Madagascar, it has been in cultivation for a fair period of time. But it is not as commonly available as other S. African huernias.  It requires more warmth and a bit higher humidity.  It has a creeping habit due to its long soft stems.  Also because of longer stems and less offsetting habit, it is harder to take cuttings for propagation. Hopefully, i can keep and propagate it well under tropical conditions.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Orthophytum gurkenii

Normally, i'm not a big fan of bromeliads with a soft spot for compact rosettes or silvery scales. Just not able to resist purchasing this plant for 23US$. I've been eyeing it for a while. The plant looked a bit tired then but recovered.  This species is native to Brazil from mesic habitat, so i'm giving it a bright corner and light watering. While it is not commonly offered here in the old world, it is not an uncommon houseplant offered in the states. The leaves are covered with a mosaic network of white trichomes.  Need to take extra care during handling to avoid touching the leaves and cause irrecoverable blemish.  And also  to keep a keen eye for scales or mealies!  

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kalanchoe grandidieri

This is one of the arborescent kalanchoe from the scrub desert of south western Madagascar.  So far, it has been occasionally offered for sale by specialist C&S nurseries in Europe and US. It would quickly sold out and disappear from the catalogue the following year. I find this plant very slow growing and difficult to propagate. The leaf refuses to detached cleanly from the stem, even with great care. It is not easy to root the damage leaf.  These are i guess the reasons why it remains rare in cultivation.  With leaves up to 5" long, it resembles non-branching a scale-up version of the commonly sold jade plant Crassula ovata. It is amenable to tropical lowland climate and i had kept it for more than 5 years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Plectranthus sp

Plectranthus is one genus that is not well presented in C&S collection. The best known species is P. ernestii a caudiciform from coast Natal province of South Africa. Other species in this genus can hardly be termed succulent in the classical sense, but many species are certainly well adapted to take xeric conditions. 

This species 10249 collected by Lavranos & Horwood from Galgallo, Somalia fits the bill of great adaptability between two extremes of dry and wet. My plant above is "tortured" by underwatering because i enjoy its soft and flaccid look.  A cutting given to a friend who has it grown under a sprinkler once a day becomes a monster overnight. It has outgrown its parental clone by 4 times in both width and height, carring its leaves erect and extended. In short, it has transformed into garden coleus!     

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Echidnopsis bihendulensis

This is a very robust and easy stapeliad for the equatorial conditions.  It does not melt with days with night temperatures above 30°C. Not surprising as it is from Somalia. Purchased it from Ernest Specks as ES14143 2 years back.  It is very free flowering, need little attention and propagates easily too.

Other than American invasion of Somalia, Somali pirates threatening shipping in Red Sea area and other bad press... Somalia is actually a place very rich and diverse in succulents and xeric vegetation.  Ecologically dry for eons, it is an isolated succulent desert sharing common flora with Northern Africa and Canary Islands and across to the Arabian Peninsular. Other well known stapeliads - Pseudolithos, Pseudopectinaria, Whitesloanea, Edithcolea also comes that area. 

Nowadays, i try as much as possible grow succulents from equatorial africa where few succulents are to be found and the lowlands of sub-tropical africa mainly Somalia, Madasgacar. Other parts of 'tropical' africa is not really true, because they are way up above sea level most of East Africa is highland and plains above 1000 m.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Aeonium goochiae

Again like the former plant... that came through post in a bad way, this came with the rosette totally flatten to 1 plane. I was expecting all the leaves to blacken and fall off after planting.  Surprise, surprise.  It survives and it actually growing.  Its restricted range between 100-700m at La Palma, Canary Islands may explain its heat tolerance.  

