Beefsteak Begonia starts

My neighbor across the street gave me four cuttings of her large Beefsteak Begonia (Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’) for me to root.  Begonias are generally pretty easy to root from leaf cuttings.  These cuttings took about a month to produce a nice set of roots.

Roots began to form after just about a week in water
Roots began to form after just about a week in water

The beefsteak Begonia has very large, waxy and thick leaves.  They are dark green on top and purple underneath.

Underside of the Begonia leaves
Underside of the Begonia leaves

The petioles are rough with small hairs.  It is a very attractive plant, that is usually pretty dense with leaves that droop down to the soil surface, or over the edge of the pot.  You couldn’t even see the pot buried  underneath my neighbor’s plant.  I’m hoping to have as much luck with my cuttings.


Announcement: Plant meeting at the Missouri Botanical Gardens

I’m happy to announce that the MidAmerica chapter of the International Aroid Society (IAS) will be having their second meeting at the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MOBOT) in St. Louis, Missouri on April 24th.  The MOBOT has one of the largest research collections of Aroids in the world, the largest herbarium, beautiful outdoor gardens and the world famous Climatron tropical conservatory.  The MOBOT is one of the largest botanical gardens in the country and well respected by other botanical gardens worldwide.

All plant enthusiasts are invited to attend the events of April 24.  You don’t have to be a member of the IAS or even know what an Aroid is.  (If you like plants, then you probably know a bunch of different plants from the Aroid family, but just didn’t know they were related.)

We have a full day of activities planned, but you can just attend half, if you would like.  Here are a couple of highlights:

  • Dr. Thomas Croat will be giving two formal presentations on his research with Aroids and will also be leading tours of the herbarium, greenhouses and the MOBOT grounds.
  • Joep Moonen will be in town from French Guiana and will be talking about the Aroids of South America and particularly the collection of the Roberto Burle Marx estate.
  • Steve Lucas will be talking about how he maintains a tropical rainforest in northwest Arkansas.
  • Steve Marak will talk about growing temperate Aroids outdoors in our climate.
  • We will also have a plant trade.  Bring cuttings or plants you would like to share with others, if you have any.  If not, you just might be going home with something anyway. 🙂

This is a meeting you will not want to miss!  If you are in the area, be there!  If you are within 6 hours of driving, I would encourage you to consider driving over for a long weekend in St. Louis and see some of the other things St. Louis has to offer.

It’s going to be a great meeting.  Here’s the tentative agenda:

Opening Gathering:
8:30-9:30 AM. Coffee

Opening: 9:30 AM A review of Systematic work with Araceae in the New World. Thomas B. Croat, Missouri Botanical Garden

10:15 AM Coffee break

10:45 AM     A preview of the Philodendron from some arid areas of Brazil and a visit to the Burle Marx Collection in Brazil, Joep Moonen, Emerald Jungle Village, French Guiana.

11:15 AM    Missouri Botanical Gardens Grounds Tour. This tour will concentrate on some of the grounds near the Ridgway Center since at least some of us will return there for lunch.

12:15 PM    Lunch break

Opening of Afternoon session:
1:00 PM     An introduction to aroid genera, Thomas B. Croat, Missouri Botanical Garden

1:45 PM    Cultivating tropical plants efficiently in a temperate environment, Steve Lucas, Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

2:15 PM     Cultivating Aroids outdoors in a temperate area.  Steve Marak, Springdale, Arkansas

2:30 PM    Coffee break and plant swap and give away

3:00 PM     Tour of Missouri Botanical Garden Aroid Collection

3:45 PM      Tour of Research complex at Lehmann Building herbarium. This will include seeing the world’s largest collection of herbarium specimens, demonstrations on the use of Lucid, a session at the CATE Araceae site at Kew and an explanation of Croat’s research efforts with revisionary and floristic studies.

4:30 PM         Refreshments

5:00 PM         Adjournment for dinner (any who would like to meet at a restaurant)

If you think you might be able to come, I would appreciate an RSVP so we can have the right amount of space and refreshments.

Stay update by visiting the MidAmerica chapter website.


Book Review: The Black Tulip

Over the last year I have read several plant-related books that have referenced a classic historical fiction novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Black Tulip.  Alexandre Dumas is the author who wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.  After reading about the importance of this book and its portrayal of a very real tulip obsession in Holland, I found myself an old copy of the book and read it last Fall.

The book focuses on a tulip fancier who is committed to being the first person to breed a truly black tulip, a challenge issued by the royal plant society.  The story intertwines historical figures and events, to really put the reader into the time frame of these events.

I have to say that this book was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while.  It has a nice love story, with the main character being equally entranced in his love interests: a female and a trio of tulip bulbs.

I would recommend this book to anyone, really.  You don’t have to be a plant nut to enjoy the book, and it might even shed a little light on what may otherwise seem to be a crazy obsession.

Do you know of any other great works of fiction that involve plants in pivotal roles?


Christmas Orchid

Aunts- and uncles-in law are not usually noted for their gift-giving abilities.  My in-laws drove from southern California to join my wife’s family here in Oklahoma for Christmas this year and brought with them a gem of a gift for me.
Dendrobium Christmas gift
Dendrobium Christmas gift

This Dendrobium orchid has a total of about 25 buds born on two stems – about 8 of those still closed.  The color of the petals is pale yellow and almost green.  There is a new book out from my favorite plant-book publisher, Timber Press, called Green Flowers.  In a way, green is the most boring color that a flower can be, since the majority of plant material is green.  It just blends into the background, part of the noise that nature can sometimes be.  We tend to gravitate towards the colorful spotlights of red, pink, purple and yellow, which readily stand out on all shades of green foliage.  And it’s not just us – insects are attracted to these colors.  What to us says “beauty” says “food” to many creatures.

Dendrobium blooms
Dendrobium blooms

But there is a simple beauty to the green flowers.  Maybe the texture and shapes are better observed when the color doesn’t trump the senses.  The pearly sheen that is unique to orchid flower petals stands out on this flower.  There is also a really subtle hint of red on the inner part of the flower, that I pretend is there just to reward those who take the time to look closely.

Dendrobium bloom detail
Dendrobium bloom detail

This particular orchid had a generic “Dendrobium” tag on the stem and a specific tag with hybrid identification in the pot.  Unfortunately, the tag was snapped in half and all I have is a couple of letters – not enough for me to have figured it out yet.  But I’ll keep trying, out of sheer curiosity.  I don’t really need to know anything more than the genus for this particular orchid, in order to take good care of it.


Gigantic Geranium

My mother-in-law has a knack for growing very large plants.  I should qualify that statement by explaining that she does not grow large plants, but grows plants large.  In other words, plants in her care tend to grow much larger than their “normal” size.

Geranium bloom head
Geranium bloom head

One such example is her ordinary Geranium that is about 8 feet tall.  Yes, an ordinary Geranium.

An ordinary Geranium of extraordinary height.
An ordinary Geranium of extraordinary height.

I believe the key ingredient here is lots of light year-round.  This Geranium produced some behavior recently that I had never noticed before.  The blooms were actually pollinated and produced seed pods.  I don’t know whether this is common for Geraniums to do in Oklahoma and I have just never paid attention enough to notice, or if this is somewhat rare.  Anyway, I do have some seeds from this mammoth plant that I might try to germinate soon.

A Geranium flower head with spikes protruding from seed pods.
A Geranium flower head with spikes protruding from seed pods.

She also has a corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) which is of unusual height.  It grows in the 2 story foyer to their house and is likely 18 feet tall.  This plant has a good history, including at least one suspected period of death, from which it valiantly arose like a phoenix.  Even recently it went through a spell of poor health, but has been sprouting anew, after the top was lopped off.