Mammals of the Plant Kingdom

Some plants have a unique way of “giving birth” to their offspring that is called vivipary.  The difference between these viviparous plants and those that scatter seeds is that the new plant begins to grow while still attached to the parent plant.  Here are some examples:

Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis) bloom with plantlet forming
Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis) bloom with plantlet forming

The Walking Iris Neomarica gracilis (pictured above) is so named because of it’s propagation habit.  Most Iris bloom on stems that only include flowers.  The Walking Iris blooms from the ends of it’s normal leaves.  Usually several blooms follow in succession over a period of a couple of weeks.  All the while, a new plant is forming at this junction.  The weight of the new plant at the end of this leaf blade will make contact with the ground, where the new plant will establish itself.  This is similar to the common houseplant called Airplane or Spider plant Chlorophytum comosum (pictured below).

Spider plant (Chlorophytum) offset
Spider plant (Chlorophytum) plantlet

Some gingers (like the one pictured below) produce flowers that are pollinated and produce seed, which immediately germinates and begins to grow on the plant, weighing down the stem until it is upon the ground, where the new plants become established.  I have seen this same type of ginger demonstrating this behavior in the Oklahoma City Myriad Gardens and in Jamaica – a more natural habitat.

Ginger at the OKC Myriad Gardens with new plantlets forming in the blooming bracts
Ginger at the OKC Myriad Gardens with new plantlets forming in the blooming bracts

Now true botanical (plant) vivipary (live-birth-ness), results from seeds germinating while still on the host plant.  In some of these cases, the plantlet that forms on the parent is not a result of seed germination, so it is not really true vivipary.  Plants can produce new offspring in just about every imaginable way – from the roots, from the leaves, from the junction of petioles and stems – pretty much every piece of plant anatomy is used for propagation by some plant species.  Surely not all of this is viviparous behavior, right?

I’m not a botanist, but I try to understand some of the terminology.  There is a condition which is called pseudovivipary which is defined as “a condition in which vegetative propagules replace some or all of the normal sexual flowers in the inflorescence.”  To me, this means that a plant is able to produce new plants without necessarily producing flowers, seed, etc.  A good example of this might be the Pregnant Onion, which produces new plants within the “skin” of it’s bulb.  As the new plants mature, they will fall away from the parent plant become independent.  At which point the parent bulb cries “They grow up so fast!”

Pregnant Onion (Ornithogalum longibracteatum)
Pregnant Onion (Ornithogalum longibracteatum) with many baby plants

I had actually planned to write about this since I read this term in a book I read a couple of months ago.  Then I saw that Derek had posted about this same topic on Plantgasm.  He beat me to it, but it also gives me a good reason to link to his blog, which I really enjoy.  Derek has some great time lapse presentations of different plants producing new leaves (including aroids) or flowers opening.  I highly recommend you check them out!

Do you know of any other plants that demonstrate viviparious behavior?

Dracaena in bloom

Dracaena deremensis is a very popular (generally boring) houseplant.  There are several of them growing in my office building.  They are easy to care for and have nice shiny, dark green leaves.  I bought a Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’ sometime over the last year or two – mainly because I felt sorry for it and it just cost $1 because it had been neglected and they had so many of them at Lowe’s.

Dracaena deremensis bloom stalk
Dracaena deremensis bloom stalk - Yes, I know there is too much in the picture to easily process. But focus on just the dark green leaved plant with the stalk shotting straight up in the middle of the picture.

I sat it on the floor of the greenhouse and just left it alone.  It got tipped over several times this winter and lost quite a bit of dirt, but I didn’t bother repotting it since I was busy doing other things and it wasn’t really a valuable plant to me.  But now it’s showing off!

Dracaena deremensis blooms
Dracaena deremensis blooms

The blooms aren’t super interesting, but there they are!  Now, I just wonder what this stalk will do after the blooms have finished…  Anyone know?

Plant Find: The Cucumber Orchid

Check out my newest orchid!

Dockrillia cucumerina
Dockrillia cucumerina

It is commonly called the Cucumber Orchid, since it’s leaves look like little cucumbers.  The species name is Dockrillia cucumerina – also named after the cucumber.  The basionym is Dendrobium cucumerinum, which is to say that it was formerly given this name, but has been moved to the Dockrillia genus now.  You will still see people refer to it by both names since many had become accustomed to the old name.  I purchased my plant from Botanica Ltd, as a bark mounted orchid of blooming size.

Dockrillia cucumerina
Dockrillia cucumerina

I really enjoy orchids, because even the most common are really just amazing in detail when they bloom.  And so many of the blooms will last for a long time.  I have a Dendrobium which started blooming the week before Thanksgiving and lasted until this week before the first blooms started to wilt.  That is 4 months of blooms!  This orchid is grown more for it’s unique foliage – another of my weaknesses – more than it’s blooms.  It does have some pretty neat (albeit small) creamy colored blooms streaked with pink lines, which you can see here.

Plant Find: Philodendron scottmorianum

The guest speaker for the IAS annual show and sale this past year was Dr. Scott Mori, of the New York Botanic Garden.  I wasn’t able to go to the show myself, but I did get to hear a little about him.  A couple of years ago a newly described species found in the tropical South American country of French Guiana was named in Scott Mori’s honor.  It was discovered by Joep Moonen and published by Joep and Dr. Thomas Croat.  Joep also collected seeds from this plant and sent them to Dr. Croat at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  These seeds were grown under Dr. Croat’s care and I was fortunate enough to get one of the small plants at our MidAmerica chapter meeting back in October.  This plant was only recently discovered in the tropics and is not yet in cultivation, other than these few seedlings that were distributed to members at our meeting.

Tray of Philodendron scottmorianum seedlings at the MidAmerica chapter meeting
Tray of Philodendron scottmorianum seedlings at the MidAmerica chapter meeting

Now that is has had a couple more months to grow and mature, the leaves are starting to take on a different shape.  The plant now looks like this:

Philodendron scottmorianum
Philodendron scottmorianum

Warren Payne, one of my friends from the meeting sent me a picture recently of how his plant is looking now.  Warren’s plant is a little more mature than mine and has begun climbing a totem he set up for it.

Philodendron scottmorianum - photo courtesy of Warren Payne
Philodendron scottmorianum - photo courtesy of Warren Payne

The paper which describes the species can be found here.  The article contains the following picture of Scott Mori with a specimen of the plant.

Dr. Scott Mori with the plant named after him, Philodendron scottmorianum
Dr. Scott Mori with the plant named after him, Philodendron scottmorianum (photo taken at Emerald Jungle Village, French Guiana, courtesy of Dr. Thomas Croat)

My first Paphiopedilum

My parents-in-law returned from their recent trip to California with an orchid for me.  This is my first ever “lady slipper” orchid.  It opened about a week after they brought it home to me.

Paphiopedilum
Paphiopedilum bloom

It is not labeled, other than the genus of Paphiopedilum.  I imagine this is a hybrid, rather than a species, but I don’t know enough about this genus to know for sure.  Paphiopedilum is the genus of Asian lady slippers, while Cypripedium,  Selenipedium, Phragmipedium and the monotypic genus Mexipedium are the American lady slipper genera.  [Can you guess the only location where the single Mexipedium species grows?]  There are about 80 naturally occurring species of Paphiopedilums, including a couple of natural hybrids.  Paphiopedilums are all sympodial, meaning that they grow along a creeping rhizome (like an Iris).

Paphiopedilum plant
Paphiopedilum plant

I have looked through a photo gallery of species pictures and my particular plant doesn’t really resemble any of the true species.  The photo gallery of hybrids is much too large for me to narrow down my potential hybrid.  The orchid is very attractive, having nice leaves, even when not blooming.

Paphiopedilum leaves
Paphiopedilum leaves