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Aeonium haworthii

It is probably not the most common Aeonium around. Have been trying to find adaptable crassulaceae species for the tropics. A kind gentlemen has picked a selection of crassulaceae from the lower altitude of Canary Islands. This is one of the surviving crassulaceae from Canary Islands. Actually, the survival rate is better than my expectation. A small padded packet came to me from England in the depth of February winter. It reached me semi-flatten as if a steam roller just went over it.  As i was unpacking, there was also a sticky resinous small which i assumed was the scent of death (rot). These little things still managed to pull through to a permanently above 27°C ever warm environment. In the picture is a plant rooted from a broken off rosette with less that 1 mm of stem.  So far it survived the postal journey, the decapitation, my 1 week holiday to Taiwan and the rising humidity and heat of April. So i'm keeping my fingers crossed.. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Euphorbia lophogona

Another of my old plants in need of finding another clone. This plant was from Tarrington Exotics (Rudolf Schultz), Australia before his retirement. For some strange reason Euphorbia lophogona is rarely ever offered nowadays. In the early 1990s and 2000s, it was frequently offered in C&S catalogues. Like fashion, what is popular will soon be passe.  So remember to hang on to old fashion plants like blue chips and be ready to cash in one day. Last week when i was in Southern Taiwan, i managed to get a seedling of E. lophogona from a hobbyist poysean hybridizer.  Most of the large cyathophylls "poysean" has E. lophogona in its very mixed genes. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caralluma moniliformis

This is one of the Somalian carallumas that Ernest Specks had stocked in his 2008 catalogue. I was pleasantly surprised that it flowered earlier in February during the dry and windy weather. Most of my carallumas (C. retrospeciens) give a terminal ball of flowers, and i was expecting the same for this species.  It gives a long thin stick of spaced terminal inflorescence similar to a well known Indian species C. stalagmifera.  The flowers are really very small, perhaps 1 cm across and extremely delicate.  Any insects that can work on its pollination is probably an order of magnitude smaller!  For size, i have a stray kalanchoe longiflora (right) for comparison below:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dorstenia horwoodii

Another one of the oldies in my collection. Had it probably almost close to 10 years.  I got it as Dorstenia horwoodii from AridLand East before Mike Massara went on to set up his own Out of Africa Plants nursery.  Many "summers" and "winters" pass with a new flush of silvery green leaves turning to autumnal golden before they shed.  The plant is monoecious; the stigma and stamens offset but a short period to avoid selfing.  Interestingly when the plant was younger, there numerous seed set were none viable.  For the last few years, they become viable with many true to parent-form seedlings despite having only 1 specimen or clone.

This species was collect by Frank Horwood in Somalia and hence the species name.  There are opinions now that it should be considered to one variation of the D. foetida species complex.  As a gardener and hobbyist, it is probably easier to remember a short name vs  D. foetida (syn D. horwoodii.. ).  Under tropical conditions subjected to similar cultivation treatment D. foetida grows as an annual or bi-annual while D. horwoodii remains strongly perennial.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Deutorocohnia brevifolia v brevifolia

Failure to notice your relatively "new" plants in flower is not a good sign. Possibly even symptomic of having too many plants and almost sign of negligence. A regular visitor to my collection spotted this xeric bromeliad in flower.  Lime green is an unusual flower colour.  I'm not completely sure if it is D. brevifolia v. brevifolia. I received it as that. It differs from its twin D. brevifolia v. chlorantha being bigger. Than again, what i also received a D. lorentziana. It is could be case of mixing up the labels.  D. lorentziana is a much bigger plant with close rosette 5-10 cm in diamater while D. brevifolia v. brevifolia is smaller with open rosette 5 cm across. Cultivation of this species is easy; grow in rocky open mix and full sun. 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Huernia hystrix

If my memory serve me well, this is one of the few succulents that i have from day 1. It is a plant have been around in Singapore for a very long time and yet rarely offered in nurseries.  Over the years, i have collected a couple of varieties, mainly Huernia hystrix v. hystrix but i like my original clone H. hystrix v. parvula best. Variety parvula is smaller compared to the type species in all its parts. And under my regime, it is also more free flowering compared to the various hystrix. For scale, the flower above is 3 cm across with similarly sized trailing stems. The type variety is widely distributed from south eastern Zimbabwee, through Mozambique to Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal provinces in South Africa, while parvula variety is restricted to few localities in Oribi Flats, Natal. It is one of the most resilient huernia in my collection, surviving neglect, under attrack by spider mites and weevils for longest period. They looked well enough that i overlooked those damned pests. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Nervilias

If you like to grow orchids that do not look anything like an orchid, try growing a selection of nervilias. They come in various sizes, shades, color, texture. They are small and fit very well into 3.5 to 4" pots. When they are resting, you can put stack them up under the bench or in the cellar.

