Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Geophytic gesneriads

A beautiful scaly rhizomes of Kohleria spicata.
What's a geophyte anyway? Well, generally defined, they are plants that produce resting structures that allow the plant to go dormant during harsh conditions such as summer drought or winter cold. There are actually quite a number of geophytic gesneriads. We know them as genera that produce tubers and scaly rhizomes.

The Pacific Bulb Society wiki is a place where you can find information and photos on pretty much any genus of geophytic plants. However, the coverage for geophytic gesneriads was pretty sparse. I find this pretty shocking, given that I have been contributing to the wiki for many years. And so, a cross-over of societies took place. I teamed up with Jinean S. from the Twin Cities Chapter of the Gesneriad Society and we put together a list of geophytic gesneriads. Some of these may be on the borderline but we included them anyway. The PBS wiki is still pretty depauperate with these genera but eventually it will be filled in. Here's the list for your enjoyment!

A tuber of Sinningia macrostachya.
Achimenes, Amallophyllon, Chautemsia, Chrysothemis, Diastema, Eucodonia, Gloxinia, Gloxinella, Kohleria, Mandirola, Niphaea, Phinaea, Sinningia, Smithiantha, Sphaerorrhiza.

As you may already be able to pick out, these are all New Word gesneriads! It appears that the Old World gesneriads never evolved a way to cope with drying conditions as these New World ones did.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fall Show for Twin Cities Gesneriad Society

The Twin Cities Chapter of the Gesneriad Society happily announces the Fall Show at Northtown Mall, 398 Northtwon Drive, Blaine, MN 55434. The show is Friday and Saturday October 23-24, 2015. Fri. 10-7 and Sat. 10-4.

This year's show is a joint venture with our friends at AVSM, the African Violet Society of Minnesota AND the UMCPS, the Upper Midwest Carnivorous Plant Society. Lots of fun stuff, interesting plants, educational materials and sale plants for your enjoyment. : )

Monday, June 1, 2015

Natural selection of your seedlings

Corytoplectus cutucuensis seedlings. Note that some are stronger than others.
Have you never noticed that when you sow a batch of seeds, there are always some seedlings that perform better? These seedlings have more vigor than the rest and will most likely perform better for you in your conditions.

Why the different sizes you might ask? Well, this has to do with the genetic variations of the seeds in a pod. It's sort of a hedge betting strategy. In some conditions, certain ones will perform better. The ones that are best suited for the condition will grow best and survive. This is called natural selection.

The sort of pressure put on by the environment (called selection pressure) also happens in our gardens. The seedlings that germinate and grow best in our condition (such as under lights) will survive. Humans tend to also add to that selection pressure by culling the weaker ones. Some people like to call human intervention "artificial selection" but it all boils down to the same mechanism.

What's the advantage of growing and selecting seedlings over cuttings you might ask? Since cuttings are grown from a single seedling, that seedling might have been selected for under someone else's condition (e.g. greenhouse, drier soils, more air movement) and thus will not do as well under lights in a less humid situation or if your grow room is less airy and you grow on mats that keeps the medium very moist. The cutting's genetics are best suited for greenhouse living. To avoid this problem, sow seeds under your condition and select out the best ones. This way, they have the best chance of surviving for you.

This works well for the most part, but some species have genetics that are so strong that even selecting out seedlings under your conditions doesn't mean that they can survive. Some examples are cloud forest species or true tropical species that will die immediately when they get hot or too cold. But it's worth a try so pluck out the best ones and plant them on.

So there you have it. Give it a try. There is a lot of fun and pleasure growing from seeds!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gesneriads at the Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the most well-kept botanical gardens in the US with premier plant collections and one of the best non-university botanical research institutions in the world. To me, the best feature of the garden is the Climatron, a futuristically designed greenhouse that encloses a very nice collection of plants.
I recently visited family in St. Louis and one of the must visit places is the botanical garden. This time, I kept my eyes open for gesneriads. This is a shot (not of gesneriads) but still a pretty view from the inside looking up. The plant is Clerodendron splendens.
 A prominent and beautiful feature in the garden is a large rock from which a waterfall pours from above. Visitors walk beneath part of the rock and be greeted by the sounds of rushing water, feel the cool mist, and a beautiful vine of an Aeschynanthus species hanging from above.
This vine seems to be in perpetual bloom, no matter what time of year I visit! 

