Plant Find: Latest Aglaonema Additions

Aglaonemas are known for their patterned foliage with several shades of green, white and silver.  In Thailand, breeders are constantly creating new Aglaonemas with pink and red in the leaves.  Personally, I’m not a fan of these hybrids and I don’t collect any of those.  These hybrids get their red coloration from a natural species, Aglaonema rotundum.

My collection is made up of the more natural-looking Aglaonemas, even though many of them are hybrids.  One of my most recent finds is a variegated form where there are white patches overlaying the green pattern.  The plant was sold to me as variegated Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen.’  However, the leaf pattern does not match the common ‘Silver Queen’, which has lanceolate leaves with a primarily silver coloration and thin streaks of dark green mixed in.

Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' variegated
variegated Aglaonema, possibly Aglaonema 'Manila'

Most Aglaonemas have green petioles (stems).  Some have white and then there are a few that have either pink or russet.  I believe that russet is a mix of pink and green – kind of a brown potato color.  I think these petioles are really neat looking and this is the first Aglaonema I have had with the russet petioles.  (See the image below.)  This is yet another clue that this plant does not come from the common ‘Silver Queen’, but from something else entirely.  Most likely this mystery will never be solved for me.

Russet petioles of Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' variegated
Russet petioles of variegated Aglaonema

There are many Aglaonemas in my office building, maintained by a company that checks on them regularly and switches the plants out when they start to look ratty.  There is one Aglaonema that I have admired for a while and I recently got a stem of it to grow myself.  I have no idea what the name is.  The distinguishing features are the dark coloration of the leaves, which are somewhat lanceolate.  It looks similar to a plant I saw at the IAS show called ‘Shades.’  The lighter shades of green are also in an unusual pattern.

Aglaonema NOID from my office
Aglaonema NOID from my office, possibly Aglaonema 'Shades'

The last recent addition to my Aglaonema collection is one which grows as a creeping rhizome, which is different from my other Aglaonemas, which grown on an upright stem.  This plant was sold to me as Aglaonema costatum f. immaculatum.  I sent a photo to my friend, Peter Boyce, who is a career taxonomist in Malaysia.  He told me the plant is actually Aglaonema brevispathum, a member of the Chamaecaulon section, which has this characteristic growth habit.  He studied these plants in the field from Myanmar through Thailand to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, in lowland dry dipterocarp forest, often along on river banks.   How lucky am I to have Peter to answer my questions!?!  That’s one of the great things about the IAS.  There are people who have very extensive knowledge and a great willingness to share that knowledge.

Aglaonema brevispathum
Aglaonema brevispathum

I was a little worried that I would have trouble growing this particular plant, since it differs from the ones that I know grow well in my care.  But it seems to be doing well, enjoying the environment of my greenhouse and putting out some new leaves.

Mounted orchids

I have a number of mounted orchids in my collection now, so I thought I would post about those orchids specifically, even if some of them have been shared before.

Dockrillia cucumerina
Dockrillia cucumerina - back when I first got it.

The first is my “cucumber” orchid, Dockrillia cucumeria, which I purchased in February.  It started to get crispy outside in our scorching 100+ days from June to August. I brought it inside, where it seemed to be happier, but it couldn’t recover from the heat, and eventually died. I am finding that the mounted orchids (not surprisingly) dry out more quickly than the potted orchids.  This is good and bad.  It is more similar to the natural habitats of epiphytic orchids, but it also requires that I stay on top of watering.  With these mounted orchids inside, it is pretty easy to do.  I have been keeping a couple of these hanging in the bathroom window and the kitchen window, where sinks are readily available and where I am seeing them several times a day. I will try to obtain another of these little cucumbers, because it really was a favorite of mine.

Dendrobium lichenastrum var. prenticei mounted on cork bark
Dendrobium lichenastrum var. prenticei mounted on cork bark

I have one other of these small, succulent type orchids, Dendrobium lichenastrum v. prenticei. This one is also mounted on a piece of small cork bark. Where as the previous plant looked like little cucumbers, this one is smooth and has yellow flowers when it blooms. So far it has been doing well in our kitchen window, with about 5 other mounted orchids. I see this constantly and water them when I am washing dishes.

Dendrobium pachyphyllum
Dendrobium pachyphyllum

My Dendrobium pachyphyllum is a new addition that is mounted on a compressed fern slab.  This stringy glob of orchid won me over on three accounts: 1. It has that stringy, “don’t try to tame me” look. 2. It is kind of woody, which has a permanence and toughness that I really like. 3.  It’s a Dendrobium species.  While Dendrobiums are one of the more common orchids you can find (2nd to Phalaenopsis in terms of grocery store prominence), there is a HUGE variety of Dendrobiums and I am collecting some of the more obscure ones.  The flowers of this Dendrobium are discrete little short-lived light pink blooms that come along the stems all over the plant – a prolific bloomer.  They are supposed to smell sweet.

Encyclia polybulbon
Encyclia polybulbon - photographed in April, when I first got the plant

These next two plants (above and below) were the first mounted orchids I purchased.  Both are mounted on a simple slat of wood, with sphagnum moss wrapped around the roots.  The plant above is the first Encyclia in my collection.  It hasn’t bloomed yet, but it has been growing steadily this summer and I understand that it blooms from fall to early spring.  So I am hoping to keep it happy in the coming months and be rewarded with the first blooms.

Sedirea japonia
Sedirea japonia - photographed in April, when I first got the plant

This is one of the few fragrant orchids in my collection.  Sedirea japonica is noted for it’s really  unique small white blooms with purple bars.  These blooms tend to hang below the plant and are supposed to smell amazing.  My plant didn’t bloom this summer when it should have, so I am hoping for a bloom next year.

Panarica brassavolae
Panarica brassavolae

The genus Panarica is closely related to (often tagged as) Encyclia.  So I actually bought this plant with the name Encyclia brassavolae.  This one is mounted on a heavy and thick piece of wood that the seller called a “cedar plaque.”  There is some media that might be coconut fiber/husk or something like that, so that some water can be absorbed and held near the roots whenever I water this one.  I might have to modify this and add some sphagnum moss since I suspect my humidity is too low to keep the plant happy with this mount.  The flowers of this species are really cool.  Picture an anorexic yellow starfish wearing a white hat with a pink feather in it.  Or just look at this picture and make up your own analogy.

Bulbophyllum clandestinum 'Elizabeth'
Bulbophyllum clandestinum 'Elizabeth'

The plant pictured above was on my want list for a while.  I kept seeing really nice specimen-sized (large) plants available on eBay and they would go for big bucks (>$40).  I held out until I got a smaller plant for about $10.  This is a neat plant because of how it wanders and the blooms are born all along the creeping rhizome, unlike most Bulbophyllums which have long blooms spikes with lots of blooms clustered together.  I also like the woody look of the stems.  My plant is a collection of 2 or 3 cuttings tied to a twig raft.

Brassavola nodosa
Brassavola nodosa. That chalky appearance is fertilizer build-up from the previous owner.

The orchid pictured above was actually collected in the jungles of Belize years ago (when it was legal to do such things).  It is a common orchid among collectors, Brassavola nodosa and is mounted on a slab of cypress wood.

Cattleya hybrid
Cattleya hybrid (Catt. John Hannington x Catt. Empress Bells 'White Sands') - self mount

This Cattleya pictured above is the one orchid I have which I mounted myself.  I received the orchid as a gift when I joined the Oklahoma Orchid Society.  It was a tiny little plant.  To be honest, I’m not a big Cattleya guy myself.  It was a little plant and I had a piece of drift wood that I wasn’t using, so I thought, “What they heck!  Let me give it a try.”  It has been doing pretty well on the driftwood.  It survived our scorching summer heat, so that’s a good sign.

Encyclia tampensis
Encyclia tampensis

While we were in Florida, I was on a mission to purchase some Encyclias, especially the well-known Florida-native “Butterfly Orchid”, Encyclia tampensis. I saw many of these growing wild in the Everglades and then I found a really nice one mounted on tree fern at Ruben in Orchids.  It looks as though it had bloomed on at least 3 different spikes recently and it was well rooted into the mount.

Encyclia randii
Encyclia randii

A good friend of mine attended the recent American Orchid Society show in San Antonio at the end of October. While he was there, he scoped out the available stock of orchids and aroids and sent me some information on plants I like to grow. He was generous enough to purchase two Encyclias for me and drop them by my house on his way home to Arkansas. Both of these little Encyclias are fragrant when in bloom and mounted on little wood planks by Oak Hill Gardens – one of my favorite orchid sellers.

Encyclia cordigera
Encyclia cordigera

About a month ago my parents-in-law returned from a trip with a couple of orchids for me and one that my mother-in-law was keeping for herself (or so I thought).  In actuality, she was keeping the last orchid for my birthday. But she showed it to me at the time – in bloom – and held on to it until my birthday to give it to me. I’m glad I took a nice picture of it in bloom at the time! This is a really neat TINY hybrid with the name Ornithocephalis iridifolius x Zygostatus alleniana.  That “iridifolius” part means that the foliage looks like an iris.  It has that characteristic fan appearance, but on a very tiny scale.

Miniature hybrid
Ornithocephalis iridifolius x Zygostatus alleniana mounted on cork bark - photo taken about a month ago.
Maxillaria variabilis mounted on native bark
Maxillaria variabilis mounted on native bark

Jason gave me a division of his Maxillaria variabilis a couple months back. I decided to try mounting it on a section of bark I had from a local tree. I don’t know of anyone doing this. My guess is that the people don’t do it because you need a really durable bark that won’t break down over time, so there are only a few options available. This mount will probably not last a long time, but it’s worth a shot, in my opinion. For now, the orchid is just laying on top of the bark, with a wad of sphagnum moss on top of the roots. Hopefully in a couple of months the roots will have bitten into the bark.  My favorite thing about this little orchid?  It has been blooming non-stop, since I got it.

Dendrochilum stenophyllum mounted on PVC
Dendrochilum stenophyllum mounted on PVC

Now we make it to the fifteenth and final mounted orchid in my collection.  Last, but certainly not least.  This is Dendrochilum stenophyllum, one of the “chain orchids.”  According to the wikipedia page, “These orchids are popular among fans of non-traditional orchid curiosities.”  I guess that sums up my interest, huh?  Anyway, this species is notable for it’s very grass-like foliage and it’s miniscule flowers which grow on a stem about the length of the leaves.  My plant is mounted on a piece of canvas wrapped around a section of PVC pipe.  I think it’s a curious mounting system.  The really good part is that the PVC holds up over time and won’t be slowly breaking down.  However, the canvas has long since broken down, leaving the PVC very exposed.  I don’t mind the white showing, but I might try to cover it up at some point in the future.

The Sacred Bodhi Tree

As legend has it, the founder of the Buddhist faith, Siddhartha Gautama, gained his enlightenment after meditating for 49 days underneath a tree.  That tree, for obvious reasons, has been sacred to the Buddhist faith ever since.  In many ways it is equivalent to the cross on which Christ was crucified.  Some old Christian churches claim to have pieces of the original cross and those pieces are considered holy relics.

The Bodhi tree is unique in that it is a living relic, so it continues to spread throughout the world over time.  The Bodhi tree has been given many names including “Bo tree” and “pipal tree.”  These names are used in reference to the original tree, as well as all trees of that species.  The Latin for this species is Ficus religiosa.  It is a large Banyan, fig tree.  The original tree was located in northeastern India, near the border with Nepal.  Since then, the tree has been propagated to several different locations, resulting in a chain of highly-revered trees which have a tie to world history.  One of the famous propagated trees is in the Foster Botanical Gardens in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Christie and I visited that garden in May 2009 and saw the gigantic Buddha tree.

Recently the tree growing in the Foster Botanical Garden began to set seed.  In Hawaii, this is worthy of concern, as the tree could become invasive, if the seedlings are not removed while they are small.  My good friend, Leland, who has ties to the Foster Botanical Garden, obtained some of these seedlings and sent them to me.

Ficus religiosa leaf
Ficus religiosa leaf

The leaves of this tree are beautiful: cordate with an extended tip, giving them an unmistakable appearance.

Ficus religiosa sapling
Ficus religiosa sapling

Where have I been?

I try to keep the subject of my blog posts all about plants.  This one will be a little less planty.

For the past couple of months we have been adding on to our house.  We are doing as much of the work ourselves as we can.  From pouring the slab with wheelbarrows to framing, roofing to insulating, hanging sheetrock to laying tile.  We’ve been staying very busy.  Hence my extended absence from the blog.  When I mentioned all of this work recently to a friend, they asked if I was making more room for plants.  Yes and no.  We’re adding on living space for the humans in the house, not the plants.  But, there will be a couple of places that will play home to plants in the added space.  All along in our planning we discussed having a nice window ledge in the bathroom where a couple of orchids can sit and enjoy the enhanced humidity of the shower.  We also have some really nice patio doors where I think a potted tree will sit – probably the grapefruit tree.

Making a home for a couple orchids
Making a home for a couple orchids - can you see the potential?

I have written several new blog posts, but time in the evenings has been spent on construction tasks, so I haven’t had the chance to take pictures or upload them.  So several posts are in the line-up and will be posted as soon as I have a chance to get the corresponding pictures in place.  Stay tuned!