At this point, i'm betting on the smallest being Nervilia crociformis based on its eastern origins.  However, think N. punctata is also a very strong contender based on the leaf.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nervilia plicata

This is probably one of the more common Nervilia in cultivation. It took me some time to figure out how to grow these terrestial orchids:
1. Pot in a light well draining and aerated mix. Light loam with some peat/humus and perlite/pumice is fine.
2. Water generously during the growing phase when new leaves appear.  Stolons and runners will also be produced. Small new white tubers start to form underground.
3. Reduce watering when the leaves start to brown or die back.  The underground tubers harden. Interconnecting stolons dry up.
4. Water once a week during dormancy.  The mix should be marginally moist. How much moisture can a 1-2 cm diameter tuber holds over 8-12 weeks?
5. With good care, you should be able to double or triple the corms each year.

The leaves are quite variable.  The photo above and below are those of the same clone growth in 2008 and 2009 respectively.  

It is a very widespread species with a range from Deccan, India all the way east to New Guinea and extends north to southwestern China and south to northern Australia. The recorded localities are concentrated in the tropical monsoon belt. So far, i have not come across it in habitat. It surely blends in with leaf litter in deciduous forest.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nervilia aragoana

Appears to be another form of N. aragoana. This comes from Taminbar Island towards the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. The leaves are very close to Thai N. aragoana. With care and a bit of luck, would expect it to flower in the next growing season.

Below is a lush pot of a malaysian form 3 months after I wrote an entry. Check it out. (

Friday, February 13, 2009

Euphorbia iharanae

Another one having Euphorbia viguieri characteristics - rosette of large leaves on a fatten club like stem, cyathophylls are erect and cover the cyathias completely. It is not in my trusty Succulent and Xerophytic plants of Madagascar, Werner Rauh (1995).  The same author published it in Kakteen Sukk. 46(9): 221-223 (1995), probably too late to include it in his Madagascar Tomes. From entry on IUCN 2008 Red List, the description notes that it is found near Cap-Manambato (Iharana district) as a coastal cliff dweller. It is also not far from the locality of E. capmanombatoensis. I can see similarities here.  The marble markings and soft hairs on the leaves stand out.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Euphorbia viguieri

I have this plant for a very long time. It is one of the first few succulent in my collection.  It has survived well under neglect, a bit of overwatering and underpotted for the last couple of years.  The photo above is that of a young plant that has lodged itself in another pot of succulent and in time taken over. My parent clone is apparently self-fertile and it seeds readily.  The seed yield is exceptionally good and the seedlings are strong and vigorous. I see them appearing even in my lawn. The club-like single stem is more pronounced up to about 30 cm. Beyong that height, visually you would call it as having a thicken stem. For me, it is not totally deciduous and will retain its leaves given sufficient water.

E. viguieri is native to northwestern Madagascar from the northern most point of Windsor Castle down to Morondava on wide ranging soils: granitic, limestone and sand. That probably explains its adaptable disposition.  

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Carallum crenulata

Have been awaiting buds to open for sometime.  There were numerous abortions in the last few months. Perhaps it is too windy or too warm.  At last on the 6th day of Chinese New Year, the flowers open:
My guess is Caralluma crenulata. It turns out to be correct. The stems are 4-angled and rather thin just 5-6 mm with small residual leaves. Unlike other stapeliads, it has a rather irregular habitat branching at will like a straggly Edithcolea grandis. So far it does not appear to form underground stolons/stems, noting the lack of new stem growth emerging from underground. A friend gave me a small plant that was purchased from the renown Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Thailand. C. crenulata type is recorded from Sagaing in the dry savannah interior of Myanmar. I reckon it would be highly probable that some plant finds its way to the neighbouring Thailand which has a very developed horticultural industry.  

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tree Fern

Am always enchanted by ferns for their primitive and mathematical symmetry. The perfect crown of fronds of this Cyathea contaminans justly epitomized symmetry.  This is the giant tree fern of the Malayan montane forest.  It rises high above shrublets to more than 10 m tall and sways with racing mists. It colonizes base of slopes next to roads, old clearings and valleys. Photo was taken at start of the trek/road leading to Gunong Brinchang in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia around May day holidays in 2007.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hechtia tillandsioides

Recent issues of Cactus & Succulent Society of America Journal have been featuring articles on xeric bromeliads.  They form neat ground hugging perfect rosettes in brown/greyish landscapes. Growing in dry savanna woodlands with cacti. Color changes in leaves at the center of the rosette signal flowering. I've been toying with the idea of buying a couple of miniature xeric bromeliads. And went to the extend of compiling a list: Hechtia tillandsioides, Dyckia choristamine, D. fosteriana. I was hoping to find a nursery that stocked my wishlist but that was not the case.  It did not pay to bring in a single plant due to high shipping and phyto certification charges.  

Back in November the day before i went off on vacation, i decided to visit a local nursery. I was surprised they had were carrying stock of tillandsia and other bromeliads including a couple of xeric bromeliads. Two H. tillandsioides were up for grabs and i got them. H. tillandsioides is a native of Veracruz, Mexico. It resembles a tillandsia and has a very compact flattened rosette (20-25 cm across) of lime-green leaves. The leaves are very long (30 cm or more) and thin with spines on the margin. So far it is growing well in a balmy corner partial sheltered from rain.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kalanchoe brachyloba

Have been trying to nail down the identity of this member of crassulaceae for a while. My best guess is kalanchoe brachyloba; a species widespread across central and southern Africa.  The subrosulate arrangement of very fleshy succulent leaves and having a tuberous rootsock matches the description well. This was purchased from the famous Chatuchak market in Bangkok back in 2006. It was one of the cheaper miscellaneous offering in small pots where one normally associate with easy to propagate and common stuff. Frankly, it is definitely an easy non-demanding plant that thrive on neglect but it is not fast growing. Under ever warm tropical condition without significant change in summer/winter day lenght, i am not counting on it to flower and confirm its identity.  

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tillandsia kegeliana

This is my first 2009 posting.  I have been pondering what to feature although i have many plant photos saved in my harddisk.  2 plants were purchased from Denis of Tropiflora during the inaugural Singapore Garden Festival Show in 2006. Tropiflora cargo report Vol 13 No 3. 2003 had this description "T. kegeliana. This is the rare deep-red clone from the hinterlands of the Darien in Pananma. A rather small plant, growing to about 6" across in a somewhat bulbous, greenish-grey red tinted open rosette. The inflorescence is a short, inflated, arrowhead-shaped scape of deep red with red flowers. Mature plants, US$7.50 (S$12.9). #480".  Each plant was priced at S$12 (US$7.8) similar to 2003, but nominally cheaper on a inflation adjusted basis. In Lyman Smith's Monograph on Tillansioideae in Flora Neotropica, Panama, Darien was recorded as a locality ofT. kegeliana in 1914. The distribution of this species stretches from Panama to northeastern Brazil. The type Kegel 881 is from Suriname and so i guess it is named after Kegel. 

Somehow, i find the name Kegel familiar and yes.. There's a Dr Arnold H. Kegel (1894 - 1981) who was a gynecologist that invented Kegel Perineometer (used from measuring vaginal air pressure) and Kegel exercises (squeezing of the muscles of the pelvic floor). I wonder if the same Dr. Kegel collect specimen 881! 

While i had 2 plants, one rotted and collapsed within days of owning it. I suspected it travelled with water in the rosette.  Wet Tillandsias travel very very poorly. The other plant grows exceptionally well and pupped into 2 here.