Seemannia sylvatica hanging off a rock as they would in their natural habitat. How cool!
A closeup of Seemannia sylvatica.
 An unknown species of Nematanthus. I wonder what it is?!
Aeschinanthus 'Greensleeves'. It look me a while to find this plant because it was hidden behind a bunch of other plants. I suppose since it isn't a species, they did not want to display it prominently.
Looking right into the face of Aeschynanthus 'Greensleeves'.

Well folks, there you have it! While it was nice to see these gesneriads in the Climatron, I don't quite understand why more gesneriads are not featured. They would be so easily maintained in greenhouse conditions such as these and would thrive. Note to botanical gardens out there: add more cool gesneriads to your collection!

Guest blogger
Nhu Nguyen

Monday, May 11, 2015

Greetings from the wild!

It's not often that a person gets to go see gesneriads in the wild, but if one does, it's pretty cool. About a decade ago, I was doing some research on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. The island was once the top of a mountain, and when the Panama Canal was dug, the area was dammed to create Lake Gatun. All the lower lying areas were flooded but the top of the mountain that we know as Barro Colorado Island today remained. The whole island is a research site for the Smithsonian Institution and many scientists visit the island each year to study this lush tropical ecosystem.

Mind you, back when I was visiting, I wasn't a gesnerophile, but rather a mycologist studying the yeasts that live in the gut of beetles. But my inner gesnerophile (even before I knew I was one) shone through as I could not get over the amazing plants that grew on the walls of one of the mostly abandoned buildings at the main research station. I didn't even know that the plant was a gesneriad, but recently when I saw it in a show, I realized that the plant I saw about a decade ago was Chrysothemis friedrichsthaliana.

This species doesn't seem to be in cultivation. Had I had my eyes out for cool plants back then, I could have attempted to bring this one back. Oh well, next time.

Nhu Nguyen
Guest blogger

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Walter Says....

Walter says, "Have you found us yet on Facebook?"

The Twin Cities chapter of the Gesneriad Society is now on FACEBOOK AND TWITTER!

Please come on by and type in Twin Cities Gesneriads on Facebook to see our fun posts. We would also really love it if you would click "Like" on our page!

You can also follow us on Twitter @TCGesneriads too!


Monday, March 30, 2015

Show in motion!

Just when you thought you had missed the whole thing. We made a recording so that you can catch up if you couldn't make it to the show or just want to see all the cool plants and displays again. See the larger size here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Expo! And Extravangaza....

Welcome to the 2015 Twin Cities Chapter of the Gesneriad Society's Spring Display at Bachman's Garden Center 6100 Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis, MN.
March 27-28, 2015.

There will be sale plants!
 There will be Gesneriads, carnivorous plants and other companion plants on display that our members love to grow.

The Carnivorous Plant Society also joins us at the display.
There will also be "help" for those that need it. :)

Come and join us Friday and Saturday 9 am to 5 pm March 27-28, 2015 in the Bachman's Heritage Room at the back of the garden center.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sinningia cardinalis Makeover, Get Ready for Spring Shows!

 This is a Sinningia cardinalis mess. It's been growing and doing its thing for months and it looks shabby. Time to trim up some shoots, groom the plant and get it looking sharp for the spring season.

All of this stuff laying on the table are overgrown shoots and sagging foliage. There are browning leaves and stems too. Get the scissors!

 Some of the old stems have even died back and just pop off with a gentle tug.... note the word gentle. If it isn't loose, don't rip it off, you don't want to damage the tuber.
 Look at all the stuff in the foreground of the photo. That is all material that got trimmed away. If there are some better looking tips from what you've taken off, they can be rooted to make more Sinningia cardinalis'.
 It still might be too large, but all the shoots that are left are fresh, and dark green and healthy. After getting to grow for a month or so, it should look much better and be ready to display.
Almost all the shoots have some good looking buds.

Don't be afraid to trim. Plants usually respond well to being groomed. You can also get material to share with your friends and other club members too.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sinningia sp 'Itaguassu'

 Last post for 2014 I guess....

This first shot is property of Mauro Peixoto. It's the only photo of Sinningia 'Itagaussu' I could come up with.

Last week I planted some seeds and one of the packets was this Sinningia.
 Of all the 18 varieties of seeds I planted this was the first up. It's the middle one to the left.
 Here's what they look like magnified.

I'm hoping that they grow well and that I can get some of those flowers to happen. That combination of orange and the dark leaves is awesome.
I had to blow up the photo a little more. The red bits are the seed coat from the seed I think. They are pretty tiny right now. I hope I can take a photo in a week or two to update their progress. The only other of the 18 varieties to germinate is a Microchirita of some sort.

Happy New